When Luis Suarez eventually gets handed down the ban that will end his World Cup, there will no doubt be tears. They will be only his own. Maybe the people of Uruguay will be a little upset as well. But everyone else, every person who’s had a vague whiff of football, will already be thoroughly sick to death of Suarez’s inexplicable, infantile and idiotic behaviour. Alliteration aside, only his dentist will be admiring that mark on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. Why Luis? Why a bite? Why again? When he first got the teeth out at Ajax, I’ll bet there were voices claiming it as evidence of a deep rooted psychological issue, some primal infant reflex of his that stems from a childhood trauma, or something. And most people heard those voices and thought they were being a little hasty with their analysis. Everybody…bites, you know, well…not everyone but in the heat of the moment maybe…and so on. The sheepish explanations would have held up alright back then. Then Branislav Ivanovic copped the full incisor treatment a couple of years later, and every one did a double-take. Hmmm… now this seems a little weird, like, to do it twice now. And the voices claiming Freud-this and oral fixation-that came back, only louder this time, and with more credence. But again, they were probably the minority, only just, and this last season’s dazzling play drowned out the bitey past. Suarez had thrown off some of the pantomime villainy, there was even less (or at least less obvious) diving this season. He was a new man, leading Liverpool into a brave new title-challenging world. He capped it off by eliminating England from the World Cup only a few days ago and, though that pumped the whole villain thing right back up in the UK, the rest of us marvelled at a player truly reaching his glorious peak, with no valley in sight.
And then he chewed up that new Luis and spat it right out. With one smack of his lips, he plunged himself right back into ignominy and disgrace. The psychoanalysts are the majority now, in the form of television football pundits everywhere. The replays aren’t 100% conclusive, it must be said [EDIT There is no doubt]. But the grainy images show Suarez nuzzling into the Italian defender’s shoulder, and the clearer images of Chiellini’s exposed flesh are damning. Little teeth, toothy pegs, each one a tiny white tombstone upon which Uruguay’s World Cup dreams will be etched. Suarez has not only ruined his own World Cup, let’s remember, he’s also shorn his country of their best player, not to mention landed a bizarre mental blow. This is not just an impulsive act of gross cannibalism, it’s a selfish act as well. How must Edinson Cavani feel, or Diego Forlan, or any of the other players? Cavani, the most beautiful man in the world, and his tireless effort to nullify Andrea Pirlo in that same game is now utterly eclipsed. If your talisman can’t stop himself from biting the opposition when he’s annoyed, how does it reflect on the team as a whole? Diego Lugano, the Uruguay captain has already come out in defence of Suarez, having the temerity to criticise Chiellini for reacting as he did, as if getting bitten by a professional footballer was something you just shouldn’t mention. “The worst of everything is the attitude of Chiellini,” Lugano said. “He’s a great player with an enormous status but it doesn’t correspond with Italian football. As a sportsman leaving the field, crying and appealing against a rival. As a man, he disappointed me totally.” Stunning. But what can Lugano do, really? He can hardly rubbish his best player, certainly not while the appropriate FIFA committees are still convening. One can only hope that after he leaves the press room, he shakes his head bitterly and curses Suarez for forcing him to say such silly things.
Great players have always been able to get away with crazy acts. Often it’s the act that makes a great player into an icon. After they’ve retired, it’s as much the eccentricity that defines them than it is anything football related. But the thing is, an Eric Cantona karate-kick, or Roy Keane relishing that revenge-tackle, or the Hand of God, or anything of those infamous but kind of awe-inspiring acts, they’re a little different to biting a guy. Biting isn’t impressive, it’s weird and gross. And doing it in a World Cup is just doing your favourite weird and gross thing on a bigger stage, like Puppetry of the Penis or a Meatloaf concert. And to do it three times in one career is, like an imminent root canal, deeply unnerving. I mean, Suarez’s tendency for biting should be widely known by now, through word of mouth alone. His reputation is hanging in there by the skin of its teeth. I’ll bet Suarez is really down in the mouth about his World Cup ending prematurely too. And so on, and so forth. The pun fodder is great, but honestly I’d rather watch Suarez electrify the Maracana. Maybe that’s the most selfish part of this; denying us, the football-loving public, the privilege of watching him play. For shame, Luis.