Suarez’s ban leaves a bad taste in the mouth

Luis Suarez may be guilty of constantly getting into controversial situations, but the 10-game ban he has been hit with for a bite on Branislav Ivanovic is ridiculous.

Luis Suarez
Noah Tan

By Noah Tan

At present, Suarez is a player who polarises opinion like no other.

As gifted as he is volatile, Suarez has the ability to thrill, delight and exasperate all in the span of 90 minutes. Significantly, the nippy striker has a strange taste for the controversial. His remarkable performance against Chelsea on Sunday was the perfect showcase of what the Uruguayan international brings to the football pitch.

The 26-year-old showed great technique to set up Daniel Sturridge to score his side's equaliser with a sublime first-time cross, but barely five minutes later, he literally handed the lead back to Chelsea when his cunning attempt to clear the ball with his hand was spotted by referee Kevin Friend, who duly awarded a penalty to the Blues which Eden Hazard scored.

But the biggest moment of controversy in the game came when Suarez, frustrated at having been tackled by Branislav Ivanovic, turned and sank his teeth into the arm of the Serbian. It was a sly, impulsive act which the match officials failed to spot, but the incident was caught on camera and seen by millions of viewers worldwide. Just to rub salt into Ivanovic's wounds, Suarez turned from villain to hero with a last-gasp goal which rescued a point for Brendan Rodgers' men.

Since then, the response to Suarez's bite on Ivanovic has been overwhelming. Many have expectedly come out to condemn the Uruguayan for his impetuous act. The internet has been awash with jokes and parodies of the incident. Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, embroiled in a race row with Suarez not too long ago, was pictured mockingly taking a bite out of a fake human arm in the post-match celebrations of his side's title-winning game against Aston Villa.

Suarez, who apologised for his 'inexcusable behaviour' via Twitter after the game, pleaded guilty to a charge of violent conduct and the Football Association (FA) responded by banning him for an incredible 10 games.

Like almost everyone else, I was stunned by Suarez's actions. I understand how frustrated he must have been and no one can fault his fierce winning mentality. It just seems oddly infantile that he should express his anger by biting someone.

However, all things considered, Suarez's bite was not so much dangerous as petulant. Apart from possibly a lifelong fear of teeth, Ivanovic will have suffered almost no repercussions to having been bitten.

In contrast, players who recklessly lunge into potentially career-ending tackles get three game bans and are then stoutly defended by all and sundry as being 'not that kind of person'. The player whose career they destroyed however, are sometimes never able to recover top form (Eduardo, Abou Diaby).

The recent example of Callum Mcmanaman's disgracefully dangerous tackle on Massadio Haidara is a prime example of how the FA, and the footballing community in general, have their priorities all wrong. The ludicrous rule of not allowing retrospective action to be taken if the referee has 'seen' the incident meant Mcmanaman escaped any censure. And make no mistake about it, nobody, bar perhaps those associated with Newcastle will be talking about it in a year's time.

But Suarez, who has not done lasting damage to another human being, will now unfairly miss 10 games for Liverpool and henceforth be vilified by opposition fans and players as a brutish thug.

Surely a three game ban would have been reasonable enough punishment for Suarez?

Of course, his reputation has preceded him in this case. How else can you explain the fact that Jermain Defoe went unpunished despite having committed the very same offence on Javier Mascherano (then playing for West Ham) in 2006?

Then, the FA justified their decision not to punish Defoe by claiming referee Steve Bennett had already dealt with the situation and insisted they could not take retrospective action against the Tottenham striker.

Imagine the furore that would have unfolded had Friend dealt with the Suarez incident by merely booking him.

There is an underlying feeling that the Liverpool striker has been unfairly victimised by the FA just because he, unlike Defoe, is a foreigner with a bad track record. The fact that this is not the first time Suarez has bitten someone during a game (PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal was his previous victim) probably also factored into the FA's decision.

They are deliberately taking such a hard stance in this case because the offender is Suarez, a high-profile player who many cannot wait to see get in trouble. The FA have been lampooned and lambasted for various unpopular decisions in the past, and this is their way of building up their credibility and public approval.

I am not defending Suarez's act. I am just drawing attention to the fact that Suarez's offence is akin to that of a spoilt child acting up when things do not go his way, and there are worse ills in football which are more deserving of our attentions.

Realistically though, all the attention in the next few months will be on Suarez and his future at Liverpool.

Because the big question on everyone's lips is this: How will Liverpool react to Suarez's recent misconduct?

With 30 goals and five assists to his name, Suarez has been one of the few shining lights for Liverpool in what has been a largely forgettable campaign.

It is undeniable that the Reds look toothless in attack without him; Sturridge, the only other notable striker in the team, has yet to establish himself as a reliable player and according to the Sun, Brendan Rodgers' men would be languishing in 16th without Suarez's goals and assists, thus proving the PFA Player of the Year nominee's value to the club.

Yet, the amount of trouble Suarez has found himself in over the years can be quite a mouthful to recite as well.

From fighting with his Ajax team-mate Albert Luque in the dressing room to the aforementioned biting incident with Bakkal, Suarez had already garnered notoriety in the Dutch Eredivisie before his move to Liverpool.

His infamously blatant handball to deny Dominic Adiyiah from scoring in the final minute of Uruguay's 2010 World Cup quarter-final clash with Ghana was widely denounced as 'unsporting', a term which has since become synonymous with the striker given his fondness for simulation.

The racism fiasco between him and Evra further turned opinion against the former Ajax player, and ill-will towards him was further exacerbated with a slew of other provocative incidents.

But Suarez's latest moment of madness could be the one to spell the end of his Liverpool career.

Sure, the club may have come out to state their intent to keep Suarez for the coming seasons but they might part ways with the troubled striker should a decent offer come in for him during the summer.

The damage Suarez's numerous transgressions has done on the club's image cannot be understated. He has thus far failed to live up to the decorum expected of players at a club which places huge importance on their rich history and heritage, and the Uruguayan may have just bitten off more than the Reds public relations' team can chew.

Still, all is not lost for Suarez. It would be a shame if Suarez's ability as a footballer were to forever be tarnished by momentary lapses of discipline, and he has already expressed a willingness to seek help for his anger management issues.

With the full support of the club, his team-mates and the fans, he should be able to successfully tackle the problem and evolve into an even better player than he already is.

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