On this very day 7 years ago, Luis Suarez copped what was the longest ban of his career due to his inability to stop biting people.
Luis Suarez will go down in history as one of the most complete and prolific strikers of his generation. However, it’s fair to say the Uruguayan is a player who operates in grey areas. The boy from Salto gained his football education on the streets of Montevideo and that is sometimes reflected in his style of play. He will not hesitate to indulge in the dark arts if necessary. As expected, this style of play had led to plenty of controversy around him. Suarez is the type of footballer who fans love – if he plays for their team, of course.
Yet, somewhat weirdly, Suarez is associated not just with the traditional football dark arts like diving and stamping. No, he is in a class of his own when it comes to biting. Yes, biting.
Suarez has been caught biting an opponent on three separate occasions. On each of those occasions, he’s served a ban lengthier than his previous one.
His third and final bite came in the 2014 World Cup, during a group stage game against Italy. The victim this time was Giorgio Chiellini, the imposing Juventus centre-back. Quite why Suarez thought this was a good idea remains a mystery.
And on this very day 7 years ago, Suarez copped what was the longest ban of his career due to his teething problems.
As mentioned previously, this was Suarez’s third biting offence. His first came in his days at Ajax, when he bit PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal.
The reaction back then was as shocked as it was in 2014, mainly because biting was such an usual ploy. Sure, fans were used to players sticking a leg out or leaving their foot in during hard tackles. But biting? That seemed unacceptable and bizarre.
He was first suspended for two games by Ajax and fined an undisclosed amount. However, the KNVB – the Netherlands’ football governing body – increased his suspension to seven games.
Yet his quality was so obvious that the ban did not prevent him from getting a good transfer. He was signed by Liverpool in the midst of the suspension.
It was at Liverpool that his molars reared their head for a second time. A league match against Chelsea saw him bite defender Branislav Ivanovic. Again, it is worth noting that biting someone built like that seems questionable at best and stupid at worst.
The incident went unnoticed by officials and, to add insult to injury, he scored an injury-time equaliser. But the FA came down hard on him after the match.
The incident was so widely condemned that even then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for strong action to be taken.
The call was heeded too – Suarez was suspended for 10 games and fined an undisclosed amount by Liverpool. He apologised to Ivanovic, who did not accept his apology.
Most people figured this was the end of Suarez and biting. As we now know, that clearly wasn’t the case.
Suarez’s bite on Chiellini gained even more widespread coverage, given it happened in the World Cup. And unsurprisingly given his past history, the ban was even harsher this time around.
“The player Luis Suarez is to be suspended for nine official matches. The first match of this suspension is to be served in the upcoming (round of 16) FIFA World Cup fixture between Colombia and Uruguay.
“The remaining match suspensions shall be served in Uruguay’s next FIFA World Cup matches, as long as the team qualifies, and/or in the representative team’s subsequent official matches.
“The player is banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity — administrative, sports or any other — for a period of four months. A stadium ban is pronounced against Luis Suarez, who is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium during the period of the ban.”
Nine international games and four months of no training, playing or even entering stadiums. Even FIFA realised this was a bit much and Suarez was eventually allowed to train.
But the biggest fallout from the bite came in his club career. He moved to Barcelona and formed a deadly attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Yet, even then, the stench of the biting incidents never quite left the Uruguayan.