Luis Suarez bite: Hillsborough anniversary makes this the worst time for 'Cannibal' Luis Suarez to hurt Liverpool

Uruguayan's ugly actions cast a shadow over the Hillsborough anniversary and detract from important legal hearings this week


The timing is dismal for reasons we can assume Luis Suarez does not have the faintest notion of. This is the week of the preliminary legal hearing which will set out parameters for new inquests for the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough. It is another big step on the 24-year road to justice led by Anne Williams, who refused to accept the establishment lies about the death of her son, Kevin, and whose own death, five days ago, was remembered with a minute's applause at Anfield yesterday.

That is all testament to the qualities of dignity and unyielding resolve to which Liverpool FC are wedded – they call it the "Liverpool Way" - and all of which will now be drowned by another Suarez controversy. As Brendan Rodgers fought last night to keep out of the storm which raged all around him, it was left to one of his predecessors, Graeme Souness, to tell of the real collateral damage Suarez had inflicted. "It is about safeguarding the name of the football club," he said.

Rodgers' initial attempts to somehow deflect the controversy by drawing a parallel with a Fernando Torres challenge on Jamie Carragher was a clumsy, slightly desperate strategy, as much as Rafael Benitez arguing relentlessly about the six minutes and 45 seconds of injury time was farcical, when outside on the pitch a footballer had shown that his first episode of biting on the field of play, three years ago, was not a one-off.

A Liverpool press statement was welcome last night, though the club cannot wait beyond the course of today to act because the reputational damage will be global. It was to the eternal shame of Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, that Liverpool's name shame was even paraded in the New York Times – "Another ugly incident mars Liverpool's good name" – after Suarez directed the word "negro" at Patrice Evra and later refused to shake the player's hand, having been convicted of racist conduct by a Football Association Tribunal. That was a scandal presided over by a Kenny Dalglish, who looked like a 1980s manager who'd woken up in the 21st century, and his managing director, Ian Ayre, who looked unable to handle "The King". Liverpool must not await a Football Association decision before taking action.

When Manchester United saw the enormous significance of the Eric Cantona's kung-fu kick on Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Symonds in January 1995, they moved before the FA did and hit their talisman with a pre-emptive six-month ban. Liverpool require something equally strong now. Ten games – their former assistant manager Phil Thompson's suggestion last night – looks like the minimum range. Liverpool appointed a new internal communications director, Susan Black, on Friday, incidentally. Welcome to Anfield.

The bind for Liverpool is their deep footballing dependence on this player. Anyone with an affection for the club will want to believe that dispensing this summer with the man the Dutch press came to label as the "Cannibal of Ajax" is unnecessary. But that notion is predicated on the notion that this deeply complex individual is not beyond redemption. His shift from affable to borderline psychotic temperament makes that seem a remote prospect.

What on earth must we make of this individual, who will smile as he slopes around Melwood in flip-flops, explaining to journalists the subtleties of Uruguayan Mate herb tea, and yet behave like this? "My wife says that if I was like I am on the pitch away from it, she would not be with me any more," he once said and his prolific four years at Ajax, from 2007, revealed why. It is hard to watch the footage of Suarez biting the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal, in November 2010, without flinching. The Uruguayan's apology at the time, if taken at face value, reveals he felt he was operating outside of himself in the heat of battle.

"As the captain of the club I know I took a decision that was wrong," he said a week after the incident. "In those moments, your heartbeat is very high and sometimes you don't think about what you are doing. I am very sorry about that. I am very critical of myself. I am not like that. From this point on, I need to work harder." Work at what, Suarez did not make clear. The statement, shot on location in Spain, did not include an apology to Bakkal and Dutch journalists considered it hollow.

Some, like Fulham manager Martin Jol who managed him at Ajax, have suggested that Suarez is manageable. "You can make a mistake, and I can forgive you or tell you that it's unforgivable. There are always two options," Jol said, though he also made a dreadful attempt to cover the Bakkal incident with humour. "Maybe he was hungry..." the Dutchman said. The player's Eredivisie career was over. He never returned from a seven-game ban.

It was Ron Jans, Suarez's coach at his previous Dutch club Groningen, who observed that this player's problem was an overwhelming will to win which he simply couldn't curtail. "He has to learn that doing everything cannot be enough to win," he said, desperate for Suarez to lose some of the visceral energy from his game, which Jans located in his South American background, within the rough city limits of Salto near Uruguay's border with Argentina. Five years on, nothing has changed.

Fifa are also currently investigating Suarez for allegedly punching Chile defender Gonzalo Jara during a South American World Cup qualifier last month, though there were suggestions that the Nottingham Forest player had grabbed his genitals.

Suarez might actually be named Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year this weekend, since votes were cast before yesterday. Revoking such a vote would be unprecedented.

On the day when Manchester United will probably clinch a 20th title, Liverpool grapple with how to redeem their only world class player. For them, it is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices