After many weeks spent gnawing on his nails in Catalonia, Luis Suarez must now accept the reality of his four-month worldwide ban after the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) upheld Fifa’s decision.
The ruling will serve as a disappointment to Suarez and his lawyer Daniel Cravos, who maintained an ultra-confident stance throughout the appeal, insisting that the Uruguay star would see the length of his ban halved.
At the very least, Suarez can take solace from the fact that he is now allowed to train with his new club Barcelona before returning to action on 25 October; the world of football (especially his opposing numbers in La Liga) will be praying he has learnt his lesson.
Suarez was handed the ban by Fifa’s disciplinary body for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup match between Uruguay and Italy, as well as nine-game ban at international level. Yes, you read correctly: biting. And it wasn’t his first offence either.
When playing in the Netherlands for Ajax back in November 2010, the striker bit the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal following a brawl between the two sides. The referee sent him off and subsequently, Suarez was given a seven-match ban. History repeated itself in April 2013 when the Liverpool striker, unprovoked, bit the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. He was not sent off, but given a retrospective 10-game ban by the FA.
Let’s be clear. Things happen in the heat of the moment on a football pitch; a petulant kick, a small instance of handbags or even an ugly two-footed tackle are stupid, but it happens. However, there was no defence for this kind of behaviour - even Suarez knew that. Or so we thought.
Perhaps the only thing more pathetic than this savage, animalistic act was his initial defence, which he submitted to Fifa’s disciplinary panel: “After the impact [of the collision] I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player, leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.” A denial such as this borders on the delusional and it was suggested during his ban, Suarez would require some form of professional help before he could play again.
World Cup fans pose with Luis Suarez advert
The concerning aspect of this is that each time, Suarez attempted to appear sincere with his apology. He took to Twitter the same day as when he bit Ivanovic, claiming he was “sad” for what happened and begged for redemption for his “inexcusable” behaviour. Likewise, he eventually issued a statement apologising to Chiellini, although media reports suggest Barcelona ordered as part of the deal to sign him. But like a cheating partner, how can you trust he won’t do it again?
Rather like Ivanovic, Chiellini – the latest player to be bitten by Suarez – sympathised with Suarez’s apology and pleaded with Fifa to reduce his sentence. Probably not because he believed the incident had been blown out of proportion, but simply because the Italian felt sorry for him.
Liverpool fans forgave him the second time, but others were determined not to be fooled twice. Bakkal, the first player bitten by Suarez, said: “At the time, Suarez said it was a one-off gesture, but now he's repeated it. In those years, he has not learnt his lesson.”
Evidently, he hadn’t, because just 14 months later he was at it again.
When I heard several of my colleagues shrieking: “He’s done it again! Suarez bit him!” I wasn’t even surprised. I was saddened. Luis Suarez is an incredible, wonderfully-talented player – it’s certainly not an exaggeration to mention him in the same breath as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo – and it’s a huge shame to see him waste away his career in this manner. His disgraceful actions will ensure that his reputation will forever remain tarnished, regardless of what he achieves on the pitch. And now out of action until October, he only has himself to blame.
But should the ban have been even longer? Players who test positive for taking banned drug substances can receive a one-year worldwide ban. Slightly different, granted, but given that Suarez is a repeat offender in terms of physical violence, is it fair to suggest the four-month ban is still too lenient? A year out of the sport for attempting to gain an advantage, but only four months for purposely inflicting physical damage on another opponent. You wonder where the rule makers’ priorities lie.
For all of their soft decisions in the past, Fifa are finally beginning to show they are facing up to the problematic figures in the sport by making an example of Suarez with the strong force of the four-month ban, although he never should have been denied the opportunity to train.
Ultimately, the CAS have struck the right balance with their decision. Reducing his ban would not have helped Luis Suarez, it would have hindered him, but then maybe he doesn’t want to learn his lesson after all.