“When the player fouled me,I reacted in a bit of a mischievous way my character is a little like that at times.” (footballer,explaining why he bit an opponent)
“They kicked him three times in 10 minutes and he wanted to show his frustration in a nice,comical way.” (manager,reacting to the incident)
Luis Suarez and Brendan Rodgers? No. The quotes came from Jermain Defoe and manager Martin Jol,after the Tottenham striker had nibbled on the arm of West Ham’s Javier Mascherano six seasons ago.
Then,the FA didn’t take any action against Defoe,since the referee had shown him a yellow card. On Sunday,the referee didn’t spot Suarez biting the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. The FA,therefore,can retrospectively punish the Liverpool striker,and a suspension seems likely.
But if the British press have their way,he would be on his way out of Anfield.
Liverpool have reacted by fining Suarez two weeks’ wages. Neither player nor manager,meanwhile,called his act “mischievous” or “comical”. Suarez termed it “inexcusable”. Rodgers warned that “players are always replaceable. Managing director Ian Ayre said that the act didnt befit any player wearing a Liverpool shirt”.
Strangely,last season,24 hours after Suarez had been found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra,Liverpool’s players had seen nothing wrong in wearing shirts bearing his face and number while warming up for a match. Wearing the same shirt,their then manager Kenny Dalglish had spoken out in his support.
Maybe the club’s reaction to Suarez’s latest offence suggests a late realisation that they hadn’t covered themselves in glory during his previous indiscretion which was,by any standards,far more grave. But it doesn’t work that way. They’d much rather come out and say it in as many words.
Suarez’s bite didn’t look pretty on TV,and it wasn’t the first time he’d gnawed on an opponent,but it was no worse than the flying elbows and violent tackles that litter English football. He served a ban for his abuse of Evra it’s debatable whether eight matches was sufficient – and will probably do so again. Beyond that,he doesn’t deserve the opprobrium he’s faced.
Karthik is a senior correspondent based in New Delhi