FIFA defended the harsh punishment it handed down to Uruguay striker Luis Suarez for biting an opponent during the World Cup, despite complaints on Friday from his coach, politicians and even the man he bit that the record penalty was excessive.
The 27-year-old striker was expelled from this year’s tournament in Brazil and banned from international soccer for nine competitive games – the longest ever suspension handed out at a World Cup.
Further infuriating those who believe he has been unfairly treated by soccer’s governing body, Suarez cannot do anything connected with soccer for four months, meaning he misses the start of English club Liverpool’s 2014/15 campaign.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said Suarez’s previous misdemeanours on the pitch had been taken into account. The player was banned twice before for biting during club games.
“If it’s the first time, it’s an incident. More than once, it is not any more an incident,” Valcke told reporters. “That is why also the sanction, it has to be exemplary.
“It was seen by hundreds of millions of people. It is not what you want your kids, what you want the little (ones) who are playing football around the world, to see at a World Cup,” he told journalists at FIFA’s daily tournament media briefing.
He also said Suarez should seek treatment to help him avoid such incidents in the future.
“I don’t know if it exists, but he should do something by himself because it’s definitely wrong.”
FIFA ruled that Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder during Uruguay’s final group match on Tuesday, as his side knocked the Europeans out of the tournament with a 1-0 victory.
The incident overshadowed what has been a scintillating competition so far, with teams playing attacking football and goals flying in at almost three a match.
While many in Europe believe Suarez should be severely punished for his third biting offence, Uruguayans are incensed at what they see as bias against their team within FIFA, and across Latin America the player enjoys widespread sympathy.
SUAREZ A “SCAPEGOAT”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, speaking on the eve of his team’s last 16 game against in-form Colombia, uttered not a word about the match but read a 14-minute statement to a packed press conference during which he railed against FIFA and the media.
“It was a decision much more focused on the opinions of the media who at the conclusion of the match, and at the press conference afterwards, focused on just one topic,” he said.
“I don’t know what their nationality was – but they all spoke English.”
Tabarez added: “I am not justifying anything and saying there should be no punishment. I don’t, though, agree with the theory of having continued…