FIFA has officially charged Uruguay’s Luis Suarez for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in the teams’ World Cup match, a process that could lead to a suspension for Uruguay’s best offensive player. FIFA announced on Wednesday that its disciplinary committee has opened proceedings against Suarez, just hours after the end of Tuesday’s match.
If the panel finds Suarez guilty of assaulting an opponent, FIFA rules call for a ban of at least two matches up to a maximum of 24 months. FIFA asked the team to present evidence, which can include video recordings, by 2000 GMT on Wednesday. A decision must be published before Saturday, when Uruguay plays Colombia in a round-of-16 match at Maracana stadium. Uruguay advanced by beating Italy 1-0 in Natal.
One minute before the decisive goal, Suarez clashed with Chiellini and was caught by television cameras apparently biting his shoulder. Match referee Marco Rodriguez of Mexico appeared not to see the incident and took no action.
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Brazil’s World Cup has been a high-scoring tournament featuring late goals, comebacks, full stadiums and underdog stories, but the bite has got much of the global attention.
Earlier in his career, the 27-year-old Suarez was suspended in the Netherlands and England for biting opponents. He didn’t confirm or deny biting Chiellini, but said he was angry that the Italian defender had hit him in the eye during the game. “These are things that happen on the pitch, we were both in the area, he thrust his shoulder into me,” Suarez said in Spanish. “These things happen on the pitch, and we don’t have to give them so much (importance).”
FIFA’s disciplinary panel “is responsible for sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention,” the governing body said in a statement.
“Any type of proof may be produced,” FIFA noted, including “reports from referees, declarations from the parties and witnesses, material evidence, audio or video recordings.”
FIFA set a World Cup precedent for using video review in 1994. Then, in a quarterfinal, Italy defender Mauro Tassotti’s elbow to the face of Spain’s Luis Enrique escaped the referee’s attention. FIFA later banned Tassotti for eight international matches.
Opinion in Uruguay, a country of around three million people sandwiched between soccer powerhouses Argentina and Brazil, was divided over Suarez’s latest antics. The 27-year-old is regarded as something of a hero at home, having grown up in a poor family in the northwestern city of Salto, where he looked after parked cars to help support his siblings after his parents split up.
“We needed to win, so if you have to hit you hit, if you have to bite you bite,” said Barbara Giordano, a 26-year-old law student in Montevideo.
Some Uruguayans, however, were furious. “This kid can’t control his biting and attacking issues,” said Luis Lara, a 52-year-old shopkeeper. “That makes all of us Uruguayans look bad.”