Luis Suarez, the brilliant but troubled Uruguay and Liverpool striker, will not be seen inside a football stadium for the next four months, after the sport’s world governing body, FIFA, slammed the 27-year-old star with a lengthy ban after he appeared to bite an opposing player in a FIFA World Cup match Tuesday.
Video replays of an altercation on the pitch between Suarez and Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini appeared to show Suarez clamping his teeth down on Chiellini’s shoulder. Both players then collapsed to the ground, Suarez holding his mouth.
Suarez later claimed on Uruguayan television that he was the victim in the incident.
“These situations happen on the pitch,” Suarez said. “We were both just inside the area, he struck me in the chest with his shoulder and he hit me in the eye as well.”
FIFA banned Suarez from Uruguay’s next nine international matches, meaning that the South American team which advanced out of its group to the World Cup knockout round, will need to survive without its best goal-scorer.
Suarez will also miss Uruguay’s Copa America qualifying matches.
The ban also affects Suarez’s role with his English Premier League team, Liverpool. The striker is suspended from the first nine matches, or almost a quarter, of the Premier League season.
With a second-place finish in the 2013/14 Premier League season, Liverpool also qualified for UEFA Champions League play for the first time since 2009, but Suarez will miss the initial matches in the group stage of that prestigious tournament as well.
During his four-month suspension, Luis Suarez is prohibited by FIFA from entering any facility where FIFA-sanctioned football matches take place. The FIFA punishment marks the third time in the career of Luis Suarez that the gifted goal-scorer has been disciplined for biting an opposing player.
Whether Suarez will even remain a Liverpool player is now an open question. His former teammate, the now-retired Liverpool great Jamie Carragher, condemned Suarez after the latest biting incident.
“Luis’s actions have been disgraceful, and it defies belief that he could behave as if he was in a playground once again after everything Liverpool have done for him,” Carragher said Thursday. Suarez is under contract with Liverpool through 2018, though the contract contains an expensive release clause.
Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, however, was more restrained. “Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the FIFA Disciplinary Committee report before making any further comment,” he said Thursday.
In addition to the bans, FIFA also slapped Suarez with a fine of about $110,000.
A lawyer for Suarez, Alejandro Balbi, said that the punishment was the result of a conspiracy against Suarez.
“We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suárez involved and secondly because Italy have been eliminated. There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy,” said Balbi. “We’re convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suárez can show a bruised and an almost closed eye.”
The punishment reportedly has also jeopardized the corporate sponsors who have Luis Suarz under contract, primarily the shoe-maker and sports apparel firm Adidas is said to be reviewing its relationship with Suarez.