Millennium Post

The prized idiot?

Two days before Uruguay’s crunch World Cup Round of 16 clash against Colombia at the iconic Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro, FIFA banned their star striker Luis Suarez from all football activities for four months for biting an opponent, this time Giorgio Chiellini of Italy in their last Group D match which the Latin powerhouse won 1-0. The ban also covers Uruguay’s next nine international games, which goes beyond the next four months and might even rule him out of next year’s Copa America. 

But controversies aren’t new to this exceptionally gifted 27-year-old, who struck a £22.8 million deal with Liverpool in January 2011, leaving Dutch giants Ajax after a successful four-year stint. In fact, Suarez has now been banned for 34 games since 2010 without receiving a single red card.

It started with 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when was sent off in the quarterfinal against Ghana for stopping a clear goal-bound shot with his arms. Ghana went on to lose the match though. Few months later, while playing for Ajax, Suarez was accused of biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal. Soon after joining Liverpool, the striker received an eight-match ban in Premier League for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and in April last year, Suarez was fined and handed 10-match ban for biting into the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

But what happened earlier this week went beyond any comprehension. His unprovoked charge at Chiellini can’t be justified by any means of logic, more so with the whole of Uruguay’s hopes resting largely on his shoulders with Suarez being the fulcrum of the unpredictable Latin side.  Suarez’s case is another classic example of ‘momentary lapse of reason’, costing those dearly who didn’t have anything to do with the incident.

Only in April 2013, Premier League named Suarez Player of the Year. He carried Liverpool almost to the brinks of an elusive first EPL title since 1989-90. And yet, not undermining the many startling goals he scored over the season, Suarez continues to be hated. According to a Toronto Star report printed last year: ‘He’s the diviest, whiniest, annoyingest player on Earth. Though there are plenty of aspirants, he is easily the most hated man in football. ... North of his feet, there is nothing good about Suarez. He couldn’t be more awful if he came out of the tunnel twirling mustachios. He will do something insane at this summer’s World Cup, mark it down. Eventually, he’ll punch a baby.’ The Uruguyan indeed lived upto his reputation and literally went out of his way to prove the prediction right.

Many sports psychologists believe Suarez’s tough childhood may be blamed for his erratic on-field behaviour. Suarez was born in Salto, Uruguay, the fourth of seven brothers. He moved with his family to Montevideo when he was seven.

To quote Wright Thompson from ‘Suarez’s poverty is one of the many narratives about his life, and, although it is often used as a trope to explain his violence, it’s true. He did grow up poor, his life mirroring the hard childhood of Ricardo Gabito. His mother scrubbed floors. He couldn’t afford soccer shoes, which once kept him from trying out for an elite team. But the allure of the rags-to-riches storyline often distracts people from the broken-family storyline, which shaped Suarez most of all. His father abandoned them, and Suarez, entering his teen years, started skipping practice, drinking, staying out late. He was lost. His coach often went into Suarez’s home to drag his striker to practice.’

‘The formative years of people’s development do contribute to their personality. If you look at his history, Suarez had a fairly hard upbringing (he was one of seven children born into poverty), which would have been fighting for survival, he was streetwise,’ said Tom Fawcett from Salford University. Fawcett also claimed nobody should be surprised at the incident. ‘If it’s happened before, it’ll happen again. Despite all the help, he’s going to do it again,’ Fawcett added. 

Suarez’s teammates and fans, however, have now scrambled to his support after the FIFA announcement. Wilmar Valdez, Uruguay football federation president, said, ‘Luis is fine. He’s been through 1001 battles. We all know who Luis is and that’s why we have to defend him.’ His teammate and 2010 WC captain Diego Lugano said, ‘The British media has a vendetta against Suarez, and everyone knows that. It’s obvious the vendetta sells newspapers in England, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Uruguay now play Colombia and I don’t know why there’s a British journalist asking about Suarez.’ 

Suarez’s disconsolate grandmother Lila Piriz Da Rosa said after the FIFA suspension, ‘Everyone knows what they’ve done to Luis. They wanted him out of the World Cup. Perfect, they did it. They chucked him out of there like a dog. This was on purpose. They had their eyes on him to see what he does. It’s barbaric what they’ve done to him. I’m his granny and I love my boy loads! Please don’t ask me any more.’

Richard Suarez, who has no relation to Luis’ family but watched him play youth football growing up in Salto, said the striker ‘was never aggressive’. ‘A lot of people have written him off as a bad person but it’s not like that. He’s a great guy,’ he said.

Interestingly, if the grapevine is to be believed, Suarez has agreed to join Spanish giants Barcelona now. Little wonder that former England great Gary Lineker twitted after the incident: ‘Suarez ban biggest in WC history. beats 8 games given to Italy’s Tassotti for elbow on Luis Enrique. Barca boss could be affected again?’ However, to keep the deal and his career alive, Suarez must now subdue, realising that he is a prize idiot or figure out a way to stop being one.
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