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Suarez back on the hot seat

By Reuters in Natal, Brazil (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-26 07:06

Suarez back on the hot seat

Superstar sinks his teeth into ensuring big win for Uruguay

Biting opponents, racist comments - all that looked to be behind Luis Suarez, as soccer's bad boy was maturing into a superstar for his club and country.

Then the old habit that most people leave behind in nursery school cropped up again in front of an audience of millions.

Faced with a smothering and frustrating Italian defense in a must-win World Cup game on Tuesday, the Uruguayan superstar responded with his front teeth.

It came in the 78th minute when Suarez and Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini got tangled up in front of the Italy goal. The apparent chomp happened in an instant, but caught by television cameras it became a worldwide sensation and could lead to Suarez being kicked out of the World Cup.

The referee didn't see a bite, and no foul was called despite Chiellini pleading and pulling down his jersey to show a red mark on his shoulder.

About 90 seconds later, Uruguay scored the winning goal in a 1-0 game that sent Italy home.

Uruguay will continue playing, but the federation that runs the World Cup will investigate and could suspend Suarez, who has twice before been disciplined for biting opponents in league matches.

FIFA officially announced an investigation on Wednesday, saying the Urguayans had until late the next afternoon to present evidence. A ruling will be announced before Uruguay plays Colombia on Saturday.

Suarez did not confirm or deny the bite, but said he was angry that Chiellini - one of the best defenders in the world and known for his physical play - 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. "These things happen on the pitch, and we don't have to give them so much (importance)."

Suarez, 27, should be celebrating a career year. After asking to be sold before the season, he stayed with Liverpool, won the scoring title and was named the English Premier League's player of the year.

Now, he will have to try to start rehabbing his reputation again.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez and Suarez's teammates immediately defended their star.

"I want to say that if he's attacked, as it has begun in this press conference, we'll also defend him, because this is a football World Cup," said Tabarez, who said he did not see a bite.

Suarez was suspended following biting incidents in the Netherlands in 2010 and in England in 2013. He also was suspended for racially abusing an opponent. British tabloids have teasingly called him a vampire, and social media artists have had fun manipulating his photo into images of Dracula and Hannibal Lecter.

And he was responsible for one of the most talked-about moments of the 2010 World Cup, when he purposefully used his hand to prevent a Ghana goal near the end of the quarterfinals. Suarez received a red card and was banned for the next game, but Ghana missed the penalty kick and was eliminated.

Uruguay defender and team captain Diego Lugano suggested Suarez was a victim of his past.

"You need to show me because I didn't see anything. Did you see it today or did you see what happened in other years?" Lugano said.

"The worst of all was Chiellini's attitude ... as a sportsman leaving the field, crying and appealing against a rival."

On the field immediately after the match, Suarez looked relieved to have pulled out the victory in the heat of this tropical coastal city.

If Uruguay had lost, it would have been knocked out of the World Cup

After taking off his jersey, Suarez walked to a corner of the stadium, clapped and flashed his toothy smile as he waved to the thousands of Uruguay fans chanting and cheering his name.

FIFA, soccer's world governing body, can sanction players with bans of up to two years.

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyle said on British television that Suarez had let himself down again.

"There is no doubt Luis Suarez is a fantastic footballer but, once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism," Boyle, who is also chairman of the FIFA referees' committee, said from his home in Northern Ireland. "FIFA must investigate the incident seriously."

Chiellini said Suarez should have been kicked out of the game.

Suarez said he regretted his previous biting incidents, telling the Mirror newspaper in London recently that he worried what his children will think.


Uruguay striker Luis Suarez sparked a Twitter storm with his World Cup bite scandal, from pictures of him wearing a muzzle to a reaction from once-bitten boxing legend Evander Holyfield.

Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Italy on Tuesday, which qualified the South American squad to the second round at the European team's expense, was overshadowed by allegations Suarez got away with biting defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder.

"I guess any part of the body is up for eating," wrote Holyfield, whose ear was partly chomped off by rival Mike Tyson in 1997. Saturday marks the 17th anniversary of their infamous 'Bite Fight' for the world heavyweight championship in Las Vegas.

Other social media users published photo montages of the Liverpool forward, who has been sanctioned twice before for biting players in the Netherlands and England.

One picture shows him with the mask of Hannibal Lecter, the fictional, cannibalistic serial killer portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of the Lambs.

In another movie parody, Suarez replaced the shark in an old poster of Jaws, with the comment: "Someone call Steven Spielberg".

Other photos have him sporting a dog's flea collar and many more with vampire fangs, or as part of the cast of the zombie television show Walking Dead.

The incident made the front page of the New York Times website, while the Huffington Post's British version used the headline "Chewy Luis and the Blues".

One Twitter user in the United States claimed a Norwegian had won a bet on whether Suarez would bite another opponent and cashed in at odds of 175-1. A stake of $5 earned him a return of $920.

 Suarez back on the hot seat

Luis Suarez checks his teeth after running into Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder during the Group D match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, on Tuesday. Uruguay won 1-0 to eliminate Italy and advance to the final 16. Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press

 Suarez back on the hot seat

Giorgio Chiellini bares his shoulder to show apparent teeth marks after colliding with Luis Suarez. Hassan Ammar / AP

(China Daily 06/26/2014 page24)

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