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EDITORIAL - Suarez bit off more than he could chew

Published:Saturday | June 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

It has been said that no one forgives more quickly and forgets more completely than a sports fan. And for superstars, the period of annoyance for any wrongdoing is shorter than for the average athlete. Overall, condemnation is usually slow in coming from the mouths of sporting fans. It is a sad fact that adoring fans hold sporting stars to a lower standard than everyone else in society.

So the ugly biting incident in Tuesday's World Cup match between Uruguay and Italy, and the subsequent ban of the alleged biter, Luis Suarez, has been met with mixed reactions.

FIFA reviewed the tape of the match and determined that Suarez did bite Giorgio Chiellini on his shoulder and has slapped him with a four-month ban from all football-related activities. Additionally, he has been fined. The Uruguayan Football Association is appealing the ban amid conspiracy theories aimed at explaining the real reason for handing him this punishment. Even Chiellini, the victim, has called the ban excessive.

In his defence, Suarez is reported to have said: "He [Chiellini] thrust his shoulder into me." His supporters have described his action as "casual play" and yet others have flayed Chiellini for being a tattler, while others say the images carried in the British press were manipulated.

NO APOLOGY

So far, Suarez has not apologised. Football can never be described as a gentle sport. In between the thrill of performances, spectators have become used to seeing rough tackling, elbowing, head-butting, and other tactics, but biting a player is a terrible action. The fact that Suarez had been charged twice before for biting a player makes this even more disturbing.

What kind of message is he sending to children and youth who see him as a role model and adore him as a talented player? On and off the field, sporting heroes should understand how much their actions impact fans, especially young, impressionable youth.

This kind of behaviour cannot be defended, and fans should be outraged instead of sympathetic. We are here discussing the actions of Suarez of Uruguay, but there is a lesson for all nations to learn from this incident. Athletes and sports personalities should not be immune from the scrutiny we apply to other persons in society. We should hold their feet to the fire when it is necessary.

Suarez is indeed a talented player, and no doubt many fans have placed him on a pedestal. It is unfortunate that he has ended his World Cup campaign and, perhaps, his country's dream of winning the trophy. His pain, for painful it must be, has been sadly self-inflicted.

Jamaica is not at the World Cup, but the entire nation is caught up in its fervour and will continue to be entertained by the skill, passion and courage of the players in the weeks ahead. With FIFA handing Suarez one of the stiffest World Cup punishments ever, this may prove a deterrent to any other player who may have ideas of bringing the game of football into disrepute.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.