Soccer

Butler: True to form, Suarez' inner demons on display

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Noel Butler, TSN.ca
6/28/2014 4:15:38 PM
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His latest victim called the ban excessive, Maradona suggested on Argentine TV FIFA 'might as well handcuff him and throw him in Guantanamo' and the Uruguayan president suggested a hidden agenda.

In banning Luis Suarez for nine international matches and all football related activity for a period of four months and fining him $100,000, FIFA made no provision for mandating the 27-year old Uruguayan to receive the professional help he so evidently requires.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke stated Friday Suarez should seek treatment is clear evidence the governing body failed in this regard.

I can't imagine a scenario in any of our major sports leagues where rehabilitation wasn't a significant aspect of any sanctioning handed down to a repeat offender. FIFA could learn much from the North American model where rehabilitation is an integral aspect of the disciplinary process.

Which is a theme picked up by FIFPro, the players' global union, who questioned why rehabilitation and professional support was not mandated by FIFA.

The first part of that process is taking responsibility.

Instead we learned this morning in his statement to the FIFA Disciplinary Panel, Suarez denied he deliberately bit Italy's Giorgio Chiellini.

"I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth."

During post-match comments to Uruguayan TV Suarez claimed Chiellini bumped into him with his shoulder. This is in stark contrast with video which clearly shows it was Suarez who initiated contact between the players.

"Deliberate, intentional and without provocation," was the disciplinary panel's conclusion.

Which could be the same words used for the two previous Suarez suspensions for biting an opponent. The first of which occurred only months after the world witnessed his deliberate hand-ball in the final minute of Uruguay's quarter-final match against Ghana.

In doing so Suarez denied opportunity for an African nation to make it to the semifinals of a World Cup for the first time in competition history.

In the referee's match report from Tuesday's pivotal Group D encounter Marco Rodriguez admits neither he, nor of any of his assistants saw the incident and that that was reason why Suarez was not punished at the time.

In time we may well look back at this as the tipping point for introducing video replays.

During the FIFA congress which was held in the days leading up to the World Cup Sepp Blatter stunned all in attendance when he introduced the idea of allowing coaches through the course of a match two opportunities to challenge on-field decisions.

Goal line technology was introduced for this World Cup as a consequence of not allowing the goal Frank Lampard scored in England's Round-of-16 match against Germany at South Africa 2010. We saw GLT's worth only four days into Brazil 2014, when France was rightfully awarded a goal in their opening match against Honduras.

Another distasteful aspect to all this is the way companies have looked to exploit for commercial gain one of the most unsavoury incidents in World Cup Finals history. The exception to this has been the online poker company who announced yesterday they had terminated their partnership with Suarez.

A sizeable crowd of fans including the Uruguayan President had flocked to the airport in Montevideo in support of their ‘hero' Thursday night in anticipation of his return home. However Suarez arrived back in Montevideo on a private jet in the early hours of Friday.

Avoiding the fanfare and the spotlight in favour of anonymity might just be a first sign Suarez finally understands the full consequence of his irrational actions last Tuesday.

Suarez now has to ignore the sentiment of a nation, the loyalty of his manager and the outpouring of sympathy he has received in favour of the wise words from Uruguay's original football icon, Alcides Ghiggia.

Ghiggia - who scored the winning goal for Uruguay when they beat Brazil in the 1950 World Cup Final - has been outspoken in his criticism of Suarez.

Let's hope when Uruguay take to the pitch for the pre-match warm up ahead of Saturday afternoon's Round-of-16 match against Colombia they don't wear t-shirts in support of Suarez, as Liverpool players did in December, 2011 when he was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Instead they hopefully counsel Suarez to admit the errors of his ways and take full responsibility. Only then can he begin the long journey back to the sanctuary of the football pitch.

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

TSN Radio is an official licensed radio broadcaster of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Check www.tsn.ca/radio for the broadcast schedule in your home town.

Luis Suarez (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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