With the whole world watching, Luis Suarez has further cemented his place in infamy with one of the most egregious acts in World Cup history. Many non-soccer fans may not know who Suarez is, but millions will likely know who he is now.
In the 79th minute of a pivotal Group D match between Uruguay and Italy, cameras caught Suarez apparently biting defender Giorgio Chiellini. While there was no angle that clearly showed Suarez digging his teeth into Chiellini, judging by the multiple replays, it appeared to be an act of biting. The Uruguayan also has a history of biting opposing players.
To add to the absurdity of the incident, Suarez would rise from the pitch and check his teeth after Chiellini understandably took a swing to Suarez’s face, in defense or retaliation, while they were tangled up. Not only was Suarez not shown a straight red card by referee Marco Rodriquez of Mexico, but a yellow card or foul wasn’t even issued.
Uruguay would score moments later in the lone goal of the match, which eliminated Italy and sent Uruguay to the Round of 16. Italy may have many justified reasons to complain about the officiating, considering the goal came with Italy playing with 10 men under questionable circumstances. Midfielder Claudio Marchisio received a straight red in the 59th minute for a clear foul, but perhaps one that didn’t warrant such a punishment.
However, in the 22nd minute, Italian striker Mario Balotelli received a yellow card for a very aggressive challenge that perhaps deserved a straight red.
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Immediately after the Suarez biting incident, Chiellini rushed to Rodriquez to show the mark on his shoulder, but Rodriquez moved on from the play while Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Ramirez would intercede into Chiellini’s protest to make the Italian lift his jersey back up.
An investigation is expected and Suarez could face a lengthy suspension.
The incident is yet another ugly moment in the Liverpool star’s career. Suarez previously bit a player in 2011 when he was in the Eredivisie, the top league in the Netherlands. In his last match with Dutch powerhouse Ajax, he bit PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal. Suarez received a seven-game suspension.
In 2013, Suarez was suspended for 10 games for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
Suarez’s behavior hasn’t been limited to just biting players. In his first season with Liverpool, Suarez was found of guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who is of African descent. He was banned for eight games and fined £40,000.
Suarez is among the best strikers in the world. He had a particularly strong season in 2013-2014 with Liverpool, scoring 31 goals in 33 appearances.
Now, the 27-year-old may have played his last World Cup match.
The incident is among the most shocking in the tournament’s history and perhaps the most bizarre since France superstar Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the final moments of the 2006 World Cup final.
Chiellini believes Suarez won’t receive a punishment since he is a star player.
According to Sky Sport Italia, Chiellini was furious about the officiating.
“It was absolutely shameful. The game was decided by the referee and if one team should’ve gone through it was us,” Chiellini said.
“Sending Marchisio off and not carding Suarez was decisive. There were other incidents and a different treatment in the first half too.”
“As long as we had 11 men, we were in control and Uruguay were never dangerous. Obviously with 10 men in the last half-hour it was tough and we suffered, then we were punished by a set play.”
“Suarez is a sneak and he gets away with it because FIFA want their stars to play in the World Cup. I’d love to see if they have the courage to use video evidence against him.”
“The referee saw the bite mark too, but he did nothing about it.”
Suarez spent the first seven years of his life in Salto, the second-largest city in Uruguay, before moving to Montevideo, the capital. In Salto, he is considered a hero.
He is one of seven children, with one brother playing professionally in El Salvador. His father, Rodolfo, would walk out on the family when he was young, causing personal turmoil. Suarez would later meet Sofia Balbi when he was 15 and she was 13, and the two would marry in 2009 and have two children. So infatuated was Suarez with Balfi as a teenager that he would temporarily quit soccer in 2003 when she left Uruguay to join her family in Barcelona. Suarez would improve as a player with an interest in moving to Europe to be closer to her.
He began his career with Nacional, a club in Montevideo. In 2006, Suarez would move on to play with Groningen in the Eredivisie, which would bring him closer to Balbi. That followed with a move to Ajax for four years. He made a big splash by signing with Liverpool in 2011 on a £23 million transfer deal. There has been speculation that Suarez could make a move to Barcelona after the World Cup.
Suarez has been regarded a very competitive and intense competitor, but also as a diver. However, it is difficult to overlook his skills. Suarez has a knack for taking advantage of his goal-scoring opportunities, and has thrived with Liverpool, almost leading the Reds to a title in 2013-2014 after finishing seventh in 2012-2013.
He made headlines in 2010 when he used his hand to block a shot by Ghana in the quarterfinals that was clearly going into the goal. Ghana would miss the ensuing penalty kick, and Uruguay would advance to the semifinals where they would lose to the Netherlands.