Suarez dilemma: FIFA opens case on bite incident

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer
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Italy's Giorgio Chiellini complains after Uruguay's Luis Suarez ran into his shoulder with his teeth during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini complains after Uruguay’s Luis Suarez ran into his shoulder with his teeth during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Luis Suarez could become just as awkward for football’s international organizers to handle as he has been for rival teams at the World Cup.

The Uruguay forward should find out by late Thursday what punishment he will serve for allegedly biting into the left shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a crucial group-stage game.

“We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday. “It’s our duty to see justice done.”

“We have to deal with it before the next game,” the Hong Kong official said, referring to Uruguay’s match Saturday against Colombia in the Round of 16 at Maracana Stadium.

Suarez has hit a raw nerve at a tournament characterized by a high quality of football and entertainment.

The consequences of his bite — just before Uruguay scored the clinching goal to eliminate the four-time champion Italians — will now test FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s often-stated commitment to “fair play, discipline, respect.”

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini displays his shoulder showing apparent teeth marks after colliding with the mouth of Uruguay's Luis Suarez during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini displays his shoulder showing apparent teeth marks after colliding with the mouth of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Blatter, who was in the crowd for the Uruguay-Italy match at Natal, has previously pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.

Many are questioning where that leaves a player like Suarez, who has a history of disciplinary problems including separate bans of seven and 10 matches for biting opponents in the Netherlands and England.

The star Liverpool striker also faces losing income and reputation, with one sponsor reconsidering its recent deal with him.

In the early hours of Wednesday, FIFA announced it had opened a disciplinary case against Suarez.

The case will now be managed by Swiss lawyer, Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee. A former international forward himself, Sulser has worked for four years at FIFA, first as head of its ethics court and now the disciplinary committee.

Sulser can choose to judge the obvious offense within the scale of typical red-card incidents: A three-match ban may then be appropriate, banishing Suarez at least until the World Cup final should Uruguay advance through the knockout rounds.

Uruguay's Luis Suarez, right, holds his teeth after running into Italy's Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, right, holds his teeth after running into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

There’s scope for a more severe sanction: under the guidelines a ban of up to 24 international matches could be applied.

FIFA can also choose to ban Suarez for a period of time, to a maximum of two years, likely covering all football and not just Uruguay duty. That could affect a widely speculated transfer to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Suarez and the Uruguay football federation had until 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EDT/2000 GMT) to present a documented case for the defense, though he is unlikely to be called to Rio de Janeiro to meet with Sulser’s panel.

Uruguay federation board member Alejandro Balbi, who is Suarez’s lawyer, defended the player on Wednesday.

“This happened because there have been campaigns launched by the media in England and Italy,” Balbi told Uruguayan radio Sport 890 from Brazil.

FIFA stated it would call on video evidence, which surely will have pleased Blatter, a proponent of using video evidence in cases which on-field officials missed.

“Video evidence can be used for serious breaches of the principle of fair play such as brawling, spitting at opponents, verbal insults and racist slurs, or for incorrectly awarded red or yellow cards,” he wrote in February.

Uruguay's Luis Suarez reacts while sitting on the pitch during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez reacts while sitting on the pitch during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Images of Chiellini pulling aside the sleeve of his Azzurri shirt on the field to show the referee the marks on his shoulder were broadcast around the world. FIFA also has access to footage from other angles and other parts of the field.

Completing the case ahead of Saturday’s match could be complicated if Suarez appeals any ban. That challenge could go direct to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for an urgent and binding ruling.

However, one option open to FIFA and Sulser to avoid that scenario is that a suspension of “fewer than three matches or of up to two months” cannot be appealed, according to FIFA rules.

Already, one of Suarez’s sponsors said it was “reviewing our relationship with him.”

“We will not tolerate unsporting behavior,” 888poker said in a Twitter message.

Last month, the firm announced a global endorsement contract with Suarez, a poker enthusiast, after he was voted the Premier League’s best player by his peers and football writers.

Adidas, which also has Suarez as a client and is FIFA’s longest standing World Cup sponsor, said it was monitoring the case.

Meanwhile, Suarez was criticized by a Uruguay football great Alcides Ghiggia, the last survivor of the team which defeated Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup.

Suarez “plays well but he has done things that are not normal for a player nor for a soccer game,” Ghiggia told The AP. “I think FIFA can sanction him.”

Uruguay's Luis Suarez argues with referee Marco Rodriguez from Mexico during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez argues with referee Marco Rodriguez from Mexico during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in Rio de Janeiro and Associated Press writer Leonardo Haberkorn in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report

 

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