… or is he just like the rest of us, except a bit more competitive?
Q: So Uruguay is out of the World Cup and Luis Suárez has gone back home. That’s the end of that then, eh?
A: Hardly. This is just the start. The Uruguay Football Association is sure to kick up a fuss over what it considers rough justice. My guess is that the governing organization will push the case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.
Q: They haven’t got a leg to stand on have they? Everyone saw Suárez bite Chiellini.
A: Would a court of law accept this kind of video evidence? I doubt if it would be admissible. I mean, even if you study it closely, it’s impossible to determine whether Suárez intentionally bit his rival.
Q: What about the bite marks on Chiellini’s shoulder?
A: Again, I doubt if it’s probative.
Q: What’s that mean?
A: Is the bite mark conclusive evidence that demonstrates the biting happened? After all, it could be an old wound. Highly unlikely I grant you. But a decent lawyer would expose the frailty of this evidence.
Q: How do you know? You’re a professor of sociology, not law.
A: Anybody who watches The Good Wife on More4 knows this kind of stuff. It’s elementary.
Q: So why has Fifa given Suárez such a long ban?
A: Why does Fifa do a lot of things that seem to defy commonsense? Suarez is a repeat offender and I guess Fifa think they need to stamp down on him. But I think the Uruguayan FA will take their case apart if they push it all the way to the CAS.
Q: OK, so let’s move on the Liverpool situation. Pretty hard on the club, isn’t it?
A: Not at all. In fact, you could argue that, if the club had acted responsibly, it should have counseled Suárez and made sure he didn’t resort to biting again after biting Branislav Ivanovic in 2013. All the same, I imagine Liverpool will appeal to Fifa. There’s talk that the club may try to transfer him, but, technically, Surarez’s punishment forbids him from any engaging in any “football related activity” and what else could a transfer be? Even negotiating a transfer would surely be a football-related activity. This is another case of muddled Fifa thinking again. If he can’t be involved in football related activity, he can’t be involved in a transfer.
Q: But Liverpool could negotiate a transfer on his behalf and put together a package, which the club could present to him when the suspension ends, couldn’t it?
A: It could, but then it would depend on whether Suárez finds it acceptable. He’s made it known that he would like to move from Liverpool, but who knows? In any case, I’m not sure Liverpool is in any rush to move him out: he is such a pivotal player and, if he is out of the team for the opening of next season, Liverpool will surely suffer. The club will never replicate last season without Suarez.
Q: Finally, the big question: all the papers have been asking questions about Suárez’s mentality. What are your own thoughts? Is he a psycho? He can’t be normal, can he?
A: Have you heard Arcade Fire’s Normal Person ? There’s a line, “I’ve never really ever met a normal person.” In other words, none of us is actually “normal” – there are parameters of normality and most of us stay inside those limits. I think Suárez is well within the parameters: but he is a highly competitive individual who works in an environment that actually encourages these kinds of violent outbursts.
Q: You mean sport, right? Because anyone who has ever competed knows how frustrating it can be.
A: Precisely. Suárez’s response was the result of frustration. He’d been kicked black-and-blue for most of the Italy game and had been prevented doing what he wanted. The frustration had been boiling up. Similarly, when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield in 1997, he had been headbutted for most of the fight and his appeals to the referee were reaching deaf ears (so to speak!). The ref of the Uruguay-Italy game should have spotted how the Italians were targeting Suarez. Suarez is a singular character, but, then again, exceptional sports stars often are. Look at Eric Cantona: many of us remember how he had also been frustrated for most of the game Man United-Crystal Palace before he blew his top, got a red card, and launched his infamous “kung fu” attack” on a fan in 1995 Competitive sport is an arena in which frustration thrives: you have one individual or team trying to pursue one thing, while another individual or team tries to prevent them. I can go back further and mention Duncan Ferguson, a formidable player, but who tended to get easily frustrated. He ended up doing three months in prison after headbutting a rival player, Jock McStay in 1994. Frankly, if I had the choice, I would prefer to get a nip on the neck rather than feeling the full force of a Ferguson headbutt in the face! Check it out here. .
Q: I’m guessing you think Chiellini was exaggerating a bit.
A: I hate to see players running to the referee urging him to punish an opponent, like children in a playground running to a teacher. It’s one of the most unedifying sights in football. If the ref didn’t see the offence, just get on with it. It’s symptomatic of the modern professional game: players do their utmost to gain an advantage by whatever means they can and, if that means, influencing the referee’s decision-making, then so be it. I just don’t like to see it: if you’re competing, compete: don’t become a supplementary referee. If Chiellini had simply given Suárez a sly dig to remind him that, if he wanted to bite him, he could expect something back in exchange, then the game would have flowed on and we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.@elliscashmore