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Luis Suárez controversies

Luis Suárez has been involved five significant controversies for club and country during his career.

Throughout his career as a professional footballer, Uruguayan Luis Suárez has been responsible for numerous controversial incidents on and off the pitch, including racially abusing Patrice Evra, biting opposing players on three separate occasions, as well as being responsible for numerous displays of kicking and punching other players, all while showing a distinct lack of remorse for his actions.[nb 1] Despite the continuous occurrences of controversies involving Suárez, he continually received unwavering support from colleagues and fans in the face of mass criticism.[nb 2] When transferring to both Liverpool and Barcelona in two of the most expensive transfers in history, he was undergoing lengthy suspensions for his misconduct. In total, Suárez has missed a combined 45 games as a direct consequence of the controversies since 2010, and was withdrawn from contention to be nominated for the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or.[12]

The controversy surrounding Suárez's entire career led Canadian journalist Cathal Kelly to predict six months in advance that Suárez would do "something insane" at the 2014 World Cup;[13] when the prediction paid off, it was said to have failed to surprise.[14] It has been said that, "when he's not biting opponents, he is the most beautiful player in the game".[15] When asked to describe Suárez, Liverpool owner John W. Henry replied "he is a good person 99 percent of the time, and 1 percent of the time his desire to win overcomes everything else".[16] In trying to understand Suárez's problem, former managers Ron Jans and Kenny Dalglish urged him to seek professional help,[17][18] which he did in 2014 after his third biting incident.[19] In the build-up to the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final, in which Suárez's club Barcelona defeated Italian league champions Juventus, The New York Times dedicated an article to the controversies surrounding him in light of the fact that a number of Juventus players had "scores" to settle with Suárez; "bite victim" Giorgio Chiellini and five other Juve teammates were in the Italy side knocked out by Uruguay in the 2014 World Cup, Patrice Evra had transferred at the beginning of the season from Manchester United and Ghanaian international Kwadwo Asamoah had played in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final during which Suárez's handball took place.[20]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

Born on 24 January 1987 in Salto, Uruguay, Suárez is a Uruguay international footballer. Suárez's family moved to Montevideo when he was seven, and he eventually joined the youth academy of the major local team Nacional, where he made his professional debut in 2005. After one season, he moved to the Netherlands to join Groningen for a fee of €800k, where he impressed by scoring 17 goals in 37 games, enough to attract the attention Dutch giants Ajax, whom he joined after just one season for a fee of €7.5m. He was made captain of Ajax in 2009,[21] and he eventually spent three-and-a-half seasons at Ajax, scoring a total of 111 goals in 159 games.[22][23]

Handball against GhanaEdit

In the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter-final match against Ghana, the score was 1–1 at the end of regulation time and the game went into extra time. Late in extra time, Ghana sent a free kick into the box; Suárez blocked Stephen Appiah's shot on the goal line.[24] He then blocked Dominic Adiyiah's goalbound header with his hands to prevent a last minute Ghana goal,[25] committing a professional foul to save what would have been the game winner[26] and was sent off. Ghana's Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty spot kick[24] and Suárez, who had stopped to watch, celebrated the miss before heading down the tunnel.[27][28] Ghana subsequently lost the match 4–2 in the penalty shoot-out, and Uruguay advanced to the semi-finals.[24]

The African press named Uruguay public enemy No.1 and described them as cheats.[29] Suárez was unapologetic about his handball, stating "I made the best save of the tournament."[30] Suárez boasted after the match of his handball save, claiming that "The 'Hand of God' now belongs to me," a reference to the handball goal scored by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. Ghana's coach Milovan Rajevac argued that Suárez's actions were "really shocking," describing the result as a "football injustice."[31] Uruguay's coach Óscar Tabárez defended Suárez: "Saying we cheated Ghana is too harsh a word to use...We also abide by what the referee did. It could have been a mistake. Yes, he stuck his hand out, but it's not cheating. What else do you want? Is Suárez also to blame for Ghana missing the penalty? We try to be dignified, and if we lose a match, we look for the reasons for it. You shouldn't look to third parties."[25] FIFA reviewed the possibility of increasing Suárez's ban but decided against punishing him for 'unsportsmanlike conduct'. This opened up a discussion on gamesmanship, asking the question of whether players in that situation should be condemned as a cheat, or applauded for their resourcefulness. One pundit, Paul Fletcher of the BBC, implied that most players would do the same thing in the 'heat of the moment' in order to avoid defeat.[32] Ghana's sports minister, Akua Sena Dansua, called for changes to the rules in such circumstances.[33]

Biting Otman BakkalEdit

 
Luis Suárez's first bite victim, Otman Bakkal

During the Eredivisie match between rivals Ajax and PSV Eindhoven on 20 November 2010 at the Amsterdam Arena, which finished 0–0,[34] Ajax midfielder Rasmus Lindgren was sent off by referee Björn Kuipers for a tackle on PSV's Ibrahim Afellay. In the ensuing mêlée, Suárez bit PSV attacker Otman Bakkal, an incident Kuipers failed to see at the time,[35] but later stated that he would have given a red card.[36]

Bakkal described the incident as occurring during a "hectic" moment, while Suárez attempted to downplay the incident, saying "in football everything is forgotten in the field".[37] Suárez was quickly dubbed the "Cannibal of Ajax" by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.[38] Despite Ajax announcing they had banned Suárez for two games, as well as fining him,[39][40] the Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond (KNVB) announced they were to open an investigation into the incident.[41][42]

On 24 November, Suárez received a seven match ban from the KNVB, with Ajax refusing to appeal.[43][44] The ban meant Suárez would be unavailable until the game on 4 February against De Graafschap, but would be able to play in Ajax's Champions League game against A.C. Milan.[45] Suárez released a video in which he apologised to Bakkal and Ajax supporters, and claimed that "at times like that you play with your heart and you do not think".[46]

On 10 December, Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson rejected reports linking the club with a bid for Suárez, claiming "we have never even thought about" buying him.[47] However, after new Ajax manager Frank de Boer stripped him of the captaincy because of the incident, Suárez declared his intentions to leave the club,[48] saying he was "ready for a change of scenery",[49] and Liverpool eventually signed Suárez for a club record fee of £22.8m at the end of the month, signing a five-and-a-half-year contract.[50] In an interview shortly before departing, he again denied biting Bakkal, instead describing it as a "run-in".[51][52]

Racially abusing Patrice EvraEdit

 
Luis Suárez's racial abuse victim, Patrice Evra

On 15 October 2011, during the Premier League match between fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with the game at 0–0, Suárez was being marked by Evra during a corner in the 62nd minute.[53] It was at this point that the incident took place.[53] After the game, Evra accused Suárez of racially abusing him in an interview with French television station Canal+,[54] and The Football Association (FA) opened up an investigation into the incident.[54] Suárez wrote on his Twitter and Facebook pages that he was upset by the accusation and denied the claims.[55] On 16 November, the FA formally charged Suárez with using "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour", including "a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race".[56][57] Liverpool released a club statement in which they continued to support Suárez, saying he "remains determined to clear his name of the allegation made against him by Patrice Evra. The club remain fully supportive of Luis in this matter",[58] and also revealed Suárez's intentions to plead not guilty to the charges.[59]

The hearing began on 14 December,[60] and on 20 December, the FA concluded the hearing, handing Suárez an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine for racially abusing Evra.[61][62] Following the FA's ruling, Liverpool issued a statement which claimed the club was "very surprised and disappointed" at the "extraordinary" ban, highlighted that the player was not accused of being racist, and cited Suárez's mixed race family background, as well as his involvement with multicultural projects. The club claimed that the FA were determined to bring charges against Suárez before any evidence had been presented.[63][64] Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said he was "disappointed",[65] while Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was satisfied that the FA had "made the right decision".[66][67]

Following the verdict, Suárez received support from a number of colleagues who believed it to be unjust, including Celso Otero, Diego Lugano, and Sebastián Abreu.[68] Liverpool legend John Barnes described the reaction and punishment as a "witch hunt".[69][70] Gus Poyet described the ban as "incredible, shocking, disproportionate" due to cultural differences.[71][72] To demonstrate support for Suárez, his teammates and manager wore a T-shirt bearing Suárez's name and image before a match against Wigan Athletic.[73] Kenny Dalglish was supportive of the action, saying it was "a great reflection of the man as a character, a person and a footballer that the boys have been so supportive and so have the supporters" and that he had deserved the support.[74][75] The T-shirts provoked criticism from prominent black footballers fighting against racism such as Paul McGrath, who described the incident as "shameful", while Jason Roberts and Olivier Bernard were both critical of the show of support.[76][77] Dalglish later said the decision to wear the T-shirts "might not have been right", but claimed it wasn't his decision for the players to do so,[78] while Ferguson wrote in his self-titled 2013 autobiography that the stunt was "ridiculous".[79]

On 31 December 2011, the FA released the contents of their findings.[80] In the 115-page report, the FA said that Suárez "damaged the image of English football around the world". The FA, while finding Evra to be a credible witness, declared that Suárez's evidence was unreliable and inconsistent with the video footage. According to Evra's testimony, Suárez said in Spanish that he had earlier kicked Evra "because you are black", said "I don't speak to blacks" and used the word "negro" five times in total as they argued. Suárez had claimed that he used the word 'negro' only once to address Evra and this was intended to be conciliatory and friendly, but the FA rejected this claim as being "unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument". As the conversation between Suárez and Evra took place in Spanish, linguistic experts were called in to help the panel with the meaning of the phrases. The panel concluded that "Suárez's use of the term [negro] was not intended as an attempt at conciliation or to establish rapport; neither was it meant in a conciliatory and friendly way". Suárez was also warned that two similar offences in the future could lead to "a permanent suspension".[81][82] In January 2012, Liverpool announced that they would not appeal the punishment handed to Suárez, releasing a statement voicing their support "to stamp out racism in every form, inside and outside the sport", adding that it was "for this reason that Liverpool will not appeal the eight-game suspension of Luis Suárez". However, Liverpool continued to maintain their belief in both Suárez's innocence and a "strongly held conviction" that the Football Association and the panel it selected "constructed a highly subjective case...based on an accusation that was ultimately unsubstantiated".[83][84] Suárez subsequently made an official statement in which he thanked everybody who had shown support for him, and declared that he was "upset" at the decision to ban him, and that he would "carry out the suspension with the resignation of someone who hasn't done anything wrong and who feels extremely upset by the events",[85] but refused to offer a direct apology to Evra.[86][87]

Suárez returned from his ban on 6 February against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, coming on as a substitute in a 0–0 draw at Anfield; Dalglish reacted to his return by saying "It's fantastic to have him back. He should never have been out in the first place".[88] Ahead of the 11 February game between United and Liverpool at Old Trafford, the Premier League stated that the formal pre-match handshake would go ahead,[89] Ferguson stated that he thought Evra should shake Suárez's hand,[90] while Dalglish stated that Suárez would too.[91] However, during the traditional pre-game handshakes, Suárez appeared to avoid Evra's hand, leading to Evra grabbing Suárez's arm. Suárez ignored Evra and continued down the line causing Evra to throw his arms up in protest and Rio Ferdinand to also avoid shaking Suárez's hand.[92] Despite Liverpool ordering Suárez not to talk about the racial abuse incident, Suárez continued to discuss it.[93] In May 2012, Suárez called his suspension "strange and unbelievable" and said that there was "not a single convincing proof that [he] had done any of the things they accused [him] of doing"; he also denied that he had refused to shake Evra's hand.[94][95] In 2014, Suárez released his autobiography Crossing the Line, in which he continued to deny the verdict that he had racially abused Evra, stating "what some people will never want to accept is that the argument took place in Spanish. I did not use the word "negro" the way it can be used in English", despite admitting that the word "negro" means "black".[96][97] He also complained about the after-effects, saying the verdict that he was a racist would be "a stain on my character that will probably be there forever".[98]

Biting Branislav IvanovićEdit

 
Luis Suárez's second bite victim, Branislav Ivanović

On 21 April 2013, during the Premier League tussle between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield, Suárez bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanović on his right arm after he failed to take on the defender, with Liverpool trailing 2–1. The incident went unseen by referee Kevin Friend.[99][100] Suárez went on to score a 97th-minute equaliser to make the final score 2–2.[101] Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and captain Steven Gerrard refused to comment on the incident to Sky Sports, who televised the game live, both citing a need to review the footage.[102][103] Suárez apologised via his Twitter account, saying "I'm sad for what happened this afternoon, I apologize Ivanovic and all football world for my inexcusable behaviour";[104][105] the apology was rejected by Ivanović.[106]

The next day, the FA confirmed that they had charged Suárez with violent conduct,[107][108] while Liverpool fined Suárez an undisclosed amount which he requested be donated to the Hillsborough Family Support Group.[109] Suárez declared that he thought a three-match ban would suffice.[110] His previous victim, Otman Bakkal, described it as "unbelievable" that Suárez could bite a second player, and was left flabbergasted at the incident, stating that "at first I thought maybe it was an accident but, apparently, he loses it sometimes".[111][112] Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chairman Gordon Taylor said that Suárez would be offered anger management counselling.[113][114] Gus Poyet thought the reaction had been exaggerated, theorising that Suárez could leave English football if he carried on being punished and maligned for his actions, treatment he thought was hypocritical when compared to others.[115][116]

On 24 April, the FA handed Suárez a 10-match ban,[117][118] after a three-man independent committee agreed that the standard three match ban was insufficient.[119] In their written reasons, the FA pointed to Suárez's lackadaisical attitude to the whole incident, citing that he "had not fully appreciated the gravity and seriousness of this truly exceptional incident".[120] They also argued that "these unsavoury pictures would have given a bad image of English football domestically and across the world alike",[121] and that it would act as a deterrent to further behaviour.[122] Suárez ruled out an appeal,[123] citing recognition of his actions being unacceptable and that it would give "the wrong impression" if he did so.[124] Rodgers launched a strong defence of his player stating that "when you look at it in the cold light of day then it was violent conduct... he made a mistake and he's got a sanction which I don't believe fits with what he did".[125] Rodgers also launched a broadside on the FA and their handling of the case, claiming "prejudices" against the FA led to the lengthy ban, and also pointed out alleged inconsistencies in the prior punishment of players who have bitten another human being, giving the lack of punishment Jermain Defoe received for biting Javier Mascherano in 2006 as an example.[126][127] After the ban was imposed, Ivanović finally accepted Suárez's apology.[128] Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was reminded of Eric Cantona's suspension in 1995 for kicking a racist Crystal Palace spectator, and showed empathy toward the situation, saying "I think back to Cantona and I have to say that a nine-month ban doesn't equate to a 10-match, does it? I can understand how Liverpool are aggrieved at it, I must say that".[129][130]

Suárez returned from his ban in the next season, in a Football League Cup game on 26 September 2013 against Manchester United, in which they lost 1–0.[131] Upon his return, Rodgers spoke of his delight at having him back,[132] while Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler felt it was time to "start talking about Luis Suarez as one of the great players rather than the stupid things he does on the pitch", but warned that Suárez couldn't do anything else "silly" by pointing towards the loyalty awarded to him; "the club have stood by him, so have the Liverpool supporters".[133][134] Soon after, he revealed that he now felt calmer than ever whilst playing football; "I realised that playing well, with more tranquility, is helping me a lot", and claimed he no longer wanted to act as he had in the past.[135][136]

Biting Giorgio ChielliniEdit

 
Luis Suárez's third bite victim, Giorgio Chiellini

On 24 June 2014, during the decisive World Cup Group D match between Uruguay and Italy at Estádio das Dunas, Suárez bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on his left shoulder in the 79th minute with the score at 0–0.[137] Referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez failed to see the incident, and later wrote in his witness statement that this was "because the ball was in another sector of the pitch";[138] because of this, and despite Rodríguez being shown the bite marks by Chiellini,[139] Suárez received no bookings, Uruguay went on to win the game 1–0 from a Diego Godín header in the 81st minute just two minutes after the incident, advancing to the second round, eliminating Italy.[140]

After the game, Suárez played down the incident, saying "These are just things that happen out on the pitch. It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder",[141] while Chiellini was adamant the incident cost Italy the game, and thought the lack of a red card was part of a conspiracy to keep the best players in the tournament.[142] Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced they would be investigating the incident.[143] The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) attempted to claim that the images of bitemarks on Chiellini's shoulder had been manipulated to appear worse than reality,[144] while Suárez's lawyer Alejandro Balbi claimed that there was a conspiracy between England, Italy and Brazil for Suárez and Uruguay to be severely punished,[145][146] a sentiment Uruguay manager Óscar Tabárez agreed with, saying "If the referee did not see anything, there is nothing to see. But Suárez is the target of some British press anyway".[147] It was compared to Zinedine Zidane's headbutt on Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup, however Zidane was shown a red card while Suárez did not go into the book.[148]

After several days of being home with my family, I have had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect about the reality of what occurred during the Italy-Uruguay match on 24 June 2014. Independent from the fallout and the contradicting declarations that have surfaced during these past days, all of which have been without the intention of interfering with the good performance of my national team, the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me. For this I deeply regret what occurred. I apologise to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family. I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like this.
— Luis Suárez apology, 30 June 2014.[149]

Suárez was given a worldwide football ban from all football-related activities totalling four months, plus nine international matches, as well as a fine of £66k; the ruling meant that, in addition to being banned from playing competitive football, he could neither train with his teammates or enter a football stadium;[150][151] as the ban was effective immediately, Suárez could no longer participate in the World Cup.[152] The chair of the committee, Claudio Sulser, clarified afterwards how the ruling came to be given: "Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field. The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suárez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the code".[153][154] Some of Suárez's sponsors debated cancelling contracts over the incident;[155] footwear giant Adidas agreed to keep their arrangement in place,[156] while gambling company 888poker decided to end their agreement.[157]

It was revealed afterwards that Suárez had written as part of his defence that "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".[158][159][160] Chiellini said he hoped FIFA would reduce the suspension that had been imposed.[161] Uruguay captain Diego Lugano claimed the ban was "barbarity" and "a breach of human rights",[162][163] while the AUF described it as "excessive" and "severe", and claimed that it "feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup".[164] Suárez showed contrition after the ban was given, saying "I deeply regret what occurred", and vowed to never bite anybody again.[165][166]

After an initial appeal to FIFA was rejected,[167] Suárez appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in an attempt to halve his suspension.[168] While the competitive playing ban was still effective, the new ruling meant Suárez could now play in friendly matches and train with his teammates.[169][170][171] On 16 July, Suárez signed for Spanish team Barcelona for a fee of £75m.[172][173] At his unveiling a month later, Suárez promised to not bite another human being,[174] while Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu stated that there was no "no biting" clause in Suárez's contract.[175][176] Having missed a total of 11 games in all competitions,[177] Suárez made his competitive football return, and Barcelona debut, in the 3–1 El Clásico defeat to Real Madrid on 25 October 2014, playing 69 minutes and assisting Neymar for Barcelona's goal after three minutes;[178][179] prior to the game, he revealed that he had been receiving professional help in an attempt to control his biting impulses, claiming to be on the "right path".[180][181] Suárez was later omitted from the shortlist for the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or.[182]

Other controversiesEdit

During his time in England, Suárez picked up a reputation for diving, which has been claimed to have his legitimate calls for a foul dismissed by match officials.[183][184]

In Liverpool's 2012–13 FA Cup third round tie against Conference Premier side Mansfield Town, Suárez appeared to have handled the ball before scoring Liverpool's second goal in a 2–1 win.[185] The chief executive of Mansfield Town, Carolyn Radford, claimed that the tie had been 'stolen' from them whilst the match broadcaster, ESPN, issued an apology after commentator Jon Champion branded Suárez 'a cheat' live on air.[186]

NotesEdit

ReferencesEdit

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