For a start, I wholeheartedly agree with punishment being meted out to Luis Suarez. Biting a fellow professional for a third time is beyond comprehension and not worthy of the highest level of the game. Although I do feel the length of the ban and the reach into club level is slightly over the top. That he is one of the best strikers in the world, for me, does not counterbalance this level of stupidity.
However, in the last few days I have had time to reflect on the inadequacy of Fifa’s approach to punishing unsportsmanlike conduct. I’d go so far as to say football’s governing body has shown gross ineptitude in setting a disciplinary structure for those breaking the rules. In the time since the initial incident and my own shock, to the verdict handed out yesterday, I have wondered why the rules have been so heavily enforced in this instance but in many other cases have passed with zero comment.
Sure, biting is disgusting, juvenile and very bizarre but is it really dangerous? Is it as dangerous to the opposition as an elbow to the face, such as the one delivered by Olivier Giroud to Ecuador’s Achilier in the box (which the BBC didn’t even mention in their match report)? Or how about the Netherlands’ Nigel De Jong’s repeated high studded assaults? Why are these not hauled up instead? Surely a young child watching their heroes act this way is just as harmful as seeing a grown man bite someone. Or for that matter, seeing a grown man hit the floor so dramatically as Chiellini.
In fact, there are a whole host of misdemeanours in the modern game, which one could argue justify long bans as punishment. Let’s face it, many of the players at the World Cup are wealthy beyond the average punter’s comprehension. A financial punishment is not going to hurt these guys, nor is a retrospective red card. The only way to drive the message home to cheaters is by making them professional pariahs in the game. In the case of Suarez, this has been enacted forcefully with his ‘criminal’ record coming back to haunt him. But what about serial divers who willfully cheat to gain advantage? Why is Arjen Robben not hauled in front of Fifa following his umpteenth dive and given a lengthy ban until he learns that this form of cheating is not acceptable? What about Portugal’s Pepe and his never ending crusade to turn football in to the Ultimate Fighting Championship? Where was the worldwide outrage at Rivaldo in 2002? We all laughed for sure but there was no clamour for him to be suspended given that he cheated the referee into red carding the Turkish opposition player. I could go on.
This World Cup has been fantastic for the number of goals scored and the shock exits. The mighty Costa Rica have a real chance of making it to the Quarter Finals and the USA is finally getting into soccer.
However, it has also been a World Cup packed with elbows, stamps, diving, headbutts and of course, even biting. Fifa has done well to finally introduce goal line technology. The next step is to apply a strciter approach to those undermining the “gentleman’s game”.