Perhaps like many of you, I was watching yesterday’s Uruguay vs. Italy World Cup match when, with just a few minutes to go in a 0-0 game that Uruguay needed to win in order to advance, I was shocked to see Uruguay’s superstar Luis Suarez do the unthinkable: he appeared to bite Italian player Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder. To make matters worse, Suarez then fell to the ground and held his mouth as if he had just been hit. In all, it was a deplorable example of terrible conduct for all the world to see. Uruguay then went on to win the match 1-0, adding to the anti-Suarez media firestorm.
Suarez is a multiple offender when it comes to biting other soccer players, so one would expect FIFA, soccer’s governing body, to take significant disciplinary action. As this is written, FIFA has not announced any action pending further discussions and investigation. Uruguay’s next match is Saturday, June 28 against Colombia.
For an interesting perspective on this matter, please see this link regarding the thoughts of Uruguay captain Diego Lugano to the effect that Chiellini is actually at fault for drawing attention to the bite.
As one would expect in the age of social media, the incident has sparked a barrage of responses and observations, some quite humorous. Of course, there is nothing funny about the realization that a deeply troubled man has disgraced himself on his sport’s largest stage. Clearly, Suarez needs help, and soon.
Thousands of miles from Brazil, soccer star Hope Solo, goalkeeper for the highly successful USA National Women’s team and no stranger to controversy herself, recently found herself back in the news for a non-soccer related incident in which she allegedly assaulted two individuals. Solo has been released from jail as she faces criminal charges.
Hope Solo, while not as well-known internationally as Suarez, nonetheless is a prominent figure in the sport of women’s soccer and has made significant contributions to the US Women’s National Team. In fact, noted sportswriter Ann Killian has co-authored with Solo a book about the young woman that provides considerable insight into the soccer star’s challenging past.
Suarez and Solo have in common a difficult background as youngsters, with soccer providing the way to a better life for both of them. Of course, many people, athletes and otherwise, deal with challenging upbringings and do not go on to physically endanger others. Suarez and Solo are not kids: he is 27, she is 32, so one would expect their moral compasses to be fairly well established by this point.
What would you do if you had the power to discipline Luis Suarez? FIFA has not always been regarded as a beacon of virtue, but it is my understanding that even though Suarez was not punished during the match itself, FIFA has the authority to impose a penalty based on its review of the game tape from various angles and its interviews with various participants. Of course, FIFA could conclude that Suarez did not bite Chiellini. Suarez is arguably the most important player on the Uruguay team, and soccer fans around the globe are waiting to learn the terms of any punishment.
As for Solo, her situation will be handled appropriately in the criminal justice system. She currently plays professional soccer for the Seattle Reign in addition to her duties as the goalie for the US National Women’s Team, and it is possible she could face disciplinary action from either or both of those organizations regardless of the disposition of her pending criminal charges. Of course, based on information developed in her case, charges could be dismissed or Solo could be found not guilty in any subsequent trial.
It certainly is not good for the sport of soccer to have two high-profile players in the news for allegedly not living up to the reasonable expectations of society. I will be especially interested to learn whether Suarez ever accepts any responsibility for his actions.
So what do you think: will FIFA ban Suarez for the rest of the World Cup? How about beyond the World Cup? Thanks for your thoughts.