Over the past two years, we’ve written more words about Luis Suárez than we ever imagined possible.
From suspensions to transfer rumors to key goals at the most opportune time, we thought we had seen it all and there was nothing left that could surprise us.
So you’ll understand our shock while watching Uruguay’s game on Monday when Suárez and Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini clashed in front of the Italian goal with just a few minutes left in the game. Suddenly, Suárez was on the ground holding his mouth, while Chiellini was chasing the ref, pulling at his shirt collar to show something on his shoulder, and we were left in disbelief.
On Thursday, FIFA came down on Suárez, banning him for four months from all soccer activities. Not only is he out of any remaining World Cup games for Uruguay (and nine international matches all together), the ban extends to Liverpool, meaning Suárez will miss nine Premier League games (including ones against Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur) and the first three UEFA Champions League games.
“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,” said Claudio Sulser, the chair of FIFA’s disciplinary committee. “The 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. The decision comes into force as soon it is communicated.”
We spent the past Premier League season coming to terms with Suárez and his role with Liverpool. As he rang up goal after goal – a league-leading 31 in 33 games on the season – we talked ourselves into the possibility that Suárez had finally changed. After returning from his suspension he was on his best behavior for the most part, helping Liverpool challenge for the league title and cutting down on the diving and whining.
But during the season’s final games as Liverpool’s title hopes faded away, you could see the frustration creeping back into Suárez’ game, as the angst over non-calls and the falling down every time he was touched, made a return appearance to his game. It was somewhat understandable but, in hindsight, it was also a sign that the on-field demons were slowly creeping back into Suárez’ game.
In the days leading up to the start of the World Cup, Suárez was profiled by Grant Wahl in Sports Illustrated. Early in the article, Suárez is quoted as saying that “I want to change the bad boy image that has stuck for a bit because I don’t think I am at all how I have been portrayed. I would like that to change because it’s awful to hear and read what is said of you.”
We want to believe that Suárez was sincere in his desire to change his image, but if that is the case how do you explain what happened during the Italy game? Maybe the answer lies in a comment from Liverpool owner John Henry in that same Sports Illustrated article.