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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Luis Suarez banned for 4 months - too short - too long - or just right?

So FIFA have reached a verdict :

Luis Suárez suspended for nine matches and banned for four months from any football-related activity

Could it have been longer? Yes - especially as it's a 3rd offence.
Could it have been different? Yes - it might have only affected international football - but FIFA has jurisdiction over ALL football.

Looking at the ban :
1/ The 9 international matches part of the ban is about a year - and prevents any more action at this World Cup which will definitely hit Suarez hard given the 4-year gap between events.

2/ The 4 month total football ban is really just 2 competitive months (as July and August are layoff months) but is probably also appropriate as it prevents the player slinking back to Liverpool and surrounding himself with sycophants that tell him he did nothing wrong.

There may be an element of cultural clash. It seems that areas of South American football (and Uruguayan football in particular) has fashioned itself on the do anything it takes to win mentality, and there is little "shame" in being caught by the referee or cameras if it works. The "clever gaucho" that outwits a bigger opponent is often the image used.

I'm thinking here about Maradona's "hand of god" goal for Argentina to beat England, and Suarez's double handed last minute goalkeeper save in the last world cup that eventually sneaked Uruguay past Ghana. They succeeded and the actions are lauded positively as sneaky examples of beating an opponent with trickery.

With that background, and seeing the blanket denial by the Uruguayan team, manager and Uruguayan newspapers that the bite even occurred at all I really think there is/was a huge disconnect in certain areas about what is deemed as acceptable gamesmanship.

Let's look at how foul play is treated within the game :
- Diving and faking injury seems to be acceptable - occasional yellow card. 
- Foul language amongst players is common, but yellow/red cards if aimed at officials.
- Racial abuse has recently been targeted with severe 8-10 match bans.
- Pulling shirts is a yellow card (if spotted).
- Denying a goal scoring opportunity. Red card and 1 match ban.
- Using elbows and/or committing gross foul tackles causing injury (or potential to hurt) are a red card offences and subsequent 2-3 match ban
- Headbutting (even a gentle tap) also is a red card at this level, as is fighting (even in retaliation for a bad foul).

So where does that put more calculated actions like spitting or biting? Is it worse? Yes - I think so as there is some premeditation, but exactly how much worse is quite hard to quantify because of the different attitudes.

Put in the context of the more common fouls - the ban does seem to be severe - but I think FIFA have accurately positioned the ban to reflect the biting must NOT occur on a sporting field.

And to me the 4-month ban appropriately reflects that it's a 3rd offence.

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