After Luis Suarez appeared to have bitten Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s clash with Italy on Tuesday the feeling of football fans around the globe as they rushed to their keyboards to talk about the incident on social media was that of disbelief. He’d done it again. For a third time one of the most gifted footballers of a generation had impulsively bitten an opponent, despite no clear provocation.
It is in no way rare for footballers to become incensed on the pitch and lash out at an opponent. The difference is that the lashing out is usually in the form of a dangerous tackle, a head-butt or perhaps a punch. For a player to instinctively bite an opponent (for a third time) is something that is difficult to comprehend. It’s something that is simply not in the nature of the vast majority of sportspeople when they take to the field of play.
When have we ever seen Luis Suarez fly into an opponent with a dangerous two-footed tackle? When have we ever seen Luis Suarez punch an opponent? When have we ever seen Luis Suarez head-butt an opponent? The answer to all three of the above questions is never or very, very rarely.
The fact that this has happened for a third time proves the fact that, where some players would perhaps throw out an elbow at an opponent, it is in Suarez’s nature to throw his teeth at them. It must now be considered as instinct, his natural reaction when frustrated by an opponent. If this was the third incident in which Suarez had punched an opponent he would simply be branded as a hot-head, a Duncan Ferguson or Roy Keane type character. The fact that it is the third occasion in which he has bitten someone is just plain weird and proves that he needs help.
This assistance is necessary not only for the player himself but also for the safety of his opponents. Human bites are extremely dangerous and for players to be on the same pitch as someone who is known to engage in such behaviour is a major risk. Even a minor wound caused by a human bite contains high levels of bacteria. More than 600 types of bacteria are present in the human mouth at any time including strains of staphylococcus and streptococcus. These bacteria could lead to conditions like cellulitis, lymphangitis, or impetigo, all highly dangerous diseases. Incidents like this cannot be compared to a bad tackle or a flailing elbow; they are much more dangerous than that.
The Uruguayan striker’s downbeat reaction at the end of the match, despite the fact that his team had just qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup, shows that he knew he’d done something wrong. His expression was that of a man who knew that he had let himself, his country and his club down yet again. It is difficult not to feel sympathetic towards the Uruguayan fans who adore this man. He is their talisman and their hero and yet he has let them down again by giving in to an instinct that is clearly manifested in his being.
After the incident involving Branislav Ivanovic last season the Liverpool striker was offered counselling but decided not to take advantage of it. One doctor who studied that attack on the Chelsea defender reckoned it was so uncontrolled that, without psychiatric assistance, he would almost certainly repeat the behaviour again within five years.
Suarez’s ten game ban following that incident, coupled with his seven game ban as a result of his bite on PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal, means that he has missed a total of 17 games because of this instinctive reaction. These bans have clearly had no effect as he has gone and done it again. This only strengthens the case for Suarez to be given concentrated psychiatric help and counselling.
These actions, along with a lengthy ban, are necessary not only for the well-being of the player himself, but also for that of his opponents.