If soccer's ruling body Fifa comes to the conclusion that Uruguay's star striker Luis Suarez bit Italian Giorgio Chiellini during yesterday's World Cup match in Brazil, it has to kick him out of the tournament.
This isn't (just) sour grapes from an Englishman, after Suarez scored two goals which sealed my national team's fate in the tournament. As a Liverpool supporter, the 31 goals he scored for my club side last season brought us closer to winning the Premier League than for many a year. He was a delight to watch and well deserved his player of the year award.
The red mist that has blighted the player's career, however, is unforgivable. He's already been banned for biting opponents; a 10-game ban in 2013 followed an eight-match suspension in 2012, after missing seven games for the same offence in 2010. Fifa says it has begun disciplinary procedures after yesterday's incident, which the referee didn't see.
Martin Perry, a sports psychologist who was a consultant for Financial Football: An Economic Guide to Brazil's World Cup on the company's "The Science of Penalty Taking" series, likens Suarez's behavior to road rage:
He clearly can't help himself. There's a sequence of responses, one thing instantly leads to another, it happens quickly under pressure, under mental and emotional heat, and the sequence gets faster and faster. Biting is his way of dealing with situations slipping out of his control.
The TV footage clearly shows Suarez dipping his jaw into Chiellini's shoulder; photographs appear to show red marks on the Italian consistent with a bite.
Perry says Suarez is not beyond redemption, although "unless he fundamentally acknowledges that what he's doing is not acceptable as a human being, or a representative of Uruguay or Liverpool, it won't last," the psychologist said. His proposed solution?
Maybe he needs to be banned from the game for six months to take time out and reflect, to realize he's jeopardizing his career unless he deals with it.
I have to agree. Zinedine Zidane was banned for three games and fined about $6,000 after butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest in the 2006 World Cup final. Materazzi was also sanctioned after admitting he'd provoked the French captain. Suarez's biting is much worse and he's already a repeat offender. He clearly needs a time out, both from the current tournament and from football in general -- no matter how damaging that is to my team's chances in the coming domestic season.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
To contact the author on this story:
Mark Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor on this story:
Marc Champion at email@example.com