According to a release on Wednesday, FIFA “has opened disciplinary proceedings … following an apparent breach of article 48 and/or article 57 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.”
The maximum sanction FIFA can impose is a 24-game, two-year international ban. Suarez is a recidivist (he’s bitten opponents on two previous occasions, but in professional matches).
Still, it’s impossible to see it coming anywhere near that for an assault that – however non-normative – didn’t result in much more than an ouchy.
The longest retroactive ban in World Cup history was given to Mauro Tassotti for breaking an opponent’s nose with an elbow during the 1994 tournament. Tassotti was suspended for 8 games.
Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt in the 2006 final earned him a three-game suspension. That was a typically Orwellian FIFA pronouncement, since Zidane retired after that match.
Suarez has until 5 p.m. Rio time to lodge a defence. This could include testimony or video evidence. Referee Marco Rodriguez will also be invited to add his thoughts, though the fact that he didn’t penalize anyone at the time suggests he didn’t see the incident.
As in any other situation like this, Suarez’s home country has already provided the basis for a reasonable-doubt argument. The Guardian gleefully collected a sampling.
Uruguay’s Tenfield TV: “In the TV replay … it appears that Luisito’s face comes in contact with Chiellini without it being clear whether he bites him as was claimed by those – especially the English – who were keen to play down the Uruguay victory.”
El Observador: “There was no single picture to prove it was a bite … Was it Photoshop?”
Ultimas Noticias: “(N)obody talks about how Suarez was injured in the jaw and the eye.”
Yes. Poor Luisito.
Suarez himself slid by the subject, giving a wonderfully neither-here-nor-there, “These things happen on the pitch.”
Regardless, the video is pretty clear, the marks on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulders are clearer still, and the history is definitive. There is no question Suarez bit his opponent.
So what should be done?
FIFA is famously all over the place on these sorts of decisions. The tendency is to punish disrespect more harshly than violence (e.g. the longest suspension for a typical red card is three games; for spitting, it is ten).
This was both. Suarez received a ten-match ban from the Premiership after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic two seasons ago. But that incident was shadowed by a long, onerous investigation into the accused racial slurring of United’s Patrice Evra (the result of which was an eight-match ban). That likely had an amplifying effect.
In the interim, Suarez has established himself as the best striker on the planet. His past Premiership season was sensational. He’s more than an idiot who scores occasionally, now. He’s a global face of the game.
Given that fact, the best bet here is that FIFA will carry only a medium-sized stick. The maximum number of matches Uruguay has left in this tournament is four (which would presume they make either the final or the third-place contest).
Banning him for four games has the benefit of making this seem like more than a run-of-the-mill red-card encounter, while leaving FIFA some wiggle room if, in the future, Lionel Messi decides to karate-kick someone in the head.
Either way, Suarez is done at this tournament.