Balance and perspective are two things that have been in lamentably short supply since Luis Suárez caused yet another storm of moral outrage when he appeared to use his formidable teeth to make a point to Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay's defeat of Italy. In the interim, so many soap boxes have been stood on by the self-appointed guardians of decency that the landscape resembles an unkempt cleaning supplies warehouse.
Fear not, gentle reader, there will be no sermonising here, no blinkered impassioned defence and no rabid agenda-driven attack. Like most right thinking folk, your scribbler is interested only in an expeditious resolution to this latest farrago and last night saw the first meeting of FIFA's disciplinary committee. The hearing, however, was concluded late and without a verdict so the group will meet again on Thursday morning with the ultimate goal of having the player's fate finalised before Uruguay's next game against Colombia on Saturday.
After the inconclusive hearing, which took place in the salubrious environs of the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Wilmar Valdez, president of the Uruguayan FA, was non-committal, insisting that he did not know whether the lack of an immediate verdict was "a good or a bad thing." Another member of the Uruguayan FA board is Alejandro Balbi, who had also made the journey to Rio in his capacity as Suárez's lawyer, in order to represent the interests of his client.
The members of that disciplinary committee will do very well not to be influenced by the incessant chatter across all media, as worldwide the great and the good are canvassed for their two cents' worth. Vapid celebrities, greedy retired stars, opportunistic politicians and every journalist with a functioning keyboard have pontificated endlessly on the topic. Even the President of Uruguay has tried to gain some popularity amongst his countrymen by defending Luisito. "We didn't choose him to be a philosopher, or a mechanic, or to have good manners -- he's a great player," opined Jose Mujica, not unreasonably, before he added somewhat more disingenuously that he "didn't see him bite anyone but they sure can bash each other with kicks and chops."
The opinion of Mujica or even, bizarrely, Rihanna may cause comment and perpetuate the debate amongst the chattering classes but the presentation of the whole affair to date in the sports media has been nothing short of fascinating. The particularly aggressive British and Italian press have been making hay since Saturday, both playing to an audience of aggrieved souls, dumped out of the World Cup by the man they are painting as Satan incarnate, Luis Suárez.
To read the thoughts of some of the Little Englanders paid actual legal tender to give their considered views on football, one would think that the bellicose Liverpool striker had single handedly destroyed the Christmas dreams of the world's children whilst torturing fluffy animals. Henry Winter, that noted advocate of Roy Hodgson's genius, at least managed some balance in a piece that said that whilst Suárez was "not a monster," he was guilty of "animal antics" and dancing "with the devil." The overall gist of Winter's piece, despite its cloyingly sanctimonious tone, is that the Liverpool striker needs to help himself overcome his "demons" and there is a veracity to that.
At this point, enter the ex-pros -- those gobs-for-hire that television channels and newspapers use to drive numbers. Robbie Savage, a man of unutterable pointlessness and vacuity, who does a passable impression of an Afghan hound, was amongst the earlier pontificators on the BBC, insisting that the Uruguayan "should never play international football again." Alan Shearer, the doyen of priggish stuffed shirt punditry frothed that FIFA should "absolutely hammer him," but it was ex-Leeds hatchet man, Danny Mills who took the prize for the most magnificently moronic observation. Summoning every scintilla of moral outrage from within his parochial being, the former defender pleaded with football's authorities to hand Suárez "the longest ban in football ever." So shocked was poor Daniel that, for his own safety and that of society at large, he bleated that "they have got to throw him in jail and lock him up forever." Brilliant.
Insane overreaction and moralistic expatiation aside, the belief is that the video evidence available is quite damning and the Echo cite an unnamed FIFA official who likened the biting incident to spitting in terms of severity, in which case a six game ban has been set as a precedent. However, with rumours, given voice by Uruguayan newspaper Subrayado, that there is a considerable sway of support in South America towards Suárez, the outcome of the hearing lies in the balance. That newspaper claims that luminaries as prominent as Argentinian vice-president, Julio Grondona, are lobbying on behalf of the Liverpool man, who, as earlier mentioned, has his own legal representation present.
Balbi, in putting his client's case, manages to make Suárez seem like the victim in the situation and that is as laughable as any Millsian buffoonery or Savage melodrama.
"We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suarez involved and secondly because Italy have been eliminated," averred the legal professional. "There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy. There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we’re convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suarez can show a bruised and an almost closed eye.
"If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them everything will be way too complicated in the future. We’re going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way. You shouldn’t forget that we’re rivals of many and we can be for the hosts in the future. This does not go against what might have happened, but there’s no doubt that Suarez is a stone in the shoe for many."
No matter what you may think of him personally, a casual glance at your chosen media source today will add credence to that last statement by Balbi. Luis Suarez is "a stone in the shoe for many" and those of us that simply love to watch him play for Liverpool will hope that the histrionic coverage of his stupidity does not overly influence the severity of his punishment. Yet again, the narrative around Luis Suárez has divagated from football. Will this be the last time? I'd be inclined to keep my money in my pocket if offered that particular wager.