Soccer’s ruling body said it has begun disciplinary proceedings against Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, who is accused of biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during yesterday’s World Cup Group D match in Brazil.
Suarez, who has been banned twice for biting opponents, appeared to sink his teeth into the shoulder of Chiellini in Uruguay’s 1-0 victory in Natal. Diego Godin’s 81st-minute goal from a corner kick came just after Suarez was shown on television appearing to bite Chiellini.
“FIFA can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the player Luis Suarez of Uruguay,” the organization said in an e-mailed release this morning. “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee is responsible for sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention.”
Chiellini said in a television interview that Suarez’s teeth left a mark on his shoulder and referee Marco Rodriguez of Mexico ignored Italian calls for the player to be disciplined.
“I don’t have it anymore, but the mark was there when I was on the field, but the referee didn’t see it,” the Italian said. “There has to be measures for these type of things. They didn’t have the courage.”
FIFA said its investigators can rely on video evidence and testimony of witnesses, while Suarez can also make his case.
“Suarez is a sneak,” Chiellini added. “But because FIFA wants star players to play in World Cups he gets away with it. I want to see if they are brave enough to use video evidence.”
Suarez, a 27-year-old Liverpool forward, is the current player of the year in England’s top soccer league. He’s also a controversial figure in the sport.
In 2012, he received an eight-game ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, and then was jeered when he refused to shake the Frenchman’s hand before the start of a later match.
A year later, he was banned 10 matches after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a game. When he played for Dutch team Ajax, he got a seven-game suspension in 2010 for biting an opponent.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez declined to discuss the incident in a news conference, and claimed some media were trying to scapegoat the player.
“No, I’d like to see the images first, if it happened I believe the referee didn’t see it,” Tabarez said. “So, no, I don’t have any more comments to make.”
Diego Lugano, the Uruguayan captain, claimed Suarez is being judged on previous actions, and said he hadn’t seen anything even after viewing the incident on television.
Suarez’s notoriety led to Nordic gamblers cashing in by predicting he would bite an opponent at the World Cup. Swedish bookmaker Betsson, which offered odds of 175-1 on Suarez repeating the act, paid out 50,000 euros ($68,085) to 167 winners, according to its chief marketing officer, Patrik Oeqvist.
Suarez also scores goals, including both in Uruguay’s 2-1 defeat of England in this tournament. Last season, he scored 31 as Liverpool rebounded from seventh to second in the span of two seasons. His goals against England came in his first game back from knee surgery just five weeks before the World Cup.
Suarez has a tainted history in the World Cup, using his hand to stop a goal-bound shot in a quarterfinal with Ghana in South Africa in 2010. He was dismissed from the match, but celebrated in the exit tunnel when the resulting penalty was missed and the game went to extra time, with Uruguay eventually winning.
Uruguay needed to win yesterday’s match against Italy to advance to the next round. Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio was sent off in the second half for raking his foot down the leg of Egidio Arevalo.
“Suarez, despite mistakes he may have made, he’s the preferred target of certain media,” Tabarez said. “For me, we had much more important things in the match than this.”