Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, who was banned from the World Cup for biting, said he lost his balance and accidentally fell face first into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.
Suarez was given a record ban for violent conduct in a World Cup game, including nine official games for Uruguay and a four-month suspension from all soccer activity.
In a written submission to FIFA’s disciplinary panel Suarez, 27, said the incident, 12 minutes before the end of Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy on June 24, was accidental.
“I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth,” Suarez said.
The seven-member FIFA group, headed by Swizterland’s Claudio Sulser, disagreed, saying the bite was “deliberate, intentional and without provocation.”
Uruguay takes on Colombia in Rio de Janeiro today for a place in the quarterfinals without their star, who has scored 41 international goals and also plays for Liverpool in the English Premier League.
Suarez, who’s served two previous bans for biting at club level, arrived in Uruguay yesterday to a hero’s reception. President Jose Mujica used his weekly radio address to criticize the sanctions imposed on Suarez.
FIFA’s penalty was an “aggression not just for a man but also for a country,” Mujica said. “It will be an eternal shame in the history of World Cups.”
Chiellini, the victim, also said the sanctions imposed on Suarez were harsh. The Liverpool striker had his World Cup credentials taken and was told to leave the team’s hotel. Under the ban he won’t be able to train with his club, for which he’ll miss at least 12 games, or enter a soccer stadium anywhere for four months.
“The proposed formula is excessive,” Chiellini wrote on his personal website. “I sincerely hope he will be allowed to stay close to his teammates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player.”
Suarez missed the start of last season as he completed a 12-game suspension after sinking his teeth into the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in 2013. Three years earlier at Ajax, he got a seven-game ban for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal. He also served an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
Suarez should seek professional help, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told reporters in Rio yesterday. FIFPRO, an organization representing soccer players, said part of the sanctions should have included treatment.