“I don’t know if I’m a good person, but I know I’m not a bad one.”—Zinedine Zidane.
What he said:
“I know biting appals a lot of people, but it’s relatively harmless.”
Luis Suarez, in his book, “Crossing the line: My story” reveals his reaction to the four-month ban for chewing his adversary, Giorgio Chiellini, in the 2014 World Cup game against Italy.
“Had the ban stopped at nine Uruguay matches, I would have understood it. But banning me from playing for Liverpool, when my bans in England never prevented me from playing for Uruguay? Banning me from all stadiums worldwide? Telling me I couldn’t go to work? Stopping me from even jogging around the perimeter of a football pitch? It still seems incredible to me that, until the Court of Arbitration for Sport decreed otherwise, Fifa’s power actually went that far.
They had never banned a player like that before for breaking someone’s leg or smashing someone’s nose across his face, as Mauro Tassotti did to Luis Enrique at the 1994 World Cup. They made a big thing of saying the incident had happened ‘before the eyes of the world’. Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in a World Cup final in 2006 and got a three-match ban.
I was an easy target, maybe. But there was something important I had to face up to: I had made myself an easy target. I made the mistake. It was my fault. This was the third time it had happened. I needed help.
After my 10-match ban in 2013 for biting Branislav Ivanovic, I had questioned the double standards and how the fact that no one actually gets hurt is never taken into consideration. The damage to the player is incomparable with that suffered by a horrendous challenge. Sometimes English football takes pride in having the lowest yellow-card count in Europe, but of course it will have if you can take someone’s leg off and still not be booked. When they can say it is the league with the fewest career-threatening tackles, then it will be something to be proud of.”
“When Ivanovic rolled up his sleeve to show the referee the mark at Anfield, there was virtually nothing there. None of the bites has been like Mike Tyson on Evander Holyfield’s ear. But none of this makes it right.”
The Uruguayan star attempts to explain why he is cannibalistic on the pitch:
“The fear of failure clouds everything for me – even the blatantly obvious fact that I have at least 20,000 pairs of eyes on me; it is not as if I am not going to be seen. Logic doesn’t come into it.
Equally illogical is that it should be a bite. There was a moment in a game against Chile in 2013 when a player grabbed me between the legs and I reacted by punching him. I didn’t get banned for that. That’s considered a normal, acceptable response. When I called Ivanovic after the 2013 incident, he told me that the police had come to see him and asked if he wanted to press charges, and thankfully he had said no. I’m grateful to him, because the circus could have gone on for a lot longer. Punch someone and it’s forgotten, there is no circus. So why do I take the most self-destructive route?
The problem is that this switching off also happens when I do something brilliant on the pitch and, of course, I don’t want to lose that. I’ve scored goals and later struggled to understand how exactly I managed to score them. There is something about the way I play that is unconscious, for better or worse. I want to release the tension and the pressure, but I don’t want to lose the spontaneity in my game, much less the intensity of my style of play.”
What he really meant:
“It’s certainly harmless—for me. I don’t need my mouth to shoot goals; It’d be folly to bruise my feet,head or shoulders while foully taking my opponent down.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’m a man who believes in toothing my own horn.”