24 June 2014

Dracu-luis strikes again: The Chewllini Chronicles

Just when you thought it was safe to walk the streets, a daemon so foul, so unholy, so unspeakably vile in his bloodlust that none shall escape his leering gaze has returned: DRACU-LUIS! You thought he had learned his lesson after biting Otman Bakkal in 2010. We thought we had learned our lesson in after he bit Branislav Ivanovic in 2013. Now, the unholy trinity appears complete as Suárez seems to have bitten Italy's Giorgio Chewllini—excuse me, Chiellini. The incident apparently escaped the attention of referee Marco Rodriguez (who himself appears a bit vampire-ish), but FIFA has already begun an investigation and will likely issue a ruling before Uruguay's next match on Saturday against Colombia. For myself, I'm going to spend the time counting the £40,000,001 we've just saved by not signing Suárez last summer.


First things first: would we have won the Prem with Suarez? Perhaps. Then again, Liverpool had him, and they didn't win the Prem. We've had prolific scorers in the squad in recent years without finishing much higher than fourth. Before getting your panties in a twist, remember also that buying Suárez probably would have precluded buying Özil. What impact might that have had on Giroud (early season, a least) or Ramsey, among others? It's not like we could simply copy Suárez's stats and redistribute them on top of existing results here and there: three goals against Aston Villa on opening day, a goal at Old Trafford, etc. Who knows what impact Suárez might have had playing for a new club, for good or evil?

Even if he had helped us win the Prem, I wouldn't be able to shake the queasy, squirmy feelings of distaste and revulsion that his misdeeds have inspired, which included any number of dives, the handball against Ghana, two confirmed bites, and the racist row. No, I'd rather go another decade (and more) before winning the Prem on the back of a player like Suárez.

As to what happened and might happen, it's hard to say. Video evidence shows Suárez from behind as his head dips suddenly towards Chiellini's shoulder. Chiellini falls to the ground clutching his shoulder, and Suárez holds onto his teeth. Chiellini pulls his sleeve down to reveal what might be teeth-marks. It's hardly as conclusive as Suárez's bit on Ivanovic, but the circumstantial evidence is damning, to say the least. FIFA's investigation will include not just the available video evidence but the previous incidents and bans handed down by the FA and KNVB (10- and 7-match bans, respectively). From FIFA's point of view, it just banned Alex Song three matches for his elbow-scything of Croatia's Mario Mandžukić. A quick look at FIFA's Disciplinary Code fails to address biting, assuming in its quaint naïveté, that biting doesn't happen during matches. Section 2.48.1 comes closest, calling for a ban of "at least two matches for assaulting (elbowing, punching, kicking etc.) an opponent or a person other than a match official".

Of course, Suárez didn't receive a red card, but FIFA does have the authority to issue a retroactive ban that could be as long as two year or 24 matches—this is normally limited to international games but could include club games as well. Bigger but more nebulous questions loom in the background—regardless of the actions FIFA takes, will any club aside from Liverpool want to associate itself with Suárez? At what point do clubs say to themselves, enough is enough? It's one thing to commit an infraction and get penalized for it, such as when Suárez's handball denied Ghana a goal, only for Asamaoah Gyan to miss the ensuing penalty. To an extent, that's a win-at-all-costs mentality that can be debated. It's another matter entirely to bite an opponent. Did it unsettle Italy? Did it play a role in Uruguay's go-ahead goal minutes later? Perhaps.

I'm not a win-at-all-costs kind of guy. If I were, this blog would be named something like weaintgonohistorycfc.blogspot.com or MCFCnohistorybutlotsofsilverware.blogspot.com—but no. I love this club because of its history and, yes, its dignity. I'm no aristocrat, so don't start in on me there. I want the club I support to go about winning the right way, and if that sometimes takes longer than cutting corners, biting Branislavs, or chewing on Chiellinis, so be it.

As concerns Suárez, the FA did what it could with a 10-game ban. Here's hoping FIFA ups the ante. Suárez is an unrecalcitrant recidivist. He will continue to mar the beautiful game until we drum him out of it. He bit Ivanovic and was banned—but not before scoring the game-winning goal. He may have bit Chiellini and could be banned—but not before Uruguay scored the game-winning goal. At some level, he seems to see biting not just as acceptable but perhaps strategic, on a par with shirt-tugging or flops in the box. Whether that's the attitude of a remorseless winner or a mindless thug is beside the point.

The man has no business playing the game anymore. I won't hear the defenders, some of whom are absolutely blinded to his "flaws" and some of whom care less about bites and more about goals. How can you defend a player who seems willing to bite people? I can't even believe there's a debate over it. He might be an immensely talented player, but once you start weighing a person in those ways, you'll find yourself in some sticky situations. How many goals-per-game justifies biting, after all? If the biter isn't a scorer but a defender, how many tackles, clearances, and interceptions would he have to register to earn similar kid-glove treatment? Speaking of gloves, how many clean-sheets would a keeper have to claim before he could bite an opponent?

Ugh. This all leaves a bad, bad taste in my mouth. I just wish that Suárez could say the same.

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