Piranha and Pasta

With the arrival of the knock out stage of the World Cup the mysteries of the apparitions due in the quarter finals stand to be revealed. Beginning today, those formerly consigned to the invisible and forgettable, Algeria et al, will make their appearance, and rightly so. Some nations who felt it was their entitlement to colonise international soccer, have been usurped by the colonised, their imperial arrogance no longer free to strut the world stage. Hubris humiliated.

One mystery that will retain its cloak, unless of course Uruguay win the tournament - an even more unlikely prospect than it was a week ago - is whether the men from Montevideo might have progressed further had they not lost Luis Suarez to suspension.

The tournament has undeniably been denied some of its bite with the red card being shown to the brilliance offered by the Liverpool FC maestro. Chewey Louie has been pretty much banned from going near a football for four months after another bout of on-field gratuitous violence. This time with the world at his feet he chose to stand on his head and bite off more than he could chew. There would seem little reason to waste sympathy on him.

It is said that some over the ball tackles can leave opponents in a greater state of physical distress than the viciousness of Suarez. While that seems a reasonable enough assertion it ignores the context in which the type of action employed by Suarez is considered. Taking my son to his local GAA training the other evening I fell into casual conversation with another father taking his son to the same venue. He made the point that when growing up his dad used to remind him that he could fight his way out of whatever trouble he got into, but that he must never spit or bite during the exchange. This would seem to be the nub of the matter: whether to fight or to bite.

There have been many filthy tackles which have left players badly injured. Careers like Brian Clough’s were sometimes finished forever. When a player as great as Diego Maradona is taken out of the game by a thug like Andoni Goikoetxea, the Butcher of Bilbao, then the beautiful game shows a seriously ugly side. Perhaps because these assaults are perpetrated with the foot – take the foot out of football and the game ceases to exist - less abhorrence is engendered, no matter how strong the disapproval. The gulf between game method and improper playing does not seem so great. These things are judged culturally rather than consequentially. Anathema to the utilitarian, but process often has more traction than outcome.

There are incidents which stand out every bit as much as the assault on Maradona despite there being no physical pain inflicted. When Frank Rijkaard spat on Rudi Voller during Italia 90, the sporting world was appalled, disdaining it more because it was vile rather than violent. It is probably better remembered than the Maradona incident.

It is the taboo status of actions like spitting and biting rather than the actual physical consequences that result from them that causes people to feel repulsed.

Despite the generous interpretation by Giorgio Chiellini, bitten by Suarez, of the ban as being excessive, in terms of sanction the Uruguayan got off lightly. He is a repeat offender, having bitten so often that he must now be thinking of filling in as an extra in The Walking Dead to pass his days while he is not allowed to play soccer.

It is probably very hard to stick with Nietzsche’s view ‘mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.' Most people don’t believe in turning the other cheek only to have it bitten as well. Time heals but in the immediate aftermath of being wronged a good poke in the wrongful eye seems a fitting idea.

Even if Nietzsche does give sound advice there is no need to judge as punitive the view that Suarez should be banned. The matter does not rest on how long he should be punished for but for how long his fellow players are in need of protection from his teeth. That is sufficient on its own to determine the length of his ban. The alternative is to compel him to wear a Hannibal Lecter restraint mask. His opponents can hardly be asked to wear body armour.

Regardless, independent of what others might choose to do, his club coach Brendan Rodgers now has an excellent opportunity to put the sport first over business. He could resolve to field Suarez no more. He should never have been brought back into the fold after he sampled Russian flesh. It would be hard to argue anything different now because something Italian was on the menu.

But soccer being big business the sporting spirit is hardly going to figure. Economics has a way of draining ethics out of decision making processes. The incident might even prise open business opportunities off-field. Often when in places like Amsterdam or Majorca the Uruguayan steak houses seemed so appetizing that I along with my wife eventually availed of the culinary pleasure one evening in Santa Ponza. Perhaps a new dish awaits us - one based on the Surf 'n' Turf concept - of Luis 'n' Luigi; piranha served up with pasta. Nothing personal. Just business.


  1. The fact he ran about 15 yards to latch onto the defenders shoulder was alarming. That defender had been play acting all the game, but not when Suarez caught up with him. The ball was out on the left wing as was the ref' so Suarez decided it was the perfect time to unsettle the defender. Too many cameras for that to go unseen.

  2. just thinking, Suarez in the box and a shark in a swimming pool, they both get all the space they want.

  3. Jealousy gets ye nowhere young Hughes!

  4. 3 bites and a racist remark and he will still be playing in a few months time.....I think he has done alright with this ban! He'll be back for Russia 2018 also.....he apparently likes his Russian steak cooked blue!

  5. Sean

    An England fan had his ear bitten off by another England supporter in Brazil. Brendan Rodgers has offered the culprit a trial at Anfield lol

  6. When sport fell foul of fixing

    As the 1914/15 season drew to a close, Manchester United had to beat Liverpool to avoid relegation. The players came to an ungentlemanly agreement.

    League football was set to be suspended for the 1915/16 season due to World War One. Footballers, on much lower wages than those today, faced a summer without pay and years in the trenches. Before a game at Easter, players from the two teams met to fix the result: 2-0 in United’s favour with players betting at odds of 8/1. The game saw missed penalties, team-mates arguing and an angry 18,000 crowd. An investigation saw a number of players given life bans, with one later jailed for conspiracy.