Fifa works quickly on Suarez bite investigation

WILLIAM SCHOMBERG
Last updated 03:39 26/06/2014
Luis Suarez
Reuters
THAT HURTS: Football villain Luis Suarez could lose millions of dollars in endorsement deals after a biting incident at the World Cup.

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Fifa will work as quickly as possible in its investigation into Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez who apparently bit an Italian defender in a World Cup match on Tuesday (local time), the world football governing body said.

"The Disciplinary Committee understands the urgency of the matter," FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told reporters on Wednesday (local time).

"It is working to get and assess all elements in order to make a decision as early as possible, particularly given the fact that Uruguay are still in the tournament."

Uruguay are due to play Colombia on Saturday (Sunday NZ time) in Rio de Janeiro in the first knock-out round.

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini said that he had been bitten by Suarez during the South Americans' 1-0 Group D victory at the World Cup which sent Uruguay into the last 16 of the competition at the expense of Italy.

Reuters photographs showed what appeared to be bite marks on Chiellini's shoulder.

Fischer said the Disciplinary Committee's proceedings were still at "an early stage" and she said Fifa would not comment on possible outcomes or any potential punishments for Suarez.

"We will get an update to you later today or tomorrow or whenever they take their decision," she said.

The Disciplinary Committee has asked Uruguay to send documentation relating to the case by 5pm local (8am Thursday NZ time).

EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN

Suarez's lawyer believes there is a European campaign against the controversial striker.

"We don't have any doubts that this has happened because it's Suarez and secondly because Italy was eliminated," said Uruguay FA board member Alejandro Balbi, who is also Suarez's lawyer.

"There's a lot of pressure from England and Italy," Balbi told local Uruguayan radio. "We're polishing off a defence argument."

Balbi and FA boss Wilmar Valdez were travelling to Rio de Janeiro to present their case. Valdez told local radio that Suarez would not be speaking at the meeting.

Suarez, twice previously banned for biting, could be hit with another lengthy suspension despite escaping punishment during the match for the incident involving Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.

"There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we're convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suarez can show a bruised and almost shut eye," Balbi said.

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"If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them everything will be way too complicated in the future. We're going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way."

His argument echoes the sentiment in much of Uruguay, which is jubilant at the team's last-gasp victory and largely backs their key player.

The Liverpool forward's lethal finishing is far more important than his straying teeth, say many in the small, sleepy agricultural country vying for a third World Cup triumph.

Uruguayan articles about the alleged biting of Chiellini largely tended to fret about whether Fifa could ban striker Suarez, who did not play in Uruguay's only defeat in the tournament so far.

Local media also complained about reaction to the incident round the world.

Leading newspaper El Pais honed in on what it called a "very tough" attitude from English media towards Suarez and highlighted that the player's apparent bruised eye did not receive much attention.

Local media gushed about the victory over Italy and put the "supposed" bite on the backburner.

Abroad, however, Suarez's behaviour has sparked outrage and calls for a tournament-long ban.

Balbi suggested that may be part of a broader conspiracy to sideline Uruguay, who lost to unfancied Costa Rica in their opening match without Suarez as he battled to complete his recovery from knee surgery.

"You shouldn't forget that we're rivals of many and we can be for the organiser (hosts Brazil) in the future. This does not go against what might have happened, but there's no doubt that Suarez is a rock in the shoe for many," Balbi added.

NOT AT TRAINING

Suarez disappointed a healthy cohort of the world's media by failing to show up at Uruguay training in Natal.

The allegation that Suarez bit Chiellini was, however, the sole topic of conversation at the Maria Lamas Farache stadium.

"It's completely normal," said the rather frazzled Uruguay team press officer, Matias Faral, explaining Suarez's absence for the umpteenth time.

"The 11 that started last night are back at the hotel, working in the gym or in the pool, only the substitutes are training here today."

Waiting outside the stadium hoping for a glimpse of the players were a sprinkling of the thousands of Uruguayan fans who roared their country to victory at the Dunas arena.

Among them there was complete consensus about who was to blame for the fact that the incident was overshadowing their qualification from a Group D containing two former world champions.

"England and Italy are just mad at us because we got to the finals and they didn't," said Adrian Campbell, a 34-year-old Uruguay fan who lives in Miami.

"It was normal play, Chiellini gave him a big elbow. Chiellini is not the cleanest player, you know."

Uruguay face Colombia in their last-16 match in Rio de Janeiro and the fans were in no doubt how significant Suarez's absence would be.

"He is a quarter of our team," added Campbell, whose Scottish great grandfather explains his name, to nods of assent from the Uruguay fans around him.

"You saw it against England, two touches and two goals. No other player at this World Cup can do that. But we have other players and we have a lot of passion."

- Reuters

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