Burdon: Why do athletes do it on the field?

09:47, Jul 01 2014
Luis Suarez billboard
IN THE FRAME: A man poses for a photo next to an advertisement featuring Uruguay’s Luis Suarez on Copacabana Beach. Suarez has been banned by Fifa for four months following a biting incident during a match.

You can get away with a lot on a football field.

You can spit, you can swear - if you are an Aussies Rules player you can wear the sort of short shorts usually reserved for Mardi Gras.

But there are limits.

It's hard to think of any sport where it's acceptable to chew on your opponent.

Even competitive eating forces its "athletes" to only bite the food in front of them and not the guy beside them.

Then there's Luis Suarez.


A lot of people will have only heard of Suarez in a vague "isn't he that bloke that plays football for somebody?" sort of way until this week when he added serial to the front of the word offender with a bite on his Italian opponent Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

The Uruguayan star has form.

He was banned for 10 games in 2013 after biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool and in 2010 he was suspended for seven games for biting PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax Amsterdam.

At the last World Cup he missed Uruguay's semifinal against the Netherlands after being sent off for a handball on the line that denied Ghana what would have been a match-winning goal in the final minute of extra time in a last-eight match.

That seems small beer compared with an alleged third biting offence.

In fairness, Suarez has claimed he had been put under intolerable pressure by the Italians and an English media hellbent on destroying him.

What some - ie, the majority of the free world - would describe as a bite, Suarez has dismissed as "casual play". Forced to act to try to protect their major shop window, Fifa have banned Suarez from any football activity for nine games, or four months, but under the game's governing body's own rules he could have been sidelined for up to two years.

Some were even calling for a life ban for the three-time offender.

He also faces the danger of losing major endorsement deals, including Adidas and a betting agency.

Liverpool fans may or may not be pleased at the situation, because it might mean that the undeniably talented footballer suddenly falls off the radar of any number of clubs who were chasing his signature.

What continues to amaze is just what some footballers try to get away with between the white lines.

Suarez obviously has a short wick, and reacts badly when said wick is lit.

Forgive the mental image, but rugby league player John Hopoate will forever be associated with his bizarre method of trying to dislodge the ball by using his finger in a quite unseemly way.

Eye gouges, squirrel grips, you name it - what possesses anyone to do something on a paddock that could get them locked up if they were do it on the street?

The Southland Times