KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA: Luis Suarez might have made life easier for himself and been back in football far sooner had he owned up immediately to having bitten Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
The Uruguayan striker, midway into a transfer between Liverpool and Barcelona, was banned for four months and 10 international games by FIFA after his assault on the Italy defender at the finals in Brazil.
Initially Suarez, despite graphic television evidence and a record of sinking his teeth into Otman Bakkal in Holland and Brane Ivanonic in England, denied any culpability.
Only after the punitive axe had been administered by FIFA’s disciplinary commission did Suarez, in appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, own up to the offence and apologise.
By then Barcelona had splashed £65m on him despite knowing that he would not be available until the clasic against Real Madrid towards the end of October.
In effect, Suarez’s belated apology achieved only a minor trimming of his punishment with CAS overruling FIFA’s bar in him playing in friendlies and even training with his new team-mates.
FIFA’s disciplinary chairman, Claudio Sulser, had no problem with that.
Sulser, on the sidelines of the Doha Goals conference in Qatar, said: “When it all happened we had to make a decision quickly because it was in the middle of the World Cup.
“The problem was that Suarez denied having bitten the player Chiellini but the images were so clear that we could not treat him any other way.
“For CAS to then say that the player can train is something I have no problem with. I can deal with it. We had to decide inside two or three days. Then, after that, he said: ‘OK, I apologise for what’s happened.’ This changed things.”
Would an earlier apology have changed the disciplinary outcome even more? Based on custom and practice in many judicial systems, almost certainly.
As it turned out, Barcelona did not miss his talents.
The ultimate sporting irony is that, after winning seven of their first eight unbeaten games and racing top of La Liga, they have lost both subsequent games – against Real Madrid and Celta – in which Suarez has started.
Perhaps FIFA should have banned him for longer . . .
** Doha Goals, at Aspire, Nov 3-5 – #DohaGoals @DohaGoals
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