Uruguay's harassing of Copa América officials worse than a Luis Suàrez bite

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On Wednesday night in a Copa América quarter-final against hosts Chile, Uruguay fans finally witnessed an incident more absurd than Italy's Giorgio Chiellini becoming football's third victim of a Luis Suàrez bite in last year's World Cup.

I am not talking about Gonzalo Jara sticking his finger into the anus of Edinson Cavani, although that in itself was a contender.

Rather, I am referring to the behaviour towards officials that should have seen Cavani red carded long before he was sent packing for responding to the provocation by flicking Jara, who tumbled into a heap on the floor.

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Setting the tone

When Cavani was only shown a yellow card for his aggressive intimidation of a linesman, it set the precedent for a game that would even see Uruguay's coach, Óscar Tabárez, trying similar tricks on officials before being sent to the stands.

Yes, dissent is a yellow card offence; but Cavani's behaviour towards the linesman was closer to violent conduct than his reaction to Jara's anal jab.

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Similarly, the way several Uruguay players crowded around Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci after he sent off Jorge Fucile in the dying embers of the game would probably have been enough to make some officials fear for their sanity.

Strong deterrent

The best defence for the severity of the punishment handed to Luis Suàrez for biting Chiellini - a nine match international ban and four month suspension from all forms of football - is that one simply should not have to fear being bitten on a football pitch.

Unfortunately, the lack of severe punishment for dissent means that officials now head into matches anticipating abuse - and players expecting to be disadvantaged if they do not dish it out.

Treatment of officials is up there with diving as one of the most common deterrents for those who do not enjoy watching and/or playing football.

And that's not even taking into account the impact it must be having officiating.

Worldwide problem

Previously, I wrote that European referees are not doing enough to clamp down on dissent.

However, it is clear that the problem extends far beyond the continent and Uruguay's match against Chile was hardly an advert for South American football.

Referees need to follow the precedent set in Africa and show no tolerance for disrespect.

It is also time for football's authorities to begin retrospectively punishing offenders who are causing far more damage to the game's reputation than Suàrez's bites ever will.

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Gonzalo Jara
Edinson Cavani
Luis Suarez

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