So Luis Suarez has now admitted what the whole world - apart from the Uruguayan Football Association, Uruguay generally and some Liverpool FC fans - already knew. That he bit Giorgio Ciellini in the group match with Italy. And he is sorry.
I am sure he is, considering he is set to miss over 30 matches, was responsible for Uruguay failing to progress and might have scuppered a dream move to Real Madrid or Barcelona. But that is missing the point.
In fact the whole argument around the incident and its aftermath - and whether the ban is too severe or too lenient - is to some extent skimming over the larger issue here. And there is an important point here that is specific to Suarez but also illustrates a more general (and worrying) aspect of the 'beautiful game'.
Suarez: Serial offender
Suarez is a serial offender - and not just for biting. The racial abuse of Patrice Evra and subsequent furore is well documented. So too is his predilection for 'simulation' and trying to get players booked or sent off. What isn't so well publicized or commented on is his persistent (and actually more dangerous) off-the-ball and late challenges which he has, by and large, gotten away with.
I can recall two incidents in the same derby match against Everton a couple of years ago when Suarez made horrendous challenges on Kevin Mirallas and Sylvain Distin in pretty quick succession. Neither were seen by the referee but they were clearly identified post-match. This happened a couple of weeks after Marouane Fellaini was (rightly) banned for a challenge on Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City that the referee failed to spot but was caught on the video replay. The Match of the Day summarisers who had called for Fellaini to be banned for 10 games asserted that Suarez should escape any punishment because he was such a great talent.
This illustrates two major aspects of the problem. The fact that we forgive outstanding performers regardless of their behaviour and the influence of commercial pressures and the desire to win over-riding any ethical or moral considerations. Where else on the planet could an employee physically assault another in this way and escape jail, never mind being sacked? Yet we continue not just to indulge but to laud and reward these people handsomely for their transgressions.
So where will it stop? We have already seen that FIFA, UEFA and the FA are all pretty spineless when it comes to stamping out any undesirable practice if it is likely to clash with financial or commercial interests, especially of the bigger clubs. The clubs and players themselves are not likely to take a stand as they largely benefit from the laxity in enforcement.
Ask any fans and they will tell you that among the things they hate most are diving, feigning injury and late challenges. Maybe change will only arrive when fans start to take a stand against the overpaid, over-indulged prima donnas, vested interests, money-driven decisions and - let's face it - outright corruption, that pervades the sport now. Perhaps it is time for the fans to reclaim the game.
I, for one, would definitely support that move.
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