As Suárez came under pressure from his sponsors, fellow professionals and Fifa’s disciplinary committee after sinking his teeth into Chiellini’s shoulder, the Uruguayan FA attempted to circle the wagons.
Fifa’s disciplinary committee, chaired by the former Switzerland striker Claudio Sulser, was meeting on Wednesday night having given the Uruguayan FA and Suárez a 5pm deadline to submit evidence.
After considering footage of the incident, including angles not shown on television, and other material including witness statements and the referee’s report, Sulser’s committee will decide on a sanction and whether it should apply to all matches or just international fixtures. Either way, Suárez’s World Cup appears to be over.
Senior Fifa insiders, while stressing that Sulser’s committee is independent, said they expected at least a six-game ban for Suárez. Any sanction greater than three matches or two months leaves open the prospect of an appeal.
Fifa promised to resolve the case “urgently” given Uruguay’s looming last-16 clash with Colombia in Rio on Saturday and said it was up to Sulser’s committee whether to take previous incidents into account when deciding the sanction.
Suárez’s lawyer, Alejandro Balbi, said he was preparing a case to show Suárez had been unfairly targeted and would use “all the arguments possible” to clear his client. “We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suárez involved and secondly because Italy have been eliminated,” he told Uruguayan radio. “There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy. There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we are convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suárez can show a bruised and an almost closed eye.”
The Uruguayan FA also claims that images of bite marks on Chiellini’s shoulder had been Photoshopped to make them appear worse than they were. “If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them everything will be way too complicated in the future,” Balbi said. “We’re going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way.
“You shouldn’t forget that we’re rivals of many and we can be for the hosts [Brazil] in the future. This does not go against what might have happened, but there’s no doubt that Suárez is a stone in the shoe for many.”
The Uruguayan FA president, Wilmar Valdez, told local media the proof against Suárez is not “convincing.”
“We’ve prepared another video of the game in which we discovered there was other behaviour similar to Suárez’s in the game which did not generate a similar reaction from the press,” Valdez told the leading newspaper El Observador.
The Uruguay captain, Diego Lugano, claimed the television pictures of the incident “don’t show anything” and were “nothing important”. He also claimed the British press has an agenda.
“Everybody knows the British media have an issue with Suárez,” he said. “It must sell newspapers in England. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Yesterday Uruguay played against Italy and Saturday it will play Colombia. I don’t know what a British journalist is doing talking about Suárez. It must be popular with the British media. I don’t see another explanation.”
The Uruguayan media accused other countries of launching a “manhunt” against Suárez. “‘Monster’: The British press’s new manhunt against Suárez,” said El Observador. “English newspapers return to attacking the Uruguayan after the alleged biting of Chiellini,” the article said.
Theoretically, Fifa could ban Suárez from football worldwide for up to two years or 24 matches. But while the governing body has previously banned officials and executives from all football activity, there is no precedent for a player to be banned from domestic as well as international matches.
At Liverpool, their manager, Brendan Rodgers, at the end of last season lauded the “phenomenal” Suárez for his “maturity as a person and his continuing development as a player”. He also praised the sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters for helping to improve the player’s behaviour.
But the latest furore to surround Suárez could have an impact on the enthusiasm of Barcelona or Real Madrid to try to prise last season’s double footballer of the year from Anfield.In an editorial in the Spanish newspaper AS, Alfredo Relaño said he would “encourage Barcelona and Madrid now to sign any player other than him”.
The Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, said he fears for the 27-year-old’s future in the game after this third biting incident.
“It can’t be acceptable and from that point of view there are serious issues to be dealt with and they’re health issues, counselling issues, mental-health issues,” he said. “It certainly needs that to try to eradicate this from his make-up, otherwise I fear for his career.”
The former Liverpool and England striker Robbie Fowler, no stranger to controversy during his Anfield career, said he was “flummoxed” by Suárez’s actions. “It’s a real, real tough predicament most Liverpool fans are in,” he said. “They love him as a player but he’s continually dragging the club’s name through the mud. It’s not right, especially after how they helped him last time. They tried to rehabilitate him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went now.”
Immediately after the match against Italy, Suárez said: “These situations happen on the pitch, we were both just inside the area, he struck me in the chest with his shoulder and he hit me in the eye as well.”
Chiellini, however, insisted Suárez should have been sent off. The 29-year-old defender told Rai TV: “It was ridiculous not to send Suárez off, it is clear, clear-cut and there was the obvious dive afterwards because he knew very well that he did something that he shouldn’t have done.”