If you asked Luis Suarez in three weeks how Giorgi Chiellini’s shoulder tasted, he’d probably lick his lips, think back to the texture of the Italian defender's skin, swirl the saliva around in his mouth and respond tersely, “Bittersweet.”
Likewise, Uruguay football fans will remember experiencing a similar aftertaste after Suarez went berzerk on the pitch against Italy and forced Suarez's hometown of Salto to flip the "_ _ days since a Suarez attack" sign to zero.
On Tuesday morning, I peeped the schedule and thought it would be as good a day as any to trot out the first of a regular “Son of a Pitch” World Cup feature highlighting the ignominious figures in football.
If you were looking to sink your teeth into a match, Group D’s Italy-Uruguay showdown was the match for you. It had everything you looked for in the World Cup. drama, intrigue, controversy, loose cannons such as the aforementioned Suarez, Mario Balotelli and football daemons on their last legs such as Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon.
Heading into the pseudo-elimination chamber match, the idea was that eventually Suarez or Balotelli’s skullduggery would overshadow their awe-inspiring talents. It was just a matter of waiting them out. Neither disappointed, but only one could capture Tuesday’s "son of a pitch" title.
Balotelli wasted no time doing both in one single motion in the 22nd minute when he flew through the air with the weightlessness of an NBA Slam Dunk Contest participant, lifted his knee and collided with the back of Alvaro Pereira's head, who recently recovered from a severe concussion suffered during Italy’s win over England on Thursday.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu exhibition earned Balotelli his second yellow card of the tournament, meaning he would miss Italy’s next match if they took care of business by playing to a draw or earning a win to advance out of their group.
Twenty minutes after Claudio Marchisio’s expulsion for an illegal challenge, Uruguay capitalized on their advantage to take 1-0 lead that would satisfy their own Group D advancement requirements.
However, Suarez’s Chiellini chomping, which went unnoticed by the officials, but not the national audience, plucked the joy out of Uruguay’s victory celebration.
Marchisio’s red card was more detrimental to Italy on Tuesday than Balotelli or Suarez were for their sides, but that pales in comparison to the negative impact on Uruguay and Suarez’s brand in the long-term.
Uruguay’s elimination match survival was a pyrrhic victory.
Soon, FIFA will bite back with a multi-match ban for Suarez that will likely end his 2014 World Cup cameo.
Any FIFA ban would also extend to Suarez’s regular season with Liverpool as well. Further exacerbating any potential suspension is that this incident marks Suarez’s third strike.
In 2013, Suarez bit Branislav Ivanović who repelled his dribbling attack towards the goal during a draw against Chelsea. Although, that incident also went unnoticed on the pitch by officials as well, his actions resulted in a 10-game unpaid vacation.
The inaugural Suarez biting incident occurred in 2010, during his tenure with Dutch club Ajax, resulting in a seven-game suspension. While Suarez and Ajax teammates argued a red card awarded to an Ajax player, Suarez got into an escalating argument with PSV’s Otman Bakkal, which ended with Suarez unwittingly auditioning for a role on HBO’s True Blood by tattooing his teeth into Bakkal.
These aren't isolated incidents, it's a trend. A few months before my 11th birthday, I was brutally mauled by two rabid Rottweiler’s. If I had to choose between spending 90 minues in a room with the dogs that scarred me or Suarez, I'll take my chances with the canines.
Biting has been described as the reflex Suarez instinctually resorts to in times of intense anxiousness.
In other words, he’s essentially a real world reproduction of Dave Chappelle’s Rusty P. Hayes character from the 2000 comedy Screwed. Hayes ' bit involved himself inappropriately busting cats over the head with nearby solid objects when he felt crushed by the pressure of big moments. Sound familiar?
The repetitiveness of Suarez’s skullduggery makes it likely that this suspension will be at least 15 matches.
However, there have been some who have proposed a year-long ban during which Suarez must either get counseling, cut his addiction to bath salts, embrace a vegan lifestyle or all of the above.
Anti-Suarez extremists would prefer he receive a lifetime expulsion from FIFA, which is utterly ridiculous to consider in the grand scheme.
Yet, this episode may be the grisliest blight on Suarez’s career. While the World Cup and the commitment to Uruguay’s national side has consumed Suarez’s time recently, the murmurs over which domestic club’s shirt he’ll don next season has become a full-blown transfer saga in the peripherals.
Reportedly, Spanish giant Real Madrid is prepared to offer £80 million to Liverpool in a transfer deal that would pair Suarez with Gareth Bale and the United States’ most reviled son of a pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo. The pair would constitute one of the most lethal attacks in the world, but that future may have negated by Suarez’s actions on Tuesday.
Italy has a knack for getting caught in the tangled web of these physical World Cup assaults. As Saakib Zafrani, my personal frenemy and a devout Suarez advocate who posesses an unhealthy lust for anything associated with Liverpool pointed out, El Pistolero’s offense may have been borderline schizoid, but it’s hardly the nail in his FIFA coffin. History’s whitewashing of Zinedine Zidane’s reputation since his egregious 2006 World Cup Final head-butt to the chest of Italy’s Marco Materazzi is proof of time’s reparative ability.
Zizou was a recidivist goon with actual physically violent tendencies on the brightest international football stages. THe only difference is that Zidane's vigilantism is more socially acceptable.
However, his rap sheet reads like play-by-play for one of Kimbo Slice’s backyard brawls.
- Stomping on the chest of a Saudi Arabian opponent during the 1998 World Cup (two-game suspension) and was later awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.
- Headbutting a SV Hamburg player in the Champions League
These days, he’s praised as an immutable legend and is a pitchman for the beautiful game alongside David Beckham, Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura.
At the age of 27, there is plenty of world-class soccer left in the prime of Suarez's cleats.
The English have endured a horrendous 13 days in Brazil, but there’s at least one glimmer of light in the likelihood that Suarez’s cannibalist receidivism could frighten Los Blancos from poaching the world-class striker from the Premier League’s ranks.
Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, they may not reap the match day benefits until January or September 2015.
And sadly for Uruguay, Suarez won’t have the opportunity to replicate Zidane’s redemptive hoisting of the '98 World Cup trophy. Suarez's inability to reel in his visceral emotions and consider the consequences has squandered La Celeste's opportunity to improve upon their fourth place World Cup finish in 2010. Uruguay got the official credit for a win, but nobody wins here.