Why does he do it? Why does he feel the need to sink his teeth into his opponent like a dog gnawing a steak? And why does he feel the need to do it again and again?
These were the questions that raced through my mind after Luis Suarez was caught chomping on the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini in the latter stages of Uruguay's crucial Group D match against Italy. Suarez took Chiellini completely by surprise, coming up from behind and pouncing on that shoulder as if he hadn't eaten in days. He should have been sent off, but the referee only saw the incident's aftermath, with the two players rolling on the floor in pain, one massaging his shoulder, the other his jaw.
Chiellini showed the ref the bite marks, but to no avail. Moments later, Uruguay scored off a corner kick, and Suarez was celebrating with his teammates. It would be the goal that decided the match, sending Italy home. Meanwhile, Uruguay will be advancing to the second round.
Whether Suarez will join them remains to be seen. This is the third time in his career that he has been caught mauling an opponent with his teeth. After the first incident, in 2010, he was banned for seven matches by the Dutch league. After the second, in 2013, he was banned for 10 by the English. It seems highly probable that FIFA will take similar action, if only to hammer home a point that has yet to enter Suarez's head: no biting allowed.
There are plenty of players who get away with red-cardable offenses: a stomp on the toe, a squeeze of the family jewels. That's soccer. But to bite a player is just so damn savage, so thoroughly out of bounds even in a sport where sleaze is elevated to a kind of art form, that it demands some punitive action. It doesn't help matters that Suarez's front teeth are rather prominent, beaver-like one might say, which only adds to the sense that he is wired to bite his enemies and must be kept masked a la Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.
For this is some kind of sickness, this predilection to bite even when you know millions of people are watching. Part of it must stem from anger, of course, a lashing-out after being frustrated by Italy's defense all game. But it seems to me that it is indicative of a much deeper pathology, a voracious hunger that lies at the heart of Suarez's style of play.
Just watch him celebrate his second goal against England last week; the expression on his face is of almost orgasmic ecstasy, bordering on the obscene. That is how Suarez plays the game, ravenously, throwing off any semblance of etiquette or decency to unleash a pure id of soccer greed that must be assuaged by a goal, an assist, any of the rewards that have been dangled before his nose every day of his life — and sometimes, when he is denied, that results in him taking a pound of flesh instead.
Perhaps that's reading too much into it. Perhaps Suarez is simply a vicious guy who is missing a few IQ points. At any rate, the World Cup has its villain, and we couldn't ask for one more foul.
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