Soccer World Cups and fallen heroes

you would have to have been living on Mars to have missed the latest furore surrounding Luis Suarez, and his apparent biting of Italian Giorgio Chiellini.  

I wrote the following last year after a similar episode in the English Premier league.  How sad that nothing has changed.

1        "In the premier league football match between Liverpool and Chelsea on 21.4.13, Luis Suarez one of the Liverpool strikers bit Branislav Ivanovic a Chelsea defender on the arm.  There was an immediate reaction on the sports news sites both online, TV and in the newspapers.  The Guardian online in providing a review of the event and the apparent demonization of Suarez that had occurred in the immediate aftermath pointed out the difference in punishment handed to violent conduct associated with kicking as opposed to spitting/biting – which is considerably greater.  Suarez has since been banned by the Football Association for 10 matches, whilst he has also been fined by Liverpool FC.  It is understood he is donating the fine to the Hillsborough Families Support Group.  It is understood that Liverpool FC have said that they will work with him to improve his behaviour and that he will remain an integral part of their football team  (ref: www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2013/apr/22/luis-suarez-liverpool-bite-chelsea)



2      This vignette of human behaviour exhibits some fascinating and revealing facets.  In this case, a professional footballer who has courted celebrity as one of the top strikers in the English Premier league for one of the country’s most famous clubs.  Luis Suarez, however, is not stranger to controversy, having previously been sanctioned for a biting incident whilst a player for FC Ajax Amsterdam, and more recently having served an 8 match ban for the racial abuse of a player from Manchester United.  The latest incident suggested a behaviour born of frustration and a lack of emotional maturity in a “win at all costs” society.  I am using the word “society” here to refer to the enclosed society of professional football where cheating and lying are often accepted as normal behaviour to gain victory.

Within the wider human society, the media was quick to proclaim judgement on Suarez’ actions whilst his employer, the football club closed ranks and sought to present Suarez as a responsible adult who sought contrition for his actions.  The gave publicity to a statement of apology and to an alleged conversation he had with the victim, during which he apparently sought Ivanovic’s forgiveness.   Just how genuine the apologies were, it is difficult to determine as later Suarez was reported to have said that anything more than a nominal 3 match ban would have been unnecessary (in the end he would be banned for 10 matches whilst the club at present maintains confidence in him).  Even the Government sought to make some possible political capital out of the event by making a statement on the issue, possibly to reflect what it deemed was popular public opinion and gain favour.  Did this mimic the “win at any cost” behaviour of Suarez himself?  It could be argued that an unpopular government would seek to appear in touch with the voting public by making a popular pronouncement.

The media and social media (especially Twitter) revealed people ready to make judgements and call for a range of punishments to be applied with much of the language being highly charged.  There was however after a few days, a number of articles revealing skills of reflection and consideration, seeking to understand Suarez’ aberrant behaviour and in a modern age when behaviour is understood as being driven by genetics or psychology, it is no surprise that a variety of expert opinions were subsequently voiced as to Suarez’ problems and the likelihood of success in treatment strategies.


Overall,  we are left with a depressingly negative view of humanity, with the all too common traits of selfishness, greed, judgement, blame and deceit on show at times of stress."

I don't know whether Mr Suarez will ever change his behaviour on the pitch, I don't know whether the ban will really be considered long enough.  My own view was that he should have been banned for life, as this is the third time, not suggestive of much learning unfortunately, and what sort of message does this send to our youngsters on the sunday morning football pitches.  Come November Suarez may be back in a red Liverpool shirt as though nothing had happened again - this is what happened last season, when he was hailed a hero by the reds, and the same media that is currently vilifying him.  


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