Montevideo/Natal: Luis Suarez’s lawyer flew to Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday to present his defence after the Uruguay striker appeared to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during his team’s 1-0 victory over the former champions. Suarez is faced with a lengthy ban if found guilty by Fifa.
The incident in Natal on Tuesday has brought the ugly side of the game to the fore, marring a tournament that has been widely praised for its attacking football and major upsets.
“We’re polishing a defence argument,” his lawyer Alejandro Balbi told local radio in Uruguay, where many people support the gifted frontman and feel he is being unfairly singled out by media in Europe.
Suarez looks almost certain to miss the rest of the World Cup after Fifa opened disciplinary proceedings against him following an evening of accusations that he bit an Italian defender.
A furious Giorgio Chiellini said he had been bitten by Suarez during the South Americans’ 1-0 Group D victory at the World Cup on Tuesday, and photographs showed what appeared to be bite marks on his shoulder.
Pictures also showed Suarez sitting on the ground holding his teeth immediately after the incident.
The probe means Suarez, twice previously banned for biting, looks set to be hit with another lengthy suspension despite escaping punishment during the match.
“Fifa can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the player Luis Suarez of Uruguay,” the world soccer body said in a statement late on Tuesday. Fifa said Suarez and the Uruguayan soccer association need to “provide their position and any documentary evidence they deem relevant.”
Fifa is probing what it called an apparent breach of two articles of the organisation’s disciplinary code. One covers infringements and the other offensive behaviour and fair play. Suarez and Chiellini clashed in the Italian penalty area 10 minutes from the end of the match, which sealed Uruguay’s progression and Italy’s elimination from the tournament.
His lawyer, however, supported Suarez, voicing concern that Suarez is being targetted. “We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suarez and secondly because Italy were eliminated,” added Balbi, who is also a Uruguay FA board member. “There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy.”
The referee did not spot the incident during the match, but Fifa’s rules allow the use of video or “any other evidence” to punish players retrospectively.
Fifa’s disciplinary code sets a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years, but the longest suspension Fifa has imposed for an offence at a World Cup was eight games for Italy’s Mauro Tassotti for breaking the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique in 1994.
Uruguay could potentially play four more games in the tournament, and it would be a surprise if Suarez were to be given a ban of a shorter duration if found guilty.
Fifa said it would work as quickly as possible in its investigation into the incident, with Uruguay due to play Colombia on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro in the first pre quarters.
“The disciplinary committee understands the urgency of the matter,” Fifa spokeswoman Delia Fischer said. “It is working to get and assess all elements in order to make a decision as early as possible, particularly given the fact that Uruguay are still in the tournament,” she said.
Losing Suarez would be a huge blow to Uruguay, who rely heavily on the prolific Liverpool forward’s attacking talent. He scored both goals in the side’s 2-1 win over England earlier in the tournament, and is widely considered the team’s best player.
Suarez has denied biting Chiellini. “Those are situations that happen on the pitch. We were both just there inside the area. He shoved me with his shoulder, and my eye got left like that also,” he said on Tuesday, in reference to Chiellini’s marks.