Wilmar Valdez had a nasty premonition about the fate awaiting Luis Suarez when he attempted to fax a statement of defence to Fifa.
Valdez and his fellow Uruguayan federation directors and lawyers had worked through the night on the paperwork after Suarez was charged following his apparent bite on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday.
Uruguay had won the game 1-0 to reach the knockout second round of the World Cup. But they confront Colombia without the inspirational Suarez who has been banned by Fifa for four months from all football, as well as Uruguay’s next nine competitive internationals.
Valdez had to submit his defence by 5pm Brasilia time on Wednesday. An email was sent successfully but the paperwork, as confirmation, also had to go by fax. With time running out, the fax machine in the Uruguayan team hotel packed up. Valdez had to rush to a nearby shopping mall and fax from a stationery shop.
That was a bad omen.
The Uruguayan defence was based on a premise that the video evidence was not clear and that other players had escaped unpunished after violent conduct. They will need to do better than that in their appeal to “free” Suarez to lead their attack against Colombia on Saturday in Maracana.
The previous heaviest World Cup sanction was an eight-match ban handed to Italy defender Mauro Tassotti for an elbow which broke the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique at the 1994 finals in the US.
Suarez has a “biting” history with domestic suspensions in Holland and England. Claudio Sulser, chairman of Fifa’s disciplinary committee, did not say specifically that this had been taken into account but he did note: “The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case.”
Sulser, a former Swiss international striker, explained the need for an exemplary punishment for Suarez on the basis of the World Cup’s status as a showcase for all that is best about the game of association football.
He said: “Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a Fifa World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field.”
The terse nature of a comment from Suarez’s sponsor, Adidas, illustrated the sportswear company’s displeasure.
It said: “Adidas certainly does not condone Luis Suarez’s recent behaviour and we will again be reminding him of the high standards we expect from our players. We have no plan to use Suarez for any additional marketing activities during the 2014 Fifa World Cup.”
The Uruguayans believe they are being victimised. Sources close to the federation indicated they blamed the English and Italian media for whipping up a storm and influencing Fifa in revenge for their teams’ World Cup defeats by Uruguay. The Celeste also suspect malign influence from Cup hosts Brazil who have never forgiven Uruguay for beating them in the 1950 Final.
Liverpool, Suarez’s English Premier League club, have no right of appeal. If he remains at Anfield, the coming season would be the second in succession he would start while under a biting ban. Last year he was in the middle of a 10-game suspension for having bitten Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
Back in January 2011, when Liverpool paid Ajax of Holland £23 million for Suarez, he was serving a seven-game ban for biting Otman Bakkal of PSV Eindhoven.
Not that his record — which includes a ban for racist remarks to Manchester United’s Patrice Evra — had dissuaded Spanish club Barcelona from pressing a transfer bid. The Catalans have taken the lead over Real Madrid in the bidding.
The Catalan club’s president, Josep Bartomeu, is confident that the player has indicated, via his representatives, that he would be keen to play alongside Leo Messi and Neymar at Nou Camp next season. Fifa confirmed in Rio, after announcing Suarez’s four-month ban from all football, that this would not affect any possible transfer negotiation or completion.
Barcelona are reported in Spain to be preparing an initial offer which would not match a £52-million buy-out clause in cash but would include the offer of a number of players in part-exchange. These could include Chilean World Cup star Alexis Sanchez and Spain forward Pedro.
Suarez, with a top-scoring 31 goals, inspired Liverpool’s revival last season when they led the Premier League for several weeks on the way to securing a return to the Champions League.
But even Liverpool are losing patience with Suarez.
Phil Thompson, the former Liverpool captain, said the latest “shame” might encourage the club to sell him.
Thompson said: “Thinking of the support the guy has had — from (manager) Brendan Rodgers, from (owner) John Henry, from the fans; most of them have stuck by him through thick and thin and it is like a smack in the face to everybody.
“He’s brought embarrassment and shame on the club again. He’s the Footballer of the Year, the Players’ Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Player of the Year. We thought he’d sorted himself out but this is a massive shock.
“He has been a fantastic player for all the right reasons, which is why I feel he’s let us down. Will Barcelona or Real Madrid still want him with all this baggage? I think they’ll still covet him and I think that would be a good get-out for Liverpool.”