RIO DE JANEIRO
Shamed Uruguayan star Luis Suarez insisted he lost his balance and did not bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, according to a FIFA report on the assault which led to him being expelled from the World Cup. But the FIFA disciplinary commission which banned 27-year-old Suarez from all football for four months said in a report seen by AFP that he had acted "intentionally and without provocation."
Suarez's statement to the commission, which was included in their report, said: "I lost my balance and ended up falling on my opponent (Chiellini)". "At that moment, my face hit the player (Chiellini) leaving a small bruise and sharp pain in the teeth." He added: "In no case what has been described as a bite or attempting to bite happened."
Television images of the incident in last Tuesday's Group D game in which Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 showed clear bite marks in Chiellini's shoulder. Suarez has served two previous bans for biting. The FIFA commission on Thursday banned Suarez from any football activity for four months, suspended him for nine international matches and ordered him to pay a 100,000 Swiss francs (83,000 euros/112,000 dollar) fine. The Uruguayan government and football association has reacted with outrage to the sanction.
But the disciplinary commission gave a damning assessment of Suarez's actions in its final report in Spanish which was leaked to various media. It said "the offence was carried out directly against an opposing player, while the ball was not being disputed, and it was done deliberately, intentionally and without provocation."
It added that "intentionally causing physical injury to an opposing player, through a bite ... is completely alien to football (and) obviously violates the principles of fair play or sporting ethic." Suarez on Saturday thanked fans for the support they have shown. The goalscorer has taken refuge with his family since being expelled from the World Cup.
The 27-year-old Liverpool striker posted a Twitter statement "to give thanks for the outpouring of love and support I am receiving. "Myself and my family really appreciate it," he added. "Thank you very much for being by my side. I want all of us to support my teammates in today's match against Colombia."
Player urged to seek help
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke led calls for Suarez to seek help, brushing off suggestions that the Liverpool star's punishment was too severe. Asked if he had a message for Suarez, Valcke told reporters: "I think he should find a way to stop doing it. "He should go through a treatment. It is definitely wrong."
The international professional footballer's union FIFPro said FIFA should have made mandatory treatment part of its sanction. "Luis Suarez should receive all the support he needs to deal with any off-field issues he may be experiencing at this time," said a FIFPro statement. "This means that the focus should be on the rehabilitation and serious treatment of the player. FIFPro believes that treatment must be a part of any sanction."
Punishment 'excessive'
Bite victim Chiellini expressed sympathy for Suarez and criticized FIFA's punishment, which is the heaviest ever imposed on a player during a World Cup. "I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive," said Chiellini.
Suarez, 27, bid farewell to his teammates on Thursday as they prepared for Saturday's last 16 game with Colombia. Uruguay has rallied behind the shamed goal-scorer, however. A private jet carrying the player landed in Montevideo just before dawn. Hundreds of fans carrying banners with slogans such as "Luis, All Of Uruguay Is With You" were waiting. "He has been treated worse than a murderer, when it was just a mistake," one of the fans at the airport told AFP. President Jose Mujica said he met Suarez after his return and before the footballer was driven away to his mother's home in the southern province of Canelones.