Luis Suarez will have plenty of time to ponder his tendency to bite opposition players after the Uruguayan striker was banned for nine international matches and suspended for four months from any football activity by FIFA.
The Liverpool striker, who has bitten players three times in his career – the latest incident coming in a key World Cup game — is also set to miss a large chunk of the English Premier season as he is “banned from any football related activity” by football’s world governing body.
The punishment is the most severe ever handed out at a World Cup for an offense committed on the field of play but the striker does have the right to appeal and is allowed to transfer clubs during the four month period.
FIFA had begun proceedings Wednesday after the striker was accused of biting another player during his team’s World Cup victory over Italy a day earlier and announced its verdict at a news conference Thursday.
“The first match of this suspension is to be served in the upcoming FIFA World Cup fixture between Colombia and Uruguay on 28 June 2014,” said FIFA’s statement, referring to the last-16 game between the South American teams in Rio de Janeiro Saturday.
“The remaining match suspensions shall be served in Uruguay’s next FIFA World Cup match(es), as long as the team qualifies, and/or in the representative team’s subsequent official matches.”
Suarez is also “prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium” during his ban and must pay a fine of 100,000 Swiss Francs — $111,000.
“Such behavior 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,” said FIFA disciplinary committee chairman Claudio Sulser.
“The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suarez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the code. The decision comes into force as soon it is communicated.”
According to FIFA’s disciplinary code, the forward could have faced a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years.
Former Italian international Mauro Tassotti was given an eight-match ban in 1994, the longest suspension in World Cup history, after breaking the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique.
The ban for Liverpool striker, who has been repeatedly linked with a move away from the Premier League club, leaves his club in the lurch as they plan for a return to Europe’s top tier competition — the Champions League — next season.
“Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the FIFA Disciplinary Committee report before making any further comment,” said the club’s chief executive Ian Ayre in a statement on their website.
Already banned twice in his career for biting an opponent, Suarez was at it again in his country’s key World Cup victory over Italy earlier this week.
Just before Uruguay’s winning goal, the striker was embroiled in an off the ball incident with Italy defender Chiellini with both men falling to the floor.
Television pictures showed Suarez dipping his head towards Chiellini, and when the Italian defender eventually got up, he pulled down his shirt and appeared to furiously indicate that he had been bitten on the shoulder.
The Uruguayan was banned for 10 games in April 2013 after being found guilty of biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
He was also guilty of biting during his time in the Netherlands with Ajax where he was banned for seven games after leaving a scar on the collarbone of Otman Bakkal.
It’s not just biting that features on Suarez’s rap sheet.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he deliberately handled the ball on the goal-line to deny Ghana a place in the semifinals of the World Cup.
He was sent off for his troubles but Ghana missed the penalty and Uruguay went on to finish fourth in the tournament.
The following year after his move to Liverpool, Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
He was fined $63,000 and banned for eight matches.
Ahead of the World Cup, Suarez had undergone knee surgery, missing Uruguay’s first World Cup game, before returning to face England, when he scored twice in the South American team’s 2-1 win.
“Before the game people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years,” Suarez told reporters following the game.
“I want to see what they think now. I have dreamed of this moment.”
Suarez enjoyed a sensational season with Liverpool — scoring 31 league goals to help his club qualify for the Champions League.
He was voted Player of the Year by his fellow colleagues and also named as the journalists’ Player of the Year too — awards that reflected a feeling that Suarez had put behind him his troubled past.
But he now looks set to miss Liverpool’s first nine Premier League games of the season and the start of the club’s Champions League campaign.