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FIFA punishment of Luis Suarez shows teeth but not smarts

The Uruguay striker needs to be evaluated before returning from the lengthy suspension for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup.

SAO PAULO – FIFA, the organization that rules world soccer, covered a lot of essential ground in suspending Uruguay striker Luis Suarez for nine matches and banning him from all related activity for a period of four months for his involvement in a third on-field biting incident in the past four years.

FIFA made sure that Uruguay cannot schedule a truckload of friendly matches to burn off the nine games of his international suspension; only competitive matches such as the World Cup, its qualifying tournament and the Copa America championship of South America will count.

FIFA made sure that Suarez cannot involve himself in any duties related to his club, currently Liverpool FC of England’s Premier League, by specifying he cannot enter a stadium or take part “in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other)” during his four-month ban.

Suarez also was fined 100,000 Swiss Francs, which pretty much assures he will not profit from his involvement in this World Cup.

But FIFA took no action to assure Suarez will not be a repeat-repeat-repeat offender.

When Suarez climbed onto the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini and then bit down with force during Tuesday’s Italy-Uruguay World Cup game, it wasn’t as if he did not know there would be profound repercussions for his actions. He’d been suspended for seven games in the Dutch Eredivisie when he bit an opponent during an argument in a November 2010 game. Suarez was suspended for 10 games by England’s Premier League for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during an April 2013 game.

And Suarez did it anyway, this time on the sport’s holiest stage, and just a short distance from his boyhood home in Montevideo, with Uruguay owning a legitimate opportunity to achieve something special at this World Cup.

It should be obvious to anyone that embarrassment and consequence aren’t stopping him from taking these despicable actions. The man needs help. He needs counseling. And he needs that counselor to indicate Suarez is stable before he is permitted to return to competitive soccer. FIFA absolutely should have mandated this as a condition of his punishment.

One thing FIFA shares with most sporting organizations, however: They are really crummy at punishing rulebreakers.

The NCAA, the NHL, the NFL – take your pick. They all share with FIFA the same lack of acumen when it comes to dealing out penalties that will lessen the likelihood of recidivism.

Consider back in 2006, when Oklahoma basketball coach Kelvin Sampson’s program was found to have committed violations of the NCAA’s rules regarding recruiting calls. He had moved on to Indiana by the time the organization’s infractions committee ruled on the OU case. Sampson was ordered not to make any recruiting calls, but he was allowed to accept them and to contact recruits by text, e-mail and letters. And within 18 months, there was an issue regarding how he handled this punishment, and he wound up losing the IU job.

All because the NCAA infractions committee wasn’t convicted enough to fix the problem.

It’s up to Liverpool now, or whatever club might buy Suarez from LFC, to insist he get the counseling he so desperately needs. FIFA has acted swiftly and precisely in punishing Suarez. But it hasn’t acted thoroughly.

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