The hours following Liverpool's dramatic late equaliser against Chelsea were dominated by talk not about Luis Suarez's 96th-minute goal, but about his actions from 20 minutes earlier, when he apparently decided to take a bite on Branislav Ivanovic's arm.
Needless to say, it has caused uproar amongst fans and in the game's media.
Suarez was quick to apologise after the game, with Liverpool themselves releasing a series of statements too (via LiverpoolFC.com):
"I am deeply sorry for my inexcusable behaviour earlier today during our match against Chelsea. I have issued an apology and have tried to contact Branislav Ivanović to speak to him personally. I apologise also to my manager, playing colleagues and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for letting them down."
The club's managing director Ian Ayre commented: "Luis has made an unreserved apology for his actions today.
"His behaviour is not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt and Luis is aware that he has let himself and everyone associated with the club down. We will deal with the matter internally and await any action from the FA.
Suarez has also on Monday been fined by his club, and will likely face further action in the form of a suspension from domestic football—but his team have also made it clear that the incident will have no bearing on the future of Suarez as a Liverpool player.
Not at all. It affects his future in the sense that we have to work with him on his discipline - but Luis is a very important player to the club. He's a very popular player with his teammates. As we keep saying, he signed a new four-year contract last summer and we'd all love to see him here throughout that contract. He's a fantastic player, top scorer and everything we'd want in a striker, so there's no change there.
Those comments, made by Ian Ayre, show that despite taking the hard line with Suarez, they remain committed to having him play a central role in the rebuilding of the team on-field, for next season and beyond.
And Ayre, and the club, are right to do so.
Suarez will get plenty of criticism from opposition fans, from prevalent voices within the game and no doubt from the FA whenever they hand down their Decision From Above, and rightly so. His actions were, to use his own word, inexcusable and thoroughly out of place for a football pitch. A fine, a ban, a suspended future ban—whatever punishments are meted out, neither Suarez, Liverpool or their supporters can have any complaints.
You can't simply bite somebody during a match and not expect consequences.
But what would be the point in selling him? What would it achieve? Why on earth is that the only perceived route which is good enough for Suarez now?
The media outcry which has appeared after the game has been halfway between a misplaced moral avalanche and an attempted deportation by majority vote which borers on the xenophobic, if it has not already crossed that line.
It is a cynical, twisted, half-arsed look at effect and cause, whereby too many have been too quick to use their own podiums of speech to come up with the most grotesque reasons for shipping Suarez off the Good Mainland Britain quick-sharpish.
The Telegraph were first in line to condemn his actions, with the ever-restrained Henry Winter opening with this balanced, measured look at the situation:
It is difficult to see how Liverpool can continue to employ Luis Suárez after his latest assault on the fabric of the game, his latest trampling on the reputation of a world-renowned club.
The "fabric of the game," as is so eloquently referred to, is frayed and dirtied around the edges on a daily basis, we're led to believe.
Every day you can open your newspapers—or web browsers, or newspaper and sport-specific apps, all trying to jump on the back of the gravy train that is the Premier League—and read about corruption within the sport from referees, figureheads, owners. You can read about players spitting at each other, or fighting with teammates or having their private lives aired to millions by these same newspapers who have taken the ultimate lines in piousness this Monday.
But it is Luis Suarez, the Cannibal of Anfield, who has besmirched the game and the club so much that he must immediately be sacked or sold.
The piece continues:
Liverpool will survive if the shamed Suárez is sold...Inevitably there will be takers for Suárez. Liverpool can use such funds for less gifted but less embarrassing reinforcements.
Exactly where is it written that the fate of professional football clubs will be decided by the popular vote, by men who have nothing to do with a club, by making sure that the lesser-savoury aspects of the game are made to float gently away, leaving behind only the just and the good to fight for respectful, glorious and, above all, gentlemanly silverware?
Pundits and journalists spend half their time justifying decisions to sack managers and the like by using the phrase football is a business.
So exactly where is the business sense, tell us, in selling Luis Suarez for "less gifted but less embarrassing" replacements? So that the good name of the club is no longer sullied? You can't have it both ways. Business, or stand-up, respectable, morally proficient entity? It is rare a club will achieve success while retaining more than a measure of both.
Or so that those who cannot stand to see the success, both personal and with the club, that certain individuals achieve no longer have to bear witness to moments of such triumph? One thing is for sure—if Suarez goes on to be handed the PFA Players' Player of the Year award later this month, there will be yet another uproar.
Forget that this is a trophy awarded by fellow professionals. Forget that the votes are made judged on the performances over the course of a season. This would be another outrage, another stain on the game, another perceived attack on the cleanliness of sport by those nasty foreigners who don't understand the sacrosanct state of English football, the home of the game, the pure and the great.
It is far from one paper or story who are calling for similar exits from the Premier League for Suarez.
The Independent ludicrously and crassly tried to link the timing of Suarez's actions with the forthcoming Hillsborough inquest arrangements, the Daily Mail lead with a routinely grotesque Kick Out the Cannibal headline, while the Mirror run an ongoing poll as to whether Liverpool should get rid of him.
Where were all these reactions when England striker Jermain Defoe bit Javier Mascherano?
Why has John Terry not yet been demanded to be sold by Chelsea for a series of issues covering everything from deliberate assault on the football pitch to off-field misdemeanours?
And should we even venture into the murky underwater of the Eric-Cantona-kicking-a-fan episode?
There is absolutely no precedent, no justification and no sense, sporting or business, in Liverpool selling Luis Suarez on the back of this incident. Opposition fans hate Suarez anyway, so there will be nothing different there. And what of Liverpool fans? Will this biting incident be one step too far for some of them?
But, at the very coldest-hearted place of all, what of it? A few fans less will buy his name and number for next season's replica jersey? Big deal. Anfield won't empty because Suarez is in the starting lineup next season—it'll in fact remain full in part because of it.
And if he goes on to score another 30 goals next season and stays even beyond summer of 2014, those same fans will probably be clamouring to get his name on the back of their new, new shirt.
Either way, Suarez has been disgraced, he will be ridiculed, he will serve any forthcoming ban or other punishment and he will get on with his game. He may or may not leave Liverpool this summer—but if he does depart, it will have nothing at all to do with anything he did against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.
Except score a late, late goal, which probably drove his market value up just that little bit higher.
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