Just a few days ago, after his brilliant double had led Uruguay to a vital win over England, the world's press were full of acclaim for Luis Suarez. The strength and determination he had shown to recover from knee surgery and inspire his side to victory saw him heralded as a true World Cup star.
And then he bit someone, again.
This could have been the tournament that crystallised his status as one of the world's very best players. Instead, the sacrifices made by Suarez and his physiotherapist Walter Ferreira—who suspended his own cancer treatment to aide Suarez in his recovery, as per Yahoo Sports—and the emotion of his match-winning performance against England were rendered obsolete by one moment of madness.
Suarez tried to play down the incident when interviewed post-match. "It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder," he said, as per ESPN FC.
His coach, Oscar Washington Tabarez, said he had not seen the incident, while the Uruguayan media portal Tenfield (in Spanish), claimed that the television images were unclear, and blamed the English press for giving the incident more attention than it deserved.
"It would be good if these Englishmen who are so concerned and want to see Suarez suspended could explain how they won the 1966 World Cup with a goal that was not a goal," wrote Atilio Garrido.
Other Uruguayan outlets, including El Pais and El Observador took a similar line, as reported by The Guardian.
But with a FIFA investigation now underway, Suarez's countrymen will soon be forced to face reality.
In the short term, that probably means playing the rest of the World Cup without their talisman. But does it also mean that we will see a Suarez-less Uruguay going forward?
This was certainly the first of his indiscretions that has directly affected the national team. The other incidents occurred in far-away lands—a blind eye could be turned as long as Suarez continued to perform for Uruguay.
On Tuesday, however, he could easily have been sent off. He is likely to miss out on the rest of the tournament, harming his country's chances of progressing further.
It is clearly difficult for a country of just over three million people to contemplate sidelining a player as exquisitely talented as Suarez—and for all his other faults, it cannot be denied that he is a terrific footballer. But by continuing to defend him, even in the face of such compelling evidence of wrongdoing, they are allowing him to absolve himself of responsibility for his actions.
B/R columnist Stan Collymore and Everton manager Roberto Martinez are among those who have called for Suarez to receive professional help in the wake of Tuesday's match.
He is less likely to seek such help if his improprieties are so readily attributed to a witch hunt by the English press.
Put moralist outrage, club and country loyalties and talk of lifetime bans to one side. For the sake of Luis Suarez, the man and the footballer, he needs to be called out on his actions by those who he respects most: His fellow Uruguayans.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!