By Georgina Vivian
The idea for this article came from an incident that was probably noticed by people all around the world, soccer (or football, if you prefer) fans, or not: the moment Uruguay’s Luis Suarez found himself rather peckish after all his running around and decided to have a munch on Italian player Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.
This incident alone was quite astounding, but what is also equally, if not more, astounding is that there is a YouTube clip titled ‘Luis Suarez All 3 Bites – Luis Suarez Bites Players Compilation’. When looking for a soccer-related compilation, the search is usually for a video of soaring goals, the best free kicks, post-goal celebrations or something along those lines. But biting? And three times? Madness. Suarez’s nine international match and four month ban, plus an A$121 000 fine, shows that this sort of sinful behaviour is not tolerated on the pitch, and hopefully not off the pitch either. It may also be an indication that Suarez should make sure he carbo-loads before high-intensity matches to ensure he doesn’t get the munchies on the pitch again. A big bowl of Italian pasta will land him in much less trouble, and also cost much less, than a big chunk of Italian shoulder.
On a less serious note, Suarez’s bite and subsequent ban was a goldmine for internet trolls, and the puns started rolling around the interwebs faster than Arjen Robben could run up the pitch. ‘Suarez’s ban means he won’t get a shoulder of Lahm.’ ‘He didn’t like Brazilian food and decided to have some Italian instead.’ ‘He liked Italian so much but wants some Chile next.’ ‘Thank god he won’t be playing Turkey!’ Looks like Suarez won’t be, as made famous on The Inbetweeners, making any ‘football friends’!
Gluttony at the World Cup is only a sin committed by very few players, so let’s move on to the other sort of sinful behaviour prevalent on the pitch during the tournament: sloth. One slight bump on the leg or a little shoulder-to- shoulder contact, and some players drop to the ground. Sometimes the fall is legitimate, but on the other hand, sometimes it’s not. Previously mentioned Robben even admitted, post-match, to diving during The Netherlands’ win against Mexico. Are such players just desperate and hoping for the advantage of a free kick? Or are they tired and want to slow the game down, take a breather and lay their heads in the cushiony grass for a minute? Particularly entertaining are the players who, when tapped on the leg, crash down to the ground clutching their face or even, on occasion, the opposite leg to the one made contact with. Their hands shoot up, their bodies are thrown forwards, and their legs flick their multi-coloured boots into the air. Give it a rest, mate. But I don’t mean that literally. Get up and play the game.
The referees act as the gods in these situations, deciding which players to award free kicks, penalties and possibly the matches to, and also who will be struck down by the burning lightning strike of a yellow or red card. Most of the time, they make the right call, but sometimes, their judgement is clouded (by an obscured view, or maybe a couple of hundred pesos slipped under the table), and they make what is seen by the masses as the wrong decision. Either way, any call they make is going to enrage some players, officials and fans, and they are going to want to make sure they aren’t standing in the line of sight of any peckish players when they make it.
Moving away from world class soccer and back to grassroots level, I’m really glad that I have never had the misfortune of encountering biting or (much) diving during my years of playing soccer. I make sure I have breakfast before I play and hope the opposition does the same, and I’m thankful that my matches are held on Sundays and not Chewsdays.