Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Luis Suarez, Ender of World Cup

Post Bite, Mid Dive
Well, um, it doesn't seem necessary to recap what happened in the World Cup today, because it's got to be in every social media feed on the planet... but on the off chance that FTT is your first source for such things, in we go.

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez may be the most notorious futballer on the planet, and lo, that is saying something. In three separate incidents in the past few years, he's been suspended twice for biting, and once for racial invective towards an opponent. For these various offenses, he's been suspended for 25 games in aggregate, and he's in the process of trying to force his team in the English Premier League to sell him, despite being, well, one of the best goal-scorers on the planet.

So on some level, the question is why he was allowed to play in the World Cup in the first place. Hell, given his general behavior, there's a reasonable question as to why he's allowed to walk the streets. But futbol matters a lot on five of six continents, and transcendental goal scorers are rarer than 7-footers with three-point range and handles, so, well, he was in. Even said to be behaving himself now that he's a father, and his performance against England (two touches, two goals, in a 2-1 win that all but eliminated the English hopes) was as good as advertised.

Then, there was today.

Italy just needed a tie to move on, and they are one of the world's best defensive sides. For 50-odd minutes, they pretty much made Suarez invisible, as well as the rest of the Uruguyan side, and even had the better of the meager offensive chances that the game had. Then in the 59th minute, Claudio Marchisio of Italy was sent off due to a reckless play, and, well, it seemed marginal to me. His foot was over the ball, but it was pretty bang-bang, and seemed to merit more of a yellow card than the full ejection. With the man advantage, Uruguay started to get purchase, though the play was pretty even.

Then in the 80th minute, Suarez struck. As an offensive possession was thwarted, Suarez got tangled up with defender Giorgio Chiellini, and brought his head to the defender's neck. Chiellini reacted as if he had been bitten, because as instant replays showed, he had. Suarez completed the pathological behavior by diving to the ground and holding his teeth, as if Chiellini had fouled him.

Now, a small aside. Portugal defender Pepe, almost as much as a reprobate as Suarez, was given a red card in his team's disastrous opener against Germany for much less. Just bringing your head that close, on purpose and away from the play, shows evidence of malicious intent, and no one on the planet argues that Pepe was anything but a justly tossed idiot for his act. There is no arguing with the fact that Suarez merited an immediate red card. He didn't even get the yellow.

Less than a minute later, off a corner kick, Uruguay's Diego Godin headed a ball in as Italy more or less lost their minds over the twin Acts of Referee, and Uruguay had the only lead they would ever have, or need. Italy's out, Uruguay advances, and I couldn't be more disgusted. Oh, and I had a mild preference for Uruguay before this game started, in that I generally root for the team that's lower on the economic totem pole, and Italy's defensive abilities generally make for dull play. (They also have their own wack job striker, but honestly, he's a freaking saint compared to Suarez.)

In the post-game ESPN panel discussion, the general consensus is that Suarez will be suspended for the rest of the World Cup, with more than a few people asking for the only sensible move: a lifetime ban. That's a start. But let's also wonder...

> If you were on the Italian team, or Chiellini, how do you live with the fact that Suarez ended this game on his own two feet?

I get that during the game, you needed to keep your composure and not put your team at the absurd level of 9 vs. 11 by going after the reprobate. But once the final whistle sounded and the Rubicon of elimination had passed, how did that entire team, to a man, not come straight for the psycopath with spikes out? They would have been welcomed home to Italy as heroes, honestly.

The answer, of course, is that everyone involved here is a professional, and isn't going to put themselves at financial risk for future suspension. There's also the possibility that they aren't willing to go to Suarez's level, or that they are just intimidated by the pathology, or just wanted to be away from Brazil as fast as possible. But I gotta say... if I'm Chiellini, I wonder how much my teammates care about me. And if I'm on that team, I'm wondering if I left my manhood in my other shorts.

> FIFA is, of course, one of the most cartoonishly corrupt organizations on the planet. This non-profit (best joke in the history of the blog, that) is sitting on a billion dollars in reserve, inspired riots in the most futbol-happy country on the planet with their rapacity, and treat host country laws like toilet paper.

And they were getting away with it all, even the absurdly corrupt call that gave the host country a win in the first match, because the play has been so damned good. The favorites that were ejected (Spain, England, in all likelihood Portugal) were all from nations that were either defeatist about their chances or sated from recent success. The feel-good stories (Costa Rica, Mexico, Netherlands, Colombia) all seemed fresh and exciting to watch. It was easy to get lost in Game, in the permutations of the next round, and I felt myself just putting on games just for the heck of it. Poor scoring defense-only teams weren't advancing, the officiating wasn't getting in the way of the viewing, and neither were the occasionally questionable conditions.

And now, well, no.

Uruguay is through when they shouldn't be. Italy is gone, with their coach resigning in disgust, and had enough quality to have gone much further. The fact that Honduras is the only Latin or South American team to be eliminated now seems conspiratorial, rather than a home-continent feel-good phenomenon. Suarez's post-game interview, in which he said the bite marks were faked and things happen in the box, betray a sociopath that, well, other teams just should not have to deal with. Banning him seems inevitable, which means that Uruguay's supporters will deify him, which means that this ugliness isn't going away any time soon. No one's talking about Greece's last minute escape into the knockout round over the Ivory Coast, or how gamely the Japanish fought, or, well, anything other than the cannibalistic futballer.

As I write this, FIFA has charged Suarez with biting. The penalty is for at least two matches, which would be issued before the next game, and even opens up the possibility that he'll come back in time to help Uruguay compete for a championship. That seems insane, of course, until you remember this is FIFA, and they worship money, and ratings, and goal scoring, all of which would be here in abundance with a Suarez return later in the tournament. Think Tonya Harding, only in a sport the whole world cares too much about.

And this all dwarfs the rest of the event, and that's freaking terrible.

Honestly, I kind of not want to watch this any more.

Because in one moment of pathology, this stopped being about Game, and started being only about a maniac, and how he didn't only get away with it, but helped his team win by doing it.

How are you supposed to go on watching, without needing to take a shower in your mind?

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