Only a Game? Liverpool and Suarez bite off more than they can chew

editorial image

So, here’s a scenario. You’re sitting at work and there’s a bit of a heated discussion going on and all of a sudden a co-worker bites your arm. What would happen next? Well, if it were you or I we would be sacked on the spot but it seems footballers are special.

The aforementioned spectacle is simplistic to say the least but no one can dispute the facts; Liverpool striker Luis Suarez bit another player in his place of work.

“Oh, but footballers are different,” some will say.

It’s as simple as this. Luis Suarez has a contract of employment with Liverpool F.C. and because of his tremendous talent he is paid a huge salary. He’s an employee, no ifs, ands or buts.

If you are I behaved the way Suarez did in our places of work we would be making our way to the job centre quicker than you can say P45. Why are the rules different for footballers?

A person’s skill or ability should not make them exempt from punishment. Had the biting incident occurred during a reserve match where the guilty party was a player not deemed as invaluable to Liverpool as Suarez is, it would have been interesting to see what action both Liverpool and the FA would have taken.

I’ve no doubt that some people reading this column will think that sacking Suarez or indeed any player is a step too far. I disagree but what enraged me the most this week was when Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina both said they thought Suarez’s 10 match ban to be too harsh.

What planet are Rodgers and Reina on? Suarez bit another human being. In the grand scheme of things I think a 10 match ban is a proverbial slap on the wrist and if it were up to me I’d have sent the Uruguayan packing.

“Oh, but you can’t do that to a star player,” said some football fans.

Yes you can. The reason it didn’t happen is people made a choice. There was nothing to stop Liverpool F.C. sacking Suarez; Chelsea did it when Adrian Mutu tested positive for banned substances a few years ago, so there’s a precedent.

Taking drugs and biting another human being are entirely different things. That’s stating the obvious but if biting another human being in a place of work does not equate to gross misconduct then I may pack my suitcase and move to North Korea.

There’s an apathy in football and it’s something that doesn’t sit right with me.

Footballers, managers and even fans think just because something like biting another human being, racism or homophobic chanting happens within the realms of football it should be treated differently or, if some had their way, swept under the carpet.

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how certain Sunderland F.C. fans thought the link between new manager Paolo Di Canio and fascism should not be investigated. Quite frankly, this attitude is wholly offensive and utterly irresponsible.

If football wants to enjoy the benefits of existing in a free and democratic society then it has to be prepared to exercise accountability and put up with scrutiny.

Former Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was his usual comical self this week when he wrote a piece saying Suarez’s action were terrible but the punishment is too severe.

A narrative like this doesn’t help one bit because there is no rule set in stone to deal with a player who bites another. If someone is over enthusiastic with a tackle the referee can send the player off but if someone bites another player - well that’s something entirely different.

Dalglish suggests that Suarez’s punishment is excessive because when Jermaine Defoe was spotted to have bitten Javier Mascherano several years ago he was given a yellow card.

To use this to suggest Suarez’s 10 match ban is harsh is utterly ridiculous. Surely it only highlights how a referee and the FA got it wrong where Defoe is concerned.

To those who think Suarez’s punishment is over the top I would be really interested to hear what repercussions you think he should have faced.

I listened to some fans say this week that they thought the 10 match ban to be too much. Why? I have no idea. What facts are they using to base their opinion on? What guidelines are they using? None. They are just the same as Rodgers, Reina and Dalglish in that they are offering opinion laden with sentiment as opposed to opinion backed up by facts.

Just because someone earns £350,000 per week should not mean they enjoy any more or less rights than someone who earns £350 per week.

Those with influence and talent, whether they be footballers, politicians or big business owners, have to exercise the same level as accountability and sense as the man in the street would. Otherwise the beautiful game is destined to not only become even more disconnected but to sever its tie with fans completely.

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Rules should apply the land over and the sooner the rest of the public and football fans start to see past this nonsensical way of differentiating between footballers, politicians etc. the more fair and equal society could become.