Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Luis Suarez faced mounting calls to seek professional treatment on Friday as the banned Uruguay striker’s bite victim claimed his punishment had been too harsh.
Suarez returned home to a hero’s welcome in Montevideo on Friday after being kicked out of the World Cup for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.
It is the the third time in four years that Suarez has been sanctioned for biting, and the latest incident triggered revulsion throughout the football world.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke led calls for Suarez to seek help, brushing off suggestions that the Liverpool star’s four-month worldwide ban from all football activity was too severe.
Asked if he had a message for Suarez, Valcke told reporters: “I think he should find a way to stop doing it.
“He should go through a treatment. It is definitely wrong.”
The international professional footballer’s union FIFPro meanwhile said in a statement FIFA should have made mandatory treatment part of its sanction.
“Luis Suarez should receive all the support he needs to deal with any off-field issues he may be experiencing at this time,” FIFPro said.
“This means that the focus should be on the rehabilitation and serious treatment of the player.
“FIFPro believes that treatment must be a part of any sanction.”
Italy defender Chiellini meanwhile expressed sympathy for Suarez and criticized FIFA’s punishment, which is the heaviest ever imposed on a player during a World Cup.
“I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive,” said Chiellini on his website.
But Valcke dismissed Chiellini’s comments when told of them.
“You will always find someone who says it’s excessive,” Valcke said. “It’s not only him who says it’s excessive.”
When pointed out that Chiellini was the victim, Valcke replied: “So what?
“They are decisions which are made by the disciplinary committee based on what they have seen,” Valcke said.
“Again, it’s not just about the incident — it was seen by hundreds of millions of people.
“It is not what you want, your kids, the little ones who are playing football around the world, to see in a football game at the level of the World Cup, or any level — amateur football or professional football.”
Suarez, 27, bid farewell to his teammates on Thursday as they prepared for Saturday’s last 16 game with Colombia. FIFA said the ban on football activities meant he could not stay at the hotel. Suarez will not even be allowed in a stadium where Uruguay are playing during the four months.
The Uruguayan nation has rallied behind the shamed goalscorer however.
A private jet carrying the player landed in Montevideo just before dawn. Hundreds of fans carrying banners with slogans such as “Luis, All Of Uruguay Is With You” were waiting.
“He has been treated worse than a murderer, when it was just a mistake,” one of the fans at the airport told AFP.
President Jose Mujica went to the airport intending to greet the star striker. He left because Suarez’s flight was delayed.
Suarez was driven away to his mother’s home in the southern province of Canelones.
Fallout from Suarez’s ban spread quickly with gambling website 888 Poker terminating its sponsorship deal with the player.
Sports equipment giant Adidas said it was halting the use of Suarez in adverts for the duration of the World Cup. The company said it “fully” backed FIFA’s ban.
British media speculated that the sanctions could wipe a substantial amount off the value of Suarez if Liverpool decide to sell him. The English club has not yet commented on the case insisting it was waiting to see FIFA’s report.
Spanish media said that Barcelona remained interested in Suarez despite the scandal. Barcelona refused to comment on the reports that Suarez’s lawyer would hold talks with the club on Friday.
After Suarez scored two goals against England, media reports said Barclona and Real Madrid would be ready to offer 100 million euros for the striker — triggering a release clause in his Liverpool contract.
Because of the four-month ban, Suarez would not be allowed to play in any championship, nor train with any team, until October.
AFP Photo/Daniel Garcia