RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) ― As the world was judging Uruguay’s Luis Suarez for biting a player in the World Cup, his teammates, coaches and fans in his soccer-crazy country defended the star, blaming the foreign media, his Italian opponents and uneven treatment.
World Cup organizers scrambled Wednesday to quickly decide on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.
“We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday. “It’s our duty to see justice done.”
|This combo photos shows Italy’s defender Giorgio Chiellini (left) showing an apparent bitemark and Uruguay forward Luis Suarez (right) holding his teeth after the incident on June 24.|
The disciplinary committee meeting was already underway on Wednesday evening, FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said.
Wilmar Valdez, Uruguay football federation president, told the Associated Press shortly after midnight local time that the disciplinary hearing will continue Thursday morning.
“What we know is they (the disciplinary panel) met for a long time,” he said. “We don’t know if that’s a good or a bad situation.”
A day after he tangled with defender Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez was coping well, according to Valdez.
“Luis is fine. He’s been through 1001 battles,” he told the online site Tenfield.com on Wednesday. “We all know who Luis is and that’s why we have to defend him.”
The bite ― just before Uruguay scored the clinching goal to eliminate the four-time champion Italians ― bwill now test FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s often-stated commitment to “fair play, discipline, respect.”
Blatter, who was in the crowd for the Uruguay-Italy match at Natal, has pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.
Many are questioning where that leaves a player like Suarez, who has a history of disciplinary problems including separate bans of seven and 10 matches for biting opponents in the Netherlands and England.
Valdez said Uruguay officials were sent a video of the incident by FIFA, and would respond with footage showing Suarez ― a striker for Liverpool and last season’s player of the year in England’s Premier League ― as a victim of Italian aggression.