The Truth Bites

On the left, marks of a bite to Italian footballer Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. On the right, the perpetrator.

 

In the recent World Cup 2014 group match between Italy and Uruguay, Luis Suarez (URU) viciously bit Italian player Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. This was no nibble. It was a full-on bite that left deep marks on Chiellini’s body and he will no doubt carry the scars for the rest of his life. After the assault, Suarez dived for the floor, claiming his teeth had accidentally come into contact with Chiellini, and that he was the wounded party.

 

He forgot the now-standard cameras surrounding the stadium. The game was taped. Although the Uruguayan press is downplaying the incident, we can see from replays that Suarez deliberately bent his head to sink his teeth into Chiellini.

 

Nor was this the first time Suarez bit an opposing player. As a professional he’s done it twice before. In 2010 (then with the Ajax team in Holland), he bit Otman Bakkal of PSV Eindhoven (also on the shoulder), and was banned for seven games. In 2013, playing for Liverpool, he was suspended for ten matches for biting the right arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovich.

 

(In 2011, Suarez was suspended for eight matches for using his mouth – that time, for racially abusing Manchester United’s left-back Patrice Evra.)

 

This was not even the first time Suarez had attempted to orally rip into Giorgio Chiellini. Here’s a photo of that initial try last year at the Confederations Cup.

 

Social media has exploded with outrage and condemnation. Twitter is especially fruitful.

 

FIFA is trying to decide how to discipline Suarez. A few matches’ suspension? Ban him outright?

 

Meanwhile, professional and armchair psychologists are weighing in. One says adult biting is an impulse born of fear and panic. Others claim that the intensity of matches makes male athletes automatically clamp down.  Yet another theory is that Suarez’s biting erupts from memories of an impoverished childhood’s humiliation and frustration.

 

What are these people thinking?

 

Suarez is 27. He has been for many years a well-paid and idolized footballer. His childhood is past. And the intensity of matches? How about when Mike Tyson marched over and with his teeth tore off Evander Holyfield’s ear? No one blamed intensity then. Fear and panic? Suarez is a professional. Yes, it’s the World Cup, but no other player on the pitch is biting.

 

At least 160 people won money by wagering that Suarez would bite someone – anyone – during the match against Italy. (A Norwegian gambler received the equivalent of US $912.) They considered it inevitable, not because Suarez would lose all sense of proportion, but because they correctly predicted he would choose his moment and clamp down in an act of aggression and control and humiliation.

 

Think about it. What does it say when an unprovoked adult who is not in fear of injury or death bites another person?

 

It sends messages: You are less than I. I control you. You are subhuman, you are meat.

 

It is not that different from the dreadful South Asian rapists’ custom of biting their victims over and over, face, chest, wherever their teeth reach. Like here. And here. And here.

 

You are meat. I control you. If you live, you will forever wear the scars of my mouth.

 

That’s what Suarez’s bite is saying to Giorgio Chiellini and the two other people we know he has bitten.

 

How many more Suarez football bites have been hushed up? How many times has he bitten women? Children? I hope those whom he has scarred go to the press – in Uruguay, in England, the Netherlands, wherever Suarez has lived or visited – to tell us.

 

Chiellini’s outrageous wound might be just the tip of a rotten Suarez iceberg.

 

 

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