When Barcelona signed Liverpool transfer and star Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez to a $126 million deal last month, I thought to myself, “Why in the world would a team that already has Lionel Messi and Neymar want a player who not only has a history of racism, but bites people on the pitch for the whole world to see?”
But that was a month ago, and like anybody else in this world we deserve fresh starts. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be held accountable for our past mistakes. However, that’s exactly what Barcelona is failing to do with Suarez.
According to Fox Sports, Barcelona failed to include a “no biting” clause in Suarez’s contract. That’s like if your kid gets in trouble for playing with fire, but then you let him have unfettered access to matches. Barcelona reportedly pursued Suarez’s talents prior to the start of the World Cup, and the biting incident in the Uruguay-Italy game failed to sway the club’s interest in the Liverpool star.
But failing to include strict disciplinary clauses for biting, something that Suarez has been guilty of three times in his career, shows a total disregard for Suarez’s turbulent history and ultimately hurts the image of a club that is considered one of the elite soccer teams of the world.
Suarez is currently banned from all soccer activities until late October, when his FIFA suspension from the World Cup biting incident ends. That has prevented Barcelona from even formally introducing Suarez, as he is not even allowed to enter team facilities or stadiums due to the provisions of the suspension. However, his biting incident during the World Cup was just the tipping point of what has become a laundry list of controversies for the striker.
His first biting incident came in a Dutch league after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which resulted in him being banned for seven league games. The second came just last year during a Premier League game between Liverpool and Chelsea, when he bit a defender after the two struggled for position in the penalty area. He was suspended for 10 games and fined by Liverpool. Then the third one came during the World Cup against Italy, forcing FIFA to lay down a nine-match ban from the Uruguayan national team and a four-month long ban from any soccer-related activities.
Suarez also has a racist past. In October 2011, he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, who played for Manchester United at the time, during a match. He was banned for eight matches following that controversy.
Finally, the 2010 World Cup also provided another bit of controvesy from Suarez. In extra time of a quarterfinal match between Uruguay and Ghana, the Ghanaians had an open shot on goal that would have won them the game. Instead, Suarez stepped in front of the oncoming ball and swatted it away with his hands, saving the go-ahead goal. He was red-carded for the handball inside the penalty box, but Asamoah Gyan of Ghana missed the penalty kick, allowing the game to go into a shootout. Uruguay won the shootout, and many thought that it was Suarez’s handball that allowed them to do so.
Athletes that are routine headaches for their antics have routinely been phased out of their respective sport, almost regardless of how talented they are. Just look at the case of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, two receivers from the NFL who were stellar players on the field, but their boisterous, obnoxious personalities that accompanied their talents were too big a challenge for teams to deal with.
On the flipside, Barcelona has a reputation as one of the premier teams in the world, made up of world-class athletes on and off the field. There’s of course Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player in the world right now and one of the greatest role models that sports has to offer. Then there’s Neymar, the Brazilian superstar who was named by SportsPro in both 2012 and 2013 as the most marketable athlete in the world.
Meanwhile, Suarez has had his reputation sullied and drug through the mud over and over again because of his bone-headed actions. He’s proven himself to be a dirty player and a racist that doesn’t deserve to wear the Barca kit.
Suarez is undoubtedly one of the world’s top soccer players. But for Barcelona to refuse to hold him even the slightest bit accountable for his actions and rather praise him as the next great superstar is a shame to the entire Spanish organization, and one that may very well come back to haunt them in the near future should history repeat itself yet again.
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