Luis Suarez may have his prior record for biting used as evidence against him when a disciplinary panel considers allegations that the striker bit Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup match earlier this week, a FIFA spokesperson has confirmed.
The Uruguayan has been accused of biting the Italy defender on the left shoulder during a Group D match.
Alejandro Balbi, who is both Suarez's lawyer and a member of the Uruguayan Football Association's board, has travelled to Rio de Janeiro to defend his client. He has suggested first that the Liverpool striker is the target of a European campaign, led by England and Italy.
The case against Suarez is expected to be dealt with swiftly, with a verdict reached before Uruguay play against Colombia on Saturday in the first of the knockout rounds. The incident has drawn the focus of the world's media as well as organisations which sponsor Suarez, including adidas. Gambling company 888poker also announced last night that they are "reviewing" their relationship with the striker, who acts as their brand ambassador.
An independent disciplinary panel - to be chaired by Swiss lawyer Claudio Sulser - will consider the allegations and have requested to be shown video evidence of the incident. The panel can impose a range of sanctions should they find Suarez guilty of biting, with a two-year suspension from football a potential punishment. In rugby, biting an opponent can carry a maximum ban of four years, or a minimum of 12 weeks.
One FIFA official, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, suggested last night that the act of biting an opponent should be considered equal to spitting - an offence which carries a minimum six-match ban. Such a punishment would cause Suarez to miss the rest of the World Cup finals.
The 27-year-old has been banned previously for biting - his attack on Chelsea's Branislav prompted a ban of 10 matches, while Suarez missed seven games for a bite on Otman Bakkal of PSV Eindhoven - and the particulars of those cases can be made available to the disciplinary panel to help them reach a verdict. "The panel can take in all elements they deem necessary," added a FIFA spokesperson.
Suarez will not attend his hearing in person and will be represented instead by Bali and Wilmar Valdez, the president of the Uruguay FA.
The former has been quick to respond to the latest allegations against his client, alleging too that Chiellini struck Suarez in the face during the same incident.
"There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we're convinced that it was an absolutely casual play," said Balbi. "If Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suarez can show a bruised and an almost closed eye.
"If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them everything will be way too complicated in the future. We're going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way.
"You shouldn't forget that we're rivals of many and we can be for
the hosts [Brazil] in the future. This does not go against what might
have happened, but there's no doubt
that Suarez is a stone in the shoe
Suarez - whose representatives had until 9pm last night to provide evidence to exonerate him - also sought to defend himself following the match in Natal, which Uruguay won 1-0. "These situations happen on the pitch, we were both just inside the area, he struck me in the chest with his shoulder and he hit me in the eye as well," said the striker.
Chiellini, not surprisingly, offered a different account after the defeat, which eliminated his side from the tournament. "It was ridiculous not to send Suarez off; it is clear, clear-cut," said the Italy defender. "And there was the obvious dive afterwards because he knew very well that he
did something that he shouldn't
FIFA's disciplinary committee
met immediately after the match to discuss the allegations and confirmed that Suarez has been charged with misconduct. That was followed by meetings between officials of those organisations that sponsor the striker, some of which had warned him of his conduct following those previous acts of biting.
Officials from the Ivory Coast, Iranian and Japanese FAs were called into meetings last night too, as the head coaches of each of those side's chose to resign from their posts. All three countries have been eliminated at the group stage of these finals and Sabri Lamouchi, Carlos Queiroz and Alberto Zaccheroni have stepped down as the head coaches of Ivory Coast, Iran and Japan, respectively.
"The Ivory Coast is a great football nation and this was a cruel game,
a cruel game," said Lamouchi, who led the African side to a win against Japan in their opening group match at these finals. "After had work and so much sacrifice, all of us and everyone in the Ivory Coast is very sad."