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Support for Suarez leaves a sour taste in the mouth

EVEN though he is reported to have flown out of Brazil with his World Cup well and truly over, they are still circling the wagons around Luis Suarez within the Uruguay camp.

Luis Suarez left Brazil yesterday after being banned for four months from all football-related activity, but the striker has still received strong support from the Uruguayan FA, members of the coaching staff and also his  team-mates. Picture: Reuters
Luis Suarez left Brazil yesterday after being banned for four months from all football-related activity, but the striker has still received strong support from the Uruguayan FA, members of the coaching staff and also his team-mates. Picture: Reuters

Depressingly predictable and unfailingly foul, it is the way things tend to work within the moral vacuum that is modern-day professional football.

In the immediate aftermath of Suarez being fined £40,000 and being banned for eight games for directing racial abuse at Patrice Evra, the Manchester United full-back, in late 2011, the Liverpool squad, fresh from wearing T-shirts bearing his toothy countenance, issued a statement offering "total support" to the striker.

Kenny Dalglish, then his manager, took umbrage at anyone being remotely critical of his star striker until it reached the stage where those from the boardroom had to intervene and explain that it was time to start issuing apologies.

King Kenny hadn't made such a clown of himself since those still-incomprehensible days of taking his weekly Celtic press conference on a tour of some decidedly spartan pubs around the east end of Glasgow.

Solidarity within a dressing-room is important. Sticking together in times of adversity is a must. Siege mentalities based on the most flimsy of evidence can be excused as an extremely useful motivational tool.

A line must be drawn, though, at defending the indefensible. Suarez bites people on the park. End of story. It has happened three times now and his latest assault - on the Italian defender, Giorgio Chiellini - cannot be looked upon as an aberration, some inexplicable rush of blood to the head.

The man behaves like an animal. Opposition players, clearly, need to be protected from him.

In an ideal world, he would never be allowed to play football again, banned sine die as Willie Woodburn of Rangers was in 1954 following one exchange of blows too many on the park. The game has changed beyond all recognition since then, of course, but FIFA could have expelled him for a maximum of two years and chose not to. As it is, the four-month suspension from "all football-related activities" imposed upon Suarez, while making a statement, is not enough. The news he must miss nine Uruguay matches and pay £66,000, a fraction of his weekly wage, is largely inconsequential.

It is the attitude of the Uruguay national team, however, that leaves a taste decidedly more sour than any amount of stale sweat on Chiellini's left shoulder. Their stance has proved the strong magnetic fields that exist within the beautiful game make the moral compass redundant.

They have already announced they will lodge an appeal. Their captain, Diego Lugano, was asked by a BBC journalist about Suarez's conduct at a press conference on Wednesday and replied: "I don't know what incident you're talking about. Are you talking about the Premier League or the national team? Have you got something against Luis? The pictures don't show anything. They show an approximation, but nothing important."

The British media then got the blame for Suarez losing his marbles. The media get the blame for an awful lot from people within football. You have no doubt heard similar words once or twice on these shores when results are failing to go quite as planned or someone from this insular world of overpaid schoolboys who never really grew up has brought shame upon himself.

"Everybody knows the British media have an issue with Suarez," said Lugano. "It must sell newspapers."

It is quite pathetic, really. If you cannot bring yourself to criticise a colleague, it is better, in these circumstances, to say nothing at all. Pretending he has done nothing wrong makes everything and everyone look silly.

Tellingly, it looks like Suarez's ban from all football-related activity will not extend to negotiating a transfer away from Liverpool.

Despite everything, despite behaviour that would have lost any man in the street his job and probably landed him in court, the chances are the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona will still want to sign him and pay him hundreds of thousands of euros a week.

There is so much money wrapped up in Suarez that FIFA could not, realistically, ban him for a lengthy period without being swamped in lawsuits. Cash is king in football and its world governing body, embroiled in its own scandals over bribes and backhanders, knows that all too well.

Naturally, given the times we live in, we are already hearing so much about the need to offer Suarez 'help'. This is no time for the do-gooder to stick his or her unwelcome nose in.

Rather, it is time for supporters to take a meaningful stand if no-one else will. Suarez, wherever he plays next season, will surely be given dog's abuse. If he is still at Liverpool, those who pay their season tickets and stand on the Kop should also make it clear that he has become a stain on their club.

The club's supporters have already supported the 27-year-old through thick and thin. A number of them will still believe, in the way of many fans of all clubs, that criticising their team or players is tantamount to treachery.

There comes a time, though, when blind loyalty starts to look like idiocy.

Suarez has had plenty of shots at redemption. Whatever he goes on to achieve through his unquestionable talent, no-one should now be reluctant to take the position that he is the kind of person sport really does not need.

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