One year ago today, Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez transformed an otherwise uneventful round of World Cup play – two relatively boring games, one of which featured the already-eliminated English national team – into a global referendum on biting.
In the second half of Uruguay’s group-stage match against Italy, television cameras caught Suarez nibbling the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, who later tweeted a picture of the bite marks. “These are just things that happen out on the pitch,” Suarez said after the game. “It was just the two of us inside the area, and he bumped into me with his shoulder.” (He has since grudgingly admitted that his collision with Chiellini led to the “physical result of a bite.”) The international sports media rushed to denounce Suarez. In the Daily Mail, a reliable source of sanctimonious soccer analysis, Ian Ladyman argued that Suarez “has a dangerous mind that can never be rewired.” Deadspin’s Billy Haisley dedicated nearly 2000 words to Suarez’s long history of “acting like a shithead.” FIFA banned Suarez for nine games, ruling him out of the 2015 Copa America, which kicked off earlier this month in Chile.
Memories of #bitegate came flooding back last week, after another high-profile indiscretion triggered yet more media outrage. On Thursday, Brazilian superstar Neymar was sent off for head-butting Colombia’s Jeison Murillo in the aftermath of his country’s 1-0 Copa America loss to Colombia. According to tournament officials, in the tunnel after the game, Neymar confronted the referee who had sent him off, fuming, “You want to make yourself famous at my expense, you son of a bitch?” The Mail mocked Neymar’s “red card shame.” Columnists lined up to denounce his “petulance” and “immaturity.” CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation, suspended Neymar for four games, which means he will miss the rest of the Copa America.