Whoops, He Did it Again!

After last week’s blog on Fifa I didn’t expect to get hooked into another football story quite so soon. But who could resist the drama and uproar caused by a single incident on the pitch during the final crunch Group D game between Italy and Uruguay. Louis Suarez has gone and done it again – for the 3rd time in his career he has actually bitten another player.

Photo by Calcio Streaming

Since it happened hundreds of pundits and talking-heads have put their own spin on the incident, from mild amusement through to total abhorration. Not even the press in Uruguay have attempted to defend the player, such is the damning nature of the TV footage of the incident, but should we not also at least consider that Mr Suarez might be suffering a mental health problem such as the thankfully very rare Morsusmania, which is the uncontrollable urge to bite someone or something.

The incident itself seemed clear-cut from the TV footage taken from several angles. Suarez head bears down on the shoulder of the Italian Giorgio Chiellini, who immediately reacted as if in pain. Unfortunately, the only person in the whole world who seemed to have missed the incident was the match referee, who just waved play on despite Chiellini running after him and pulling down his shirt to show the bite mark on his shoulder. Fifa have now placed a four-month ban on Suarez participating in all football related activity as a result, although the Uruguayan FA is presently lodging an appeal.

After the game Chiellini said “Suarez is a sneak, I’d love to see if Fifa has the courage to use video evidence against him. The referee saw the bite mark, but he did nothing about it.”

Suarez, who committed a¬†handball on the line to stop Ghana from scoring at the 2010 World Cup, told Uruguayan television: “These are just things that happen out on the pitch. It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder. “There are things that happen on the pitch and you should not make such a big deal out of them.” Although to some people that’s a little like saying, he was standing on the edge of the train platform so I just couldn’t resist pushed him onto the track.

Photo by Dajabec

If we look at the bite from a purely scientific direction all of the previous incidents tended to happen in the height of the action, when we have to assume that Suarez was in a very aroused state both physically and mentally. Like most creatures with a mouth the ‘urge to bite’ is written deep inside our DNA. Biting is one of the most damaging things the average untrained human body can do; not all of us know martial arts, but most of us could easily sever a finger. All primates are ferocious biters but as humans have evolved and been socialised we have gradually learned to control those urges, to the point that when it does happen in public it is roundly condemned as somehow, sub-human, something only animals do. So we teach our children fists over fangs. All of that said, there are historical reports from the 15th Century of an epidemic of mass psychogenic illness in which the compulsive urge to bite people spread among groups throughout Germany, Holland, and Italy, so who knows, perhaps Louis Suarez behaviour is somehow the canary in the mine warning us of this bizarre illnesses imminent return?

Of course not all biting is meant to hurt or damage, play biting is common and many animals and indeed quite a few humans bite each other during sex. For many the pleasure of chomping on something can be quite visceral, just as many people, especially mothers will readily admit to an overwhelming urge to bite the cheek of a baby or even their bottom. Where others may experience a meaningless drive to pick at a scar with a fingernail, or to pluck grass when we’re sitting on a lawn.

Of course for every person who believes that Suarez simply succumbed to a temporary bout of morsusmania because his hyper aroused state made him temporarily lose control of his urge to bite, there will be many, many more who will say Suarez is just plain bad; a person who knew what he was doing in order to gain an advantage over his opponent. Anyway, the only thing we do know for sure, is that once his ban is over, a lot of defending opponents are going to be just that little bit more worried, if not quite scarred, every time Mr Suarez enters the penalty area at speed.


Is Fifa’s Sleaze Destroying Football?

The Brazil World Cup, which started over a week ago, continues to throw up surprises. Many smaller nations and relative newcomers have already caused result upsets. The old order was shaken to its core on Wednesday after Spain, the reigning World Champions, were unceremoniously dumped from the competition by Chile, while England met an early exit after a spanking by another New World upstart Uruguay. It is refreshing to see just how much things have changed for world football in the past few decades, despite being governed by Fifa, an organisation now more associated with words like, outdated, intransigence and of course sleaze.

While the world has changed and greater openness and transparency in most things is expected, Fifa have actually gone backwards to the point that they could almost be regarded as a byzantine throwback, such are their convoluted systems, intrigues and secret ballots, designed specifically to allow a hand full of the old order to retain the reins of power. So the charges and accusations piling up against Fifa were almost inevitable.

If asked to list the current issues and accusations facing Fifa in any kind of order, I would struggle to even begin, simply because of the sheer number. Of course the outstandingly stupid award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar must surely rank near the top but there are also a lot of unanswered questions about the way Russia was awarded the 2018 Cup. Anyway, as I said – far too many issues to list so please watch this very funny, yet factual YouTube, which will give you a true flavour of the broader issues facing Fifa:

Ever since the arrival of Satellite TV companies and their rivers of cash, Fifa has been auctioning off the very soul of football for vast profit. Long gone are the days when this None for Profit organisation depended, almost entirely on handouts and donations from the worlds various leagues and regional governing bodies because in this Cup year alone their income is thought to be heading for somewhere in the region of about $2.3 billion. This on top of over $1 Billion they hold in the bank, despite being None for Profit – what kind of “Rainy Day” are they expecting to be stashing away that amount of money?

Photo by Wbeem

Of course money doesn’t just allow the executives in charge of a company to pay themselves fabulous wages. If you refuse to improve accountability and transparency, especially in an organisation where too many past and present executives have already been sacked for dabbling in the twin curses of greed and corruption, you are simply asking for trouble.

So what, you may ask, has Fifa done about accountability and transparency since it was transformed from the games poor relation into a bloated behemoth, awash with cash? The short answer is very little, indeed there is a sense that a new “Loads of Money!” arrogance arrived with that new money, which has now fostered a very unfortunate attitude. So now if you ever challenged Fifa, they far too often respond along the lines of Who are you to question what we do, when only we know what is best for the game? This same arrogance has perversely helped those in charge at Fifa feel they need to be less accountable and as for transparency, what company in the world earning such vast amounts, would tolerate the use of secret ballots? Secret ballots not only for the selection of the next countries to host the World Cup, but also for the key jobs within the organisation from the position of president downwards.

If we look for one reason little has changed at Fifa, we need look no further than to the incumbent President – Sepp Blatter. A man who has presided over Fifa for most of the past two decades, a man with the arrogance to nominate himself for yet another term as President in the very teeth of what will soon be regarded as Fifa’s biggest storm: the Qatar sleaze scandal.

Photo by Calcio Streaming

Only if you are a Fifa Executive or someone who has lived on a distant planet could you deny that Fifa urgently needs a root and branch reform of all of its systems and methods. However, what it definitely does not need is yet another reform review carried out by Fifa insiders, surreptitiously presided over by the old order, or a reform carried out by an Independent company, who are prepared to do nothing more than window dressing, because it’s Independence only exist as far back as its secret Swiss bank account, which recently received a quite substantial cash payment from a mysterious gentleman, wearing a false beard, who called himself Bepp Slatter!

Then what? What will happens after the old order are put out to pasture, as they surely must. Who will run Fifa then? The clever money is on one of two long established football legends to take over: Franz Beckenbauer, who lifted the World Cup not only as a player but also as a manager; and Michel Platini, the hero of French football and current president of the European governing body Uefa. And yet, despite the unquestioned skills of these stars, we must ask some serious questions of both. On the top of the list of questions for Mr Beckenbauer is: why have you so totally refused to answer any questions given to you in both German and English by the people investigating the alleged corruption at the heart of the Qatar bid, that you have now been banned from any football related activity for 90 day? Then for Mr Platini: What on earth motivated you to vote for such a ridiculous choice as Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, before going on to endlessly criticise the decision through your position within Uefa? Gentlemen we all make mistakes but you had all the facts for months if not years before you made your bad choices.

Anyway, the World Cup rolls on for another few weeks, so perhaps we should simply try and enjoy the spectacle while it last. But once the celebrations are finally over, we must not only see the investigation into the Qatar bid continue, but use its inevitably damning findings as a lever for a real root and branch reform within Fifa. Nothing less should be acceptable now when the very future of world football depends on it.