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.