Home and Away

'Cannibal of Ajax' is tearing Liverpool's moral and ethical fibre

Club's excuse for the striker's bite of Chelsea rival reveals misplaced sympathy for a flawed character with an abusive history

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 4:17am

'Oh to be England now that April's there," declared poet Robert Browning in his famous verses celebrating this glorious month of spring.

English literature teachers struggling to hold the attention of their pupils might do well to compare Browning's poem with Robin van Persie's volley against Aston Villa that sealed Manchester United's 20th title. An English spring and that magical goal are both fine examples of poetry in motion.

Browning observes in his stanzas that new leaf, bud and blossoming bough only come about once a year because of the perfect timing between two entities - the tilting earth towards the sun. There is a precise and crucial moment when the elements collide perfectly to produce a season of wonder and beauty.

Just like that goal.

Wayne Rooney's vision and the arc, trajectory and weight of his perfect 50-yard pass dovetailed gloriously with Van Persie's sublime anticipation.

The Dutchman increased his speed and veered at the precise angle to remain onside, and then walloped - a sweeter strike into the corner of the net you will never see.

It is impossible to wax lyrical about the Gothic horror show that is Luis Suarez, however. His biting of Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic caused global revulsion and justifiably so.

Liverpool is the only club close to touching Manchester United in the title claim ranking, with 18 crowns. But the moral and ethical fibre of this great club is being worn rapidly thin by their continued backing of their delinquent £23 million (HK$274 million) striker.

The club board, manager and several of his teammates tried to excuse Suarez's behaviour by arguing that as a professional athlete, he is entitled to become frustrated and act beyond the limits set by a civil society.

All Suarez needed was understanding, they argued. The Professional Football Players' Association and Liverpool offered him anger management counselling.

Teammate Jamie Carragher said he should be "helped" rather than "hounded".

You know the world has gone mad when hard-nosed, no-nonsense, proud Scousers start advocating a box of tissues and a sympathetic ear to a scally who is rapidly stealing respect from their club.

The psychobabble claptrap spouting from many dwelling in the red half of Merseyside has been insulting not only to our intelligence but to the game itself.

The Football Association, long criticised for being spineless, was forced to show some teeth and banned Suarez for 10 matches. Yet even this travesty of justice was not enough for Liverpool.

Manager Brendan Rodgers criticised the severity of the suspension, saying the FA had "punished the man" rather than the actual offence. He insisted the punishment had no intention of helping the player's rehabilitation.

He conveniently forgot Suarez has form. The "Cannibal of Ajax" has drawn the blood of another player with his teeth while playing in Holland. And last season he was suspended for eight games for racially abusing United's Patrice Evra.

This was not the behaviour of a frustrated genius. This was the behaviour of a flawed character on £100,000 a week.

If you or I bit someone at work, we would not be offered sessions on the shrink's couch to discuss how best to blame our parents for our bizarre eating habits and help "rehabilitate" us. We would be sacked on the spot. Indeed, few of us would have a job were we to subject a colleague to racial abuse.

It is important not to fog the incident with a mob mentality to hysterically hound Suarez from the EPL. We lost respect for Suarez after his racist outburst and disliked him for his diving and other petulant behaviour. But many now detest him for his violence.

The proper response should have been swift, simple and harsh. He should have been summarily fired by Liverpool and banned by the FA for at least a season or life from the EPL. The evidence was clear cut and any lesser punishment smacks of condoning such conduct.

What crystallises the seriousness of his behaviour is that it was parodied on a school playground within hours.

An 11-year-old boy was suspended from a school for biting another child after telling him: "I am going to do a Luis Suarez."

The pupil duly sank his teeth into his classmate's upper-arm.

Of course, Suarez is not the only player to bring the game into disrepute with violent conduct. Biting, however, is pure savagery - a hark back to primeval times.

Surely, if tomorrow's footballers are going to learn a lesson, the ultimate punishment must be enacted.

This is not about making an example of Suarez. This is about football clawing back the moral ground from over-pampered players, overly powerful clubs and the inconsistent organisations that run the game.

The uproar has made Rooney and Van Persie's goal all the more significant because it showed what the game is really all about.

Thankfully, after their poetry and other lessons, most football-mad schoolchildren legged it to the playground intent on copying the goal rather than Suarez's despicable enactment of Bram Stoker's Dracula.