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The Hunger Games

Luis Suarez of Uruguay is football’s gift to those cynical scribes always looking for a pun or two to liven up their copy.  Yours truly refuses to indulge in such cheap shots.

Suarez is widely acknowledged to be a fine player.  Just a few days ago his two goals kicked England out of the World Cup.  His skills have helped to transform his present club, Liverpool, from an also-ran in the English premiership to a contender.  He is a national hero in his native land.

But Luis has a problem.  Rarely content with playing his opponents off the pitch, he insists on trying to chew them off.

His latest alleged offence, in a long string of on-field outrages dating back several years, is to have bitten an Italian opponent, one Giorgio Chiellini, in a World Cup match.  Perhaps Luis likes pasta.  But as British policemen like to say, Luis has ‘form’, sometimes also known as ‘a bit of previous’.  In 2010, when he was playing for Ajax, the Dutch Football Association suspended him for seven games for biting an opponent in a game against PSV Eindhoven.  The victim, as far as is known, survived, none the worse for having Luis’s signature bite-mark stencilled into his chest.

To be scrupulously fair, it is not always Luis’s errant incisors that are engaged.  Playing in the last World Cup in South Africa that same year he was sent off for a deliberate handball against Ghana.  And in December 2011 he was banned for eight games for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during an English Premiership game. On neither occasion, it ought to be stressed, was anybody in danger of being chewed to death. 

Another point in Luis’s defence is that he comes from a poor family, and from a country in which poverty is not entirely unknown.  When a young boy’s family dinner table is short of food, eating people may be considered a justifiable last resort – and such habits tend to linger. 

Even so, Luis’s salary, which I’m guessing makes him one of his country’s richest men, should by now have enabled him to curb the impulse to take a lump out of anyone who blocks his progress to sporting glory.   

Luis can hardly complain if his fellow-professionals start calling him Hannibal, although those who consider doing so would be well advised to consider the attendant risk of being served up with a dish of fava beans.

Naturally Luis denies that he deliberately bit the Italian gentleman.  “These situations happen on the field,” he explained, though this failed to anticipate the obvious retort that they only seem to happen when Luis is on the field.  “I had contact with his shoulder, nothing more,” he added.   In the realms of plausible deniability this ranks with Ronnie Kray pleading to the court that his enemies kept trying to hit his knuckle-duster with their faces. 

Luis could find himself banished from the World Cup, which I dare say will now come to be known as the Hunger Games.  That could be a mistake.  When potential cannibals are on the loose, surely it’s better to keep them in plain sight. 

I don’t know who Uruguay’s next opponents are but, before kick-off, they might consider immersing their shirts in some kind of foul-smelling repellent.  It works for dogs, I’m told.   The stuff will have to be pretty strong.  Some of my late mother-in-law’s perfumes would have done the trick.

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