There was a Wenger-like absurdity to Diego Lugano’s denial that the pictures of Luis Suarez’s latest indiscretion were inconclusive.
“What incident?” queried Lugano when asked for his thoughts on what most could clearly see and FIFA have now confirmed was a bite to Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder during Uruguay’s 1-0 World Cup group win over Italy.
“The pictures don’t show anything. They show an approximation.”
A subsequent four month ban from all football activities, nine game international sanction and £65,000 fine says otherwise.
Even Suarez himself alluded to a misdemeanour in his post-match comments claiming there was ‘no need to make a story out of it.’
But as the world’s football media salivated over the Liverpool striker’s nibble at Chiellini, it was the drooling British press that received a tongue lashing from Lugano when the Uruguay captain faced the media afterwards.
Despite the ease with which his earlier comments that ‘nothing happened’ could be discredited, Lugano did have a point when highlighting the British sports media’s distraction with Suarez. The Liverpool talisman is the current Football Writers’ Association footballer of the year, after all.
As the BBC’s Ben Smith continued to probe Lugano, the West Brom player’s response was as evasive as it was combative.
“I know that the British media persecute Suarez, that is known,” he diverted.
“We have played against Italy, we will play against Colombia. So what is a British journalist doing here at our team base talking about Luis Suarez? I don’t have any other explanation. You can see by your face that you are happy about this.”
Let’s look at this another way. Had Suarez made headlines for scoring the winning goal against Italy instead of potentially derailing Uruguay’s World Cup campaign after single-handedly reviving it against England, there would still be British journalists at the press conference only with a different line of questioning.
Lugano is right to say the British sports media are fixated on Suarez. Of course they are. Whether he’s destroying Premier League defences or embroiling himself in controversy from race to bite rows, Luisito, as the Uruguayan media affectionately call him, is absolute box office.
But just as Suarez will be lauded for his matchwinning feats – see the praise heaped on him for his devastating two-goal display that effectively ended England’s World Cup hopes – he will equally be lambasted when he oversteps the mark.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Suarez and the World Cup have fallen out. It was his handball on the line that denied Ghana a last minute winner in the quarter-finals in South Africa four years ago. Suarez was sent off and Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty to send the tie into extra time after which Uruguay won the penalty shoot-out to reach the semi-finals. As the banished Suarez danced on the touchline, the shattered Ghanaians collapsed to the turf. It was heartbreaking.
A win at all costs mentality has also seen Suarez labelled a diver. Tick off ‘cheating’ or ‘gamesmanship’ here, depending on your allegiance. The Patrice Evra ‘negrito’ affair left a sour taste for all concerned.
Liverpool’s misguided reaction to staunchly defend their prized asset in the aftermath ultimately cost good people at Anfield their jobs. Meanwhile Suarez continues to wear the Liverbird upon his chest. Perhaps not for too much longer should Barcelona or Real Madrid activate a release clause in the player’s contract to whisk him from this perceived cauldron of hate. Should that happen, there will be those on Merseyside who might breathe a sigh of relief.
Add last year’s bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic to his munch on PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in November 2010 – the latter effectively ending his time at Ajax and hastening a move to Liverpool – and it’s clear Suarez doesn’t help himself.
It’s all too easy for the controversial striker to round on the British press, playing the victim when he’s all too often the aggressor. He did it towards the end of the 2012-13 season when seemingly courting a move to Real Madrid and/or Arsenal, depending on who you believe. He was at it again after destroying England in Sao Paolo with an utterly world class performance, despite Roy Hodgson telling us otherwise.
But this disdain for the British sports media is not simply confined to Suarez. The aftermath of Bite-gate III has seen similar scorn from the Uruguay players, fans and, indeed, the country’s media as a nation closes rank to protect its favourite son.
It’s no secret that if you provide the British press with ammunition it will gladly take aim and fire. Indeed, Suarez at his most insane, is a fully loaded gun. He is manna from heaven for any sports or news desk with a vested interest in Liverpool FC and/or the Premier League.
This is why #Suarez has been trending on twitter for four days since he decided to dine Al Fresco on an Italian defender. It’s also why the Liverpool Echo had around 20 articles and counting dedicated to the incident on its website less than 48 hours after the incident.
But it’s not just the British press gunning for Suarez when he oversteps the mark. See coverage from Marca, CBSNews, Ghana’s Daily Guide, Bleacher Report, to name just a few overseas titles running every episode of the Suarez soap opera.
And see this excellent piece on ESPN written prior to the World Cup that singles out the Toronto Star of all publications as another detractor of Suarez’s mad cap on-field antics. The Toronto Star? What’s it got to do with them, you might ask.
Suarez will get the same treatment, if not intensified, from the Spanish sports dailies should his increasingly anticipated move to La Liga go through in the coming months.
There is no doubting the genius of Luis Suarez. There is also no escaping he is one that is seriously flawed when the red mist descends.
That is not the fault of the British sports media. And they can’t be blamed for reporting each instalment served up by this most colourful, gifted and, at times, volatile of characters. It’s their job to do just that.