Uruguay striker Luis Suarez was suspended for nine matches and banned for four months from all soccer-related activity by FIFA on Thursday for allegedly biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup match on Tuesday.
FIFA confirmed the suspension on its Twitter feed Thursday morning. It's the longest suspension in World Cup history for an on-field incident.
The ban begins with Uruguay’s knockout-round game with Colombia on Saturday. Suarez is also prohibited from entering any stadium where a game involving the Uruguyan team is being played during the suspension and must pay a fine of $112,000.
In addition, Suarez's suspension will keep him on the sidelines when his club team, Liverpool, opens the English Premier League season in August.
In handing down the penalty, Claudio Sulser, FIFA's disciplinary committee chairman, said in a statement “such behavior cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a FIFA World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field.”
Suarez allegedly bit Chiellini on the shoulder during the 80th minute of Tuesday’s match.
Video replays of the incident appeared to show Suarez’s mouth making contact with Chiellini’s shoulder as the two tangled for position in front of the Italy goal. Chiellini immediately fell to the pitch clutching his shoulder after Suarez made contact with him. Suarez fell to the field a split second later holding his front teeth.
After getting up, Chiellini went to the referee and pulled down the sleeve of his jersey to show him a mark on his shoulder. The referee did not see the initial incident and no foul was called.
About a minute later, Diego Godin scored the lone goal in Uruguay’s 1-0 victory.
After the match, Suarez didn't say whether he had bit Chiellini, but expressed anger over being hit in the eye by the Italian defender.
“These are things that happen on the pitch, we were both in the area, he thrust his shoulder into me,” Suarez said in Spanish on Tuesday. “These things happen on the pitch, and we don't have to give them so much [importance].”
This isn’t the first time Suarez has been accused of biting a player during a match. Suarez has been disciplined two previous times for biting opponents. He was banned seven games in 2010 after a biting incident while he was playing for Netherlands club team Ajax. Another biting incident landed him a 10-game suspension last year with Liverpool in the English Premier League.
Suarez, 27, had a league-leading 31 goals for Liverpool last season, even though he had feuds with teammates and management in addition to his suspension. He was named the EPL’s player of the year.
Suarez missed Uruguay’s opening match of the World Cup -- a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica -- while recovering from a May arthroscopic knee surgery. He had two goals for Uruguay in a 2-1 victory over England in the next game.
In the 2010 World Cup, Suarez infamously blocked a potential Ghanaian goal with his hands in extra time. Uruguay defeated Ghana in penalties to advance to the semifinals.
For his actions, Suarez received a red card, which comes with an automatic suspension for the next match.
The longest previous World Cup suspension for an on-field incident was the eight-game ban handed down to Italy’s Mauro Tassotti after he broke the nose of a Spanish player during a 1994 game. In that same World Cup, Argentina’s Diego Maradona was suspended 15 months after testing positive for ephedrine, the longest ban in tournament history.
Staff writers Matt Wilhalme, Austin Knoblauch and Ryan Parker contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
7:17 a.m.: The story has been updated with FIFA's official reaction and details regarding past suspensions.