Barcelona forward Luis Suarez has revealed what made him bite three opponents while on the field of play in the middle of matches. The Barcelona forward made his debut for his new club in a 1-3 defeat at the hands of title rivals Real madrid at the Bernabeu. The Uruguayan chipped in with an assist in the 3rd minute of the game but couldn’t make any significant impact afterwards.
The 27-year old in his new autobiography Crossing the Line: My Story has given insight about what goes through his mind when he bit Ottman Bakkal in 2010, Branislav Ivanovic in 2013 and Giorgio Chiellini in 2014 during the FIFA World Cup. The former Liverpool star also admitted that he was seeking psychiatric help to help get rid of it.
The Barcelona forward also claims that the act of biting is harmless even though it appals people.
Others tackle, I bite
“The adrenaline levels in a game can be so high; the pulse is racing and sometimes the brain doesn’t keep up,” he says in defence of his impulsive reaction.
“The pressure mounts and there is no release valve. In 2010 (the first biting incident), I was frustrated because we were drawing what was a very important game, and we were on a bad run. I wanted to do everything right that day, and it felt as though I was doing everything wrong.
“The pent-up frustration and feeling that it was my fault reached a point where I couldn’t contain it any more.
“With Ivanovic in 2013, we had to beat Chelsea still to have any chance of making it into the Champions League. I was having a terrible game. I gave away a stupid penalty with a handball and I could feel everything slipping through our fingers. I could feel myself getting wound up.
“Moments before the Chiellini bite, I had a great chance to put us 1-0 up. If I had scored that goal, if Buffon hadn’t made the save, then I would not have done anything. But I missed the chance.
The former Ajax player says that it’s easy to calm down after the game and analyse it and accuse him but during the match only winning matters and everything takes a backseat.
“The fear of failure clouds everything for me — even the blatantly obvious fact that I have at least 20,000 pairs of eyes on me; it is not as if I am not going to be seen. Logic doesn’t come into it.”
On the ban imposed by FIFA
The striker also takes a dig at FIFA about his ban extending to club football when the punishment was for an act in the World Cup. He cited the example of Zidame and Tassotti saying their punishments were minimal.
“Had the ban stopped at nine Uruguay matches, I would have understood it. But banning me from playing for Liverpool, when my bans in England never prevented me from playing for Uruguay? Banning me from all stadiums worldwide? Telling me I couldn’t go to work? Stopping me from even jogging around the perimeter of a football pitch?
“They had never banned a player like that before for breaking someone’s leg or smashing someone’s nose across his face, as Mauro Tassotti did to Luis Enrique at the 1994 World Cup. They made a big thing of saying the incident had happened “before the eyes of the world”. Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in a World Cup final in 2006 and got a three-match ban.
I was an easy target, maybe. But there was something important I had to face up to: I had made myself an easy target. I made the mistake. It was my fault. This was the third time it had happened. I needed help.”
Biting is harmless
“After my 10-match ban in 2013 for biting Branislav Ivanovic, I had questioned the double standards and how the fact that no one actually gets hurt is never taken into consideration. The damage to the player is incomparable with that suffered by a horrendous challenge.
Sometimes English football takes pride in having the lowest yellow-card count in Europe, but of course it will have if you can take someone’s leg off and still not be booked. When they can say it is the league with the fewest career-threatening tackles, then it will be something to be proud of.”
I know biting appals a lot of people, but it’s relatively harmless. Or at least it was in the incidents I was involved in. When Ivanovic rolled up his sleeve to show the referee the mark at Anfield, there was virtually nothing there. None of the bites has been like Mike Tyson on Evander Holyfield’s ear. But none of this makes it right.
Treatement would‘ve made me less aggressive on the field
“Liverpool sent a sports psychologist to see me in Barcelona after the Ivanovic incident, and we spent two hours talking about what was going through my head at the time. He said I could see him again, but I resisted.
Part of it was the concern that this treatment would make me too calm on the pitch. What if the next time the ball goes past me, I just let it go instead of chasing it? I’m the player who will kill himself just to prevent a throw-in in the 90th minute.
To a certain extent, it’s also normal that a striker is irritable and on edge. For those 90 minutes on the pitch, life is irritating. I get irritated when a defender pushes up against me from behind. I get irritated when I miss chances. If my first few touches are off, then I think to myself, “What’s wrong with you today?” And I know that the first time a player clashes with me, there’s a risk I’ll react.”
Why I finally seeked help
He says that it was his national team manager Oscar Tabarez‘s gesture of resigning from the Fifa Strategic Committee that made him emotional and spurned him on to change things.
“I didn’t want to talk to anyone after the Chiellini bite, though – back in Montevideo with the shutters down, depressed and not wanting to digest what had really happened, I was watching the press conference on the television when Tabárez announced that, in support of me, he was resigning his post on the Fifa Strategic Committee.
I watched him and the tears started rolling down my face. I couldn’t believe what he was doing for me. To see how much he loved me, to see what was happening, what the consequences of what I had done were, was soul-destroying.”
He also talks about how his wife played a major role in convincing him.
“Sofi and I went away to the countryside to talk about everything, and I finally began to accept what I needed to do. She was annoyed with herself for not having been firmer with me before. She said to me, “So now are you going to listen to me?” This time it felt like there was no alternative, and I took the initiative.
I did the research and I found the right people. If I had been at Liverpool, then maybe I would have gone back to the people I had spoken to there, or if I had already been settled in at Barcelona, I would have looked within the club, but I was almost between clubs, so I went out myself and found the right people to help me. It still feels like something very private, but I feel that they are helping me to understand that I don’t have to hold things in; and that I don’t have to feel such a huge weight of responsibility when I’m on the pitch.
I’m already learning how to deal with these build-ups of pressure. I have always preferred to keep things to myself, rather than sharing them with anyone, but I am learning that if you let it go, you feel better for it. Don’t keep it all bottled up inside; don’t take it all on alone.”Published 26 Oct 2014, 10:33 IST