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About that bite

There seems to be little doubt that Suarez, the Uruguayan biter, had to be punished after what he did during the match against Italy. I was watching the game on ESPN and saw when, for the first time in this World Cup, the nice and wired soccer commentators from ESPN looked mad – really mad.

They were saying things like the bite was immoral, indecent, savage. They were demanding that FIFA punish  Suarez severely, and also rightly saying that he was recidivist in this bizarre biting episode, having done it twice before in the field.

My disgust with Suarez comes from the racist insults he yelled at a rival player during a European game, and for which he was punished with an eight games suspension (curiously, one game less than the nine games suspension he got for biting). For that transgression, I wouldn’t mind if the guy were banished for life. Racism has to be punished swiftly and decisively every single time.

But the bite… well, the bite does not distresses me, although it probably should.

Let’s make one thing very clear: Suarez should have been expelled from that game by the referee. He made a huge mistake, a bizarre one, and it goes without saying that the referee should have walked him.

So, Suarez and the referee made a big mistake that day. That said, let’s think about the game, and all the violence that goes with it.

Soccer is fascinating because it is an artistic expression, and, as an artistic expression, it is a reflection of life.

Art can be the good and the bad, the insult and the homage, the ugly and the beautiful. It’s a metaphor for what we are, for the most divine and the most diabolical things we can be.

The art of soccer lasts for 90 minutes – give or take. That’s the time frame for its aesthetics to be printed, for all the heavenly and atrocious manifestations within it to be given to light. After that, the work is done, and the artist steps out so the world can talk about it.

For art can afford to be ugly and sad and ridiculous and bizarre, and is not there to moralize the world but, rather, it’s there for us to look deep inside ourselves. What does that ludicrous bite says about us?

Whatever happens during that time frame of 90 or so minutes is up for punishment. After that, not anymore. It’s now framed and signed, and is part of the world, with its ugliness and beauty.

So, if the referee failed to see the ridiculous bite and the game carried on, that’s that. End of story. Or, on the other hand, the beginning of a new story, one that will take place by water coolers and inside bars and on the streets.

We are all now making good fun of the bite. In gifs and memes and posters. If the bite was so extremely immoral as public opinion seems to think it was, would we be making so many jokes about it?

I hate the idea that FIFA, a corporation involved in a lot of moral scandals, will, after the game is finished, re-evaluate and re-judge it.

When we take the game off the field and into a meeting room, where men dressed in suits and ties will grab their coffee mugs and shot of whiskey than gather around a table to play it back, we are taking some of its artistic components out of it – and I must say again that art is not supposed to be divine and beautiful every time.

Suarez deserved a punishment, a huge one. On the field. But the referee failed to see what we all saw, so Suarez should be allowed to continue playing for his team and carry on with all his madness, and faults, and flaws — and humanities.

Every time we take the game out of the grass and up to meeting rooms after it is finished and hand it over to the minds and sake of these feudal lords we are stabbing the game, and, slowly, killing it.

Or else, we should simply rewind every single thing. From the elbow the Brazilian Neymar unleashed into a Croatian’s head, to the penalty kick Fred, the Brazilian forward, theatrically executed in the first game of this World Cup, to all the goals the Mexican team got wrongly annulled, and so on. Up to what point should we keep playing the game back?

Maybe to 1994, when the Brazilian Leonardo, during the USA World Cup, left and American player convulsing on the field. Or maybe even to Mexico, 1970, when Pelé elbowed an Uruguayan who was left agonizing on the field because the referee simply did not see Pelé hit the man.

Would it be fair? Probably yes. Would it be soccer? Probably not.

And this is what I want to say: soccer is as injust as life. And, at the end of the day, part of its beauty comes from this fact. Like all art forms it can make us feel, and cry, and shout, and fall into despair, and then accept and carry on. Because, just as with life, there will be always another chance for us to face our divine selfs – as well as our diabolic ones.

 

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