Ok, here's the deal. If you don't see a blog entry tomorrow, it may mean something very unsavory has happened to me.
Or as they call it in the rest of the world outside North America: football (or in Latin America: "fuuuuboool").
Even those of you who have zero interest in the World Cup, even if you agree with Ann Coulter's recent screed against the "beautiful game", you have probably by now heard of the scandal that went down in Uruguay's latest world cup game (against Italy). But to recap, a guy named Luis Suarez... well, not just "a guy"; actually, probably the best soccer player in the world right now... ended up BITING an Italian player.
Biting, if you haven't guessed, is not allowed in world cup soccer.
There was no good reason for him to do this. Did I mention he's probably the best soccer player in the world right now? He actually scored both stunning goals in the game before this one, against England (effectively destroying its world cup hopes). But bite he did; and at the time, the ref didn't see it. But it was enough of a bite that it left a mark, and the video footage was pretty much unmistakeable.
And yesterday, FIFA (the association that governs world cup football) gave him a nine-game ban.
Uruguayans were OUTRAGED. Everywhere I have been hearing about how wrong it was that he will have to miss the entirety of the rest of the World Cup, that this could effectively ruin Uruguay's chances, that its a massive act of injustice.... only, perhaps it bears mentioning that this is actually the THIRD TIME that Suarez has bit another player in mid-game.
So what happened when he returned to Uruguay? Did he slink back home in disgrace, his tail between his legs, trying to avoid angry mobs out to stone him for having potentially ruined Uruguay's world cup hopes?
No. He was greeted by two thousand adoring fans, waving flags and cheering for him. Even the President was there to greet him, like he was a conquering hero. President Mujica stated that FIFA should be ashamed; not Suarez, note, but FIFA should be ashamed for their judgment against him. He claimed that it was a conspiracy and there is no justice in the FIFA, that it is an association for rich and powerful countries against small countries like Uruguay and on Diego Maradona's Argentinian TV show (Diego Maradona, by the way, was the best soccer player of his generation, but won his country the world cup by cheating with a hand-ball) Mujica implied that it was revenge against Uruguay for eliminating England and Italy "which must have cost them a lot of money".
This is not an isolated sentiment. Uruguayans en masse believed, even before all this, that FIFA has it in for them, that they often rig games and the entire tournament against Uruguay because they never want Uruguay to have a chance to win the cup. Conspiracy theories abound.
Now, to be fair to Uruguayans: there is absolutely no question that FIFA undoubtedly IS corrupt. As John Oliver points out in the link, they're not only corrupt, they're utterly blatant about their corruption. But it's quite a stretch from there to say that they specifically have it in for Uruguay.
And do I need to mention again, that this is the THIRD TIME Suarez has, in a fit of pique we consider unjustifiable behaviour even from toddlers, BIT another player?
Once every four years, I get obsessed with football. I love the world cup. And I desperately want Uruguay to win. The celebrations in the last world cup, when Uruguay did the best it had done in 40 years, was just amazing, and it literally changed this country. Uruguayans became optimistic, not just about soccer but about everything, in a way they never had been before. There was a sense that the country could do anything after that, and I think it has seriously and permanently altered the social fabric of this nation, having seen it both before and after the last world cup. Nothing would make me happier than if Uruguay once again became champions of the world in the historic Maracana Stadium (not least of which, because it would psychologically destroy Brazil, since Uruguay beat them there the last time they hosted the finals, in 1950, and they never totally got over it).
But there is clearly a culture clash here. In another country... that is to say, an anglo-saxon country (among others), a guy like Suarez would be the brunt of shame and infamy now. He'd be pilloried. He'd be unable to show his face in public, instead of waving cheering crowds from his balcony like he was a national hero. This moron, who had everything going for him, who had the luck to be born with an incredible (and incredibly profitable) talent, and the benefit of having people who noticed that talent and helped him nurture it until he was able to do with that ability something that even other professionals, even other titans of the sport, can only dream of, pisses it all away because he can't control his childlike temper; and now he's being told by an entire country that what he did was somehow right in a way, and those who are punishing him for it are wrong.
What kind of example does that send Uruguayan children, who adore and look up to this guy as their hero?
I'll accept that you can argue what you want about the severity of the sanction (it was the most severe sanction given in the world cup in its entire history; and even the Italian player who was bitten felt it was too extreme in that he is not even allowed to be physically present to stand by his team-mates in the rest of the world cup games), but to treat this neanderthal as though he was the good guy in all this is a sign of a serious cultural disorder.
Whatever you think, Uruguayans, of how fair or unfair FIFA was, of how corrupt they might be, this situation WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING if Luis Suarez hadn't decided to bite another player on the field for the third fucking time.
I feel bad, but not for Suarez; I feel bad for the rest of the Uruguayan team and what this costs them. I still hope Uruguay's team will be able to get through this to play that final game and bring home the cup that everyone here has been dreaming about for 64 years.
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