The vibes at the 2014 World Cup were unmatched on so many levels – and then Luis Suarez came along to provide a moment that took the tournament to another dimension of bizarre.
A gunman of the highest order, footballers like Suarez thrive on the world stage. Once every four years, all eyes are on them. In moments like that, you step up or step aside. Stepping aside isn’t an option for a player like him. Ever.
High stakes like that make tournaments like the World Cup so special. The best of the best locking horns, upsets galore, vibes off the chart and none of it stops for the best part of a month.
With that, though, is a boiling point. A boiling point that seemingly becomes a lot lower when victory and defeat is the difference between another step towards a trophy, or going home empty-handed.
Players like Suarez will do whatever it takes to win. And by whatever, we mean whatever. Bending the rules WWE extreme rules match style. If Suarez could come onto the pitch with a trashcan full of miscellaneous weapons – for the sake of winning – he most probably would.
But unfortunately, weapons aren’t allowed in football. Nor are extreme acts of violence. Has that ever stopped the Uruguayan forward from compromising, though? Don’t be daft.
In 2010, he was banned for seven matches and fined by Ajax – his own club – when he sunk his teeth into the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in a 0-0 draw. He bit an opponent. Do you realise how unhinged that is?
We’re all for a tactical foul to stop a certain goal, or even a less tactical, more physical crunching challenge with no aim of getting the ball, merely to ‘let ’em know you’re there’. But biting? Yeah, he’s got that dawg in him, alright.
You’d have thought that after a seven-game ban, widespread media attention, a hefty fine and no win at the end of the game, that Suarez would’ve learned his lesson. Less teeth in opponents, more footballs in the goal. Thing is, he was always doing that second part. Bloody good at it, too. But the burning desire to win goes beyond scoring goals.
It didn’t stop him from repeat offending upon moving to the Premier League, being handed a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic. Surely he wouldn’t do it again after that. Surely.
Of course he did.
In the city of Natal on June 24 2014, Uruguay achieved a monumental upset by knocking Italy out of the World Cup in the group stages. Diego Godin’s 81st-minute header to win the game deserved to be the talking point of the tournament. But it wasn’t, because his colleague had the taste for human flesh again.
A minute before the towering defender bludgeoned the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon, Suarez turned into a man possessed. A viper. A rabid wolverine.
#OTD in 2014…
Luis Suarez lets the intrusive thoughts take over at the World Cup and bites Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder.
Somehow, he avoids a red card and Uruguay score a minute later to win the game, knocking Italy out in the group stages.pic.twitter.com/09NR4K94vN
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) June 24, 2023
The clock was ticking, and the adrenaline was flowing. And with the tensions high, he just couldn’t help himself. The blood was pumping and Suarez went to the dark place. During a scuffle in the box between himself and Giorgio Chiellini, waiting for a ball to be delivered, he strikes. The mouth opens and the teeth sink into Chiellini’s shoulder.
Both men fall to the floor, Suarez holding his teeth playing the victim, the world stunned. Chiellini drops to the floor signalling for help. Even he was bewildered. What do you do when you’re bitten by your marker, fighting for your life at the World Cup?
When those replays emerged, the incident didn’t feel real. Had Suarez actually just done that? Yes, he had. Again. And to make things feel even more insane, it wasn’t Italy who would strike back with a lethal dose of karma; it was Uruguay.
Godin had no time for feeling sorry for Chiellini, instead heading his nation into a last 16 tie with Colombia at the Maracana. But would Suarez be there?
He could be banned, he could be sent home – hell, he could even be sent to a lab at this point, to make sure he’s not some sort of genetic freak footballer turned vampire.
Some sort of justice would be served in the following days, with Colombia winning 2-0 to send Uruguay flying out of the tournament. But what was done was done. Suarez had just bitten someone for a second time. How on earth does football respond to one of the game’s greatest players committing such an inhumane act?
A four-month ban from all football activities would follow. But that wouldn’t stop Barcelona from getting their man – and paying a pretty penny for him. There’s no bite without bark, after all, and Suarez was louder than ever with his scoring exploits. As polarising a figure as he was, the boy could score. And score he did, the minute that ban was served.
The World Cup is a tournament built on moments. And while the best of those moments are often involving the ball, Suarez’s bite on that afternoon in June 2014, on the grandest stage of them all, will forever remain one of the game’s most unforgettable incidents.