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Cannibal's Advocate – In defence of Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez did it again. The serial biter that he is couldn’t refrain its impulse to taste a bit of Chiellini’s shoulder (not really the freshest meat around though). Notwithstanding his amazing theatrical skills and escaping the sight of the referee, Suarez could not in the information age get away with this unnoticed. Seconds after the incident, the almighty “social networks” were already bruising with evidence, outrage and commentaries over Suarez’s misdeed. Since then, many lawyers have weighed in (here, here and here) on the potential legal consequences faced by Suarez. Yesterday FIFA’s disciplinary committee decided to sanction him with a 4 months ban from any football activity and a 9 International games ban. In turn, Suarez announced that he would challenge the decision[1], and plans on going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary[2]. Let’s be the advocates of the cannibal! 

Three legal axes of defence appear credible to us: No serious infringement, preventative self-defence and the crocodile syndrome.

No serious infringement

If FIFA is to sanction Suarez a posteriori, it needs to demonstrate under article 77 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC) that the referee overlooked a serious infringement of the rules. Can a single bite really be considered a serious infringement as defined by article 47 FDC? We doubt it and this is why. At World Cups, football players get broken into pieces by over-aggressive tackles and risk potentially damaging concussions. In light of this a micro-bite leaving a 10–min trace on a players’ shoulder should not be considered a serious infringement. Undoubtedly this is a ridiculous and childish behaviour, highlighting the psychological instability of the player, but it is not a serious infringement - a violent conduct susceptible to endanger Chielini’s physical integrity. Therefore, we do not think that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee was competent to deal with the matter. Moreover, if against any legal “bon sens” the Committee were deemed competent, we think the following attenuating circumstances should be duly taken into account.

Preventive Self-Defence

Chiellini’s reputation as a tough (and dangerous) defender is not to be made. Hence, Suarez’s biting can be considered as self-defence. Even though no immediate threat could be identified, the biting might be a necessary preventive measure to avoid any future wrongdoing from Chiellini’s side. This seems to be common practice in international law since the US preventively attacked Irak in 2003, we do not see any compelling reason why such a rationale could not be transposed to the case at hand. Thus, we ask the Appeal Committee to recognize that Suarez acted in preventive self-defence and, hence, to annul (or reduce) the sanctions adopted by the Disciplinary Committee.

The Crocodile Syndrome

Moreover, Suarez’s biting is to be excused by the Appeal Committee because of his unstable mental status. Suarez has a well-known track record of biting opponents and competitors dating back to its prime football infancy. He developed a very rare symptom know as the crocodile syndrome, leading him to instinctively react to stressful and frustrating situations by biting. World-renowned medical expert Dr. Zahn has confirmed Suarez’s atypical psychological condition. We therefore demand that Suarez’s biting be considered as an immediate consequence of a psychological disease and conclude that it should not lead to any sanction. Instead, we suggest equipping Suarez with a playing muzzle as a preventive measure to avoid any recurrence of biting incidents.

Concluding Plea

Luis Suarez is the victim of a repressive climate. The global populace calls for a sacrifice, but this would lead to punishing him for an anodyne, rather childish behaviour, out of his control and used primarily as a defensive reflex against the recurring violence of defenders. In fact, Suarez suffers greatly from his inability to deal with stressful and violent encounters and shouldn’t be paying for what is to be qualified as a psychological impairment. Furthermore, we believe the problem could be solved by less radical measures than a ban, for example we have suggested that Suarez could wear a muzzle in future games. We trust that the Appeal Committee will recognize the specificity of Suarez’s situation and show the required clemency. 

[1] First to the FIFA Appeal Committee under the procedure laid down in Articles 118-127

[2] In the unlikely (after our plea) case of a dismissal of his appeal by the Appeal Committee, Suarez can go to the CAS pursuant to article 64 3. FIFA Statutes

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