By Jethro Mullen and James Masters
(CNN) — Luis Suarez, a player of unquestionable talent but with an unfortunate penchant for biting players, now faces disciplinary action from soccer’s governing body after he appeared to sink his teeth into an opponent yet again.
FIFA said Wednesday that it has begun proceedings after the Uruguay striker was accused of biting another player during his team’s World Cup victory over Italy a day earlier.
Television pictures showed Suarez dipping his head toward Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, sending both men tumbling to the ground. When the Italian defender eventually got up, he pulled down his shirt and furiously indicated he had been bitten on the shoulder.
Suarez, 27, has already been banned twice in his career for his wayward teeth. But those offenses happened in club-level games.
Tuesday’s incident was during soccer’s biggest spectacle, in front of an audience of millions. And whether he’s ultimately found guilty, Suarez’s teeth baring now takes its place in the annals of World Cup controversy, along with Diego Maradona’s hand goal and Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt.
Suarez and the Uruguayan Football Association have until 5 p.m. Brasilia time (4 p.m. ET) Wednesday “to provide their position and any documentary evidence they deem relevant” to the disciplinary proceedings, FIFA said.
Suarez, a mercurial player who has earned both accolades and ignominy in his career, could face a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years. It will probably be much less.
Former Italian international Mauro Tassotti was given an eight-match ban in 1994, the longest suspension in World Cup history, after breaking the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique.
And Zidane, the former France midfielder, was handed a three-match ban for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final.
After the game, which Uruguay won 1-0, Suarez said he simply collided with Chiellini’s shoulder.
“The only thing I know,” he said, “is that those are occurrences that happen on the pitch.”
‘Suarez is a sneak’
To a large extent, Uruguay’s fate at the World Cup rests on Suarez.
Forced to undergo surgery, he missed Uruguay’s opening game against Costa Rica. His team lost.
He made a dramatic return in time to face England just five weeks after his operation — and scored both goals in the South American side’s 2-1 win.
Then came Tuesday’s faceoff with Italy. The two teams were scoreless in the first half. Then came the controversial tussle. Moments later, Uruguay’s Diego Godin scored the match’s only goal.
Despite vigorous objection from the Italian players, the Mexican referee refused to look at Chiellini’s shoulder, or penalize Suarez. (In yet another bizarre coincidence, the Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez is known as “Dracula” for his apparent resemblance to the actor who plays the character in a TV show there).
“Suarez is a sneak and he gets away with it because FIFA want their stars to play in the World Cup,” Chiellini told Sky Sports Italia afterward.
“I’d love to see if they have the courage to use video evidence against him. The referee saw the bite mark too, but he did nothing about it.”
Facing criticism again
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce, who also presides as head of the organization’s referees committee, said he had serious concerns over Suarez’s actions.
“I have watched the incident several times on television,” he said. “There is no doubt Luis Suarez is a fantastic footballer but, once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said he didn’t spot the incident but would like to see images of it.
“And if it happened, the referee probably didn’t see it,” he said. “So no, I don’t have any more comments to make. We had more important things than this in a football match.”
But he suggested that Suarez was being singled out by the media.
“There seems there is animosity against this football player,” Tabarez said. “He just came out of a difficult moment and he has been penalized. There are people hiding behind the tree waiting for something to happen.”
Defended by captain
The Uruguay team captain, Diego Lugano, blamed Chiellini for exaggerating the episode.
When asked by reporters about the incident, he said, “You saw this, really?
“You need to show me because I didn’t see anything.
“Did you see it today or did you see what happened in other years. You couldn’t have seen it today because nothing happened.
“The worst of everything is the attitude of Chiellini. He’s a great player, with an enormous status. It doesn’t correspond with Italian football. As sportsmen leaving the field, crying and appealing against a rival. As a man he disappointed me totally.”
The Uruguayan, who plays his club football with Liverpool, was banned for 10 games in April 2013 after being found guilty of biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
He was also guilty of biting during his time in the Netherlands with Ajax where he was banned for seven games after leaving a scar on the collarbone of Otman Bakkal.
Suarez’s rap sheet is lengthy.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he deliberately handled the ball on the goal-line to deny Ghana a place in the semifinals of the World Cup.
He was sent off for his troubles but Ghana missed the penalty and Uruguay went on to finish third in the tournament.
The following year after his move to Liverpool, Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
He was fined $63,000 and banned for eight matches.
Last week, after scoring both goals in the game against England, Suarez hit out at the British media after claiming he had been unfairly treated over his transgressions.
“Before the game people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years,” he said.
“I want to see what they think now. I have dreamed of this moment.”
Suarez enjoyed a sensational season with Liverpool — scoring 31 league goals to help his club qualify for the Champions League.
He was voted Player of the Year by his fellow colleagues and also named as the journalists’ Player of the Year too — awards that reflected a feeling that Suarez had put his troubled past behind him.
But all those controversies came rushing back to haunt him Tuesday.
His tangle with Chiellini appears to have put his participation in the rest of the World Cup in serious doubt.
In this case, he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
CNN’s Chris Eldergill contributed to this report.
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