London : Uruguay’s volatile football star Luis Suarez’s propensity for biting opponents stems from his under-privileged childhood, a leading sports psychologist told the BBC.
The 27-year-old Liverpool striker — who has been banned for lengthy periods for two previous biting incidents — is alleged to have bitten Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in their World Cup Group D game on Tuesday.
Governing body FIFA are investigating the incident and if found guilty of biting he could face a ban of up to 24 matches.
“The formative years of people’s development do contribute to their personality. If you look at his history, Suarez had a fairly hard upbringing — he was one of seven children born into poverty. He must have been fighting for survival all the time and became streetwise,” Dr Tom Fawcett from Salford University told the BBC on Wednesday.
TV images showed Suarez bending his head down and sinking his jaws into Chiellini’s shoulder and then immediately afterwards sitting on the ground fiddling with his teeth.
“If it’s happened before, it’ll happen again,” Fawcett said. “Despite all the help, he’s going to do it again.”
The psychologist said that Suarez required more help than just spending some time undergoing therapy with people such as him as the problem was so deeply etched in his psyche. “I would suggest he is hard-wired in this way,” said Fawcett. “It’s not something that’s going to come out of his character after a few sessions with a psychologist.
Fawcett didn’t offer up much hope that this problem would be resolved any time soon.
“It’s in the man. I would think that in five years’ time, if there a certain nerve is hit in a different situation, he would react in the same way.”
Suarez, who had shown his better side when he scored twice in the 2-1 win over England, had shrugged off the incident when he spoke to Uruguayan TV after the game.
“These are just things that happen out on the pitch,” the striker told Channel 10. “It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder, and that’s why my eye is swollen.’’
Fawcett added that Suarez’s temperament could not cope with high octane encounters where there was a lot at stake. “He’s a talented footballer but very vulnerable in intense situations, and Italy versus Uruguay was always going to be hot-tempered,” said Fawcett.
The Uruguayan Football Association has until 2000 GMT on Wednesday to respond to the bite allegations.
The incident sparked a storm of debate on social media, including among England fans, whose team Suárez helped boot out of the World Cup last week. Some were immediately comparing the Uruguayan player to the shark from Jaws and a vampire. If Suárez is found guilty he could be facing the longest ban in World Cup history.
Zinedine Zidane of France was also given a three-match ban for headbutting Marco Materazzi of Italy in the 2006 final.