Sport World Cup

Sunday 21 September 2014

Luis Suarez' lawyer flies to Rio to present bite defence and says his client is being targeted

Martin Ziegler

Published 25/06/2014 | 17:28

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Joey Barton believes Luis Suarez is a winner who occasionally crosses the line
Luis Suarez
The alleged biting incident
Liverpool have refused to comment on Luis Suarez's latest flashpoint
Liverpool have refused to comment on Luis Suarez's latest flashpoint

Luis Suarez's previous record for biting may be used in evidence against him when disciplinary chiefs consider the case against him for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, FIFA has confirmed.

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Suarez's lawyer Alejandro Balbi, who is also a Uruguay FA board member, has travelled to Rio de Janeiro to defend the Liverpool striker and has suggested there is a European campaign against him led by England and Italy.

The case is expected to be dealt with swiftly and an outcome well ahead of Uruguay's match with Italy on Saturday. Suarez's sponsors including adidas are keeping a close eye on the outcome.

The video evidence appears damning and one senior FIFA official with experience of disciplinary cases, who asked to remain anonymous, believes the biting should be judged to be at least as serious as spitting, which carries a minimum six-game ban which would see Suarez's World Cup brought to an abrupt end.

The independent disciplinary panel, chaired by Swiss lawyer Claudio Sulser, has a range of sanctions available up to 24-match ban or a two-year suspension from all football. A worldwide ban would impact on his playing for Liverpool but there is no precedent for such a sanction happening.

It remains unclear whether Suarez's previous biting bans - 10 games for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and seven matches for biting PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal - would be taken into consideration, but the panel do have that power if they wish.

A FIFA spokeswoman said: "They can take in all elements they deem necessary."

Suarez was not due to appear in person at the disciplinary hearing, but his lawyer and Uruguay FA president Wilmar Valdez will present his defence.

There are also reports that they will claim pictures of teeth-marks on Chiellini's shoulder were digitally altered.

Suarez's lawyer suggested there was a conspiracy against his client.

Balbi told Uruguayan radio: "We don't have any doubts that this has happened because it's Suarez involved and secondly because Italy have been eliminated. There's a lot of pressure from England and Italy.

"There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we're convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suarez can show a bruised and an almost closed eye.

"If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them everything will be way too complicated in the future. We're going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way.

"You shouldn't forget that we're rivals of many and we can be for the hosts [Brazil] in the future. This does not go against what might have happened, but there's no doubt that Suarez is a stone in the shoe for many."

Suarez and the Uruguayan FA have been given until 5pm local time (9pm BST) on Wednesday to provide evidence to support his case after the incident in the latter stages of the Group D encounter in Natal, which Uruguay won 1-0 to secure a last-16 clash against Colombia.

Suarez defended himself on Uruguayan television after the flashpoint, saying: "These situations happen on the pitch, we were both just inside the area, he struck me in the chest with his shoulder and he hit me in the eye as well."

Chiellini, however, insists that Suarez knew exactly what he was doing and was dismayed that he was not sent off for his apparent actions.

The 29-year-old defender told Rai TV: "It was ridiculous not to send Suarez off, it is clear, clear-cut and there was the obvious dive afterwards because he knew very well that he did something that he shouldn't have done."

FIFA's disciplinary committee met immediately after the match and announced in the early hours of Wednesday that Suarez has been charged with misconduct.

Suarez is sponsored by adidas who, following his previous biting incident with Ivanovic, reminded the striker of his responsibilities.

Executives from the sportswear manufacturer met in Rio to discuss the latest incident on Wednesday.

An adidas spokesperson said: "adidas is aware of the issue involving Luis Suarez. We await FIFA's full investigation into this matter and will respond accordingly."

Gambling company 888poker announced they are "reviewing" their relationship with brand ambassador Suarez, saying: "Following recent allegations made against Luis Suarez, we are reviewing our relationship with him. We will not tolerate unsporting behaviour."

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