Been off duty for the past few days on account of my North Indian travels, trekking, drinking and making fun of Punjabi men listening to Honey Singh, while making sure that the Punjabi men can't hear me making fun of them. It won't result in a fight. It will result in a massacre.
Anyway, onto things football related, and unfortunately, while the World Cup is proceeding entertainingly, Luis Suarez is being spoken of more than the actual matches. The truth of tabloid journalism plaguing football is that controversies take precedence over the actual game, and so if Luis Suarez bites an opposing team player, for the third time in his career, most of the news is devoted to him.
So let's talk about that for a bit. The first thoughts that come to mind when thinking about Suarez biting Chiellini are something along the lines of 'that's pretty fucking weird'. Period. I mean this is a grown man biting someone. It's as ludicrous as it is scandalous. The fact that it was in the middle of a hugely important game, a must win, makes it all the more inexcusable. In the light of the same, FIFA banning him for 4 months from any football related activity seems quite alright.
I get Uruguayan supporters supporting him, especially considering the way they got knocked out of the World Cup. I get Liverpool fans supporting him. He's a fantastic player, a player who almost single-handedly got them close to winning the Premier League title when people didn't think they'd even qualify for the Champions League. Football has always been a game of Gods, we worship them, love them and forgive their indiscretions. Eric Cantona kicked a fan in the stadium, Zidane headbutted a player, and these guys are still thought of as all time greats. So I get it when fans of the player want to support him. But any statements that the ban is for too long, or the scrutiny too harsh for a bite, 'it's only a bite after all' are unfounded and kind of devoid of the point.
Luis Suarez bit someone! This is a grown man biting another man, something 5 year olds don't do normally. And he's almost made a habit of it. To put it in another context, imagine you walking into office tomorrow, under a lot of pressure, and biting someone? In what world is that acceptable? As oft-mentioned, football at the end of the day a profession, and Luis Suarez is a professional. Can you think of any profession wherein you can one fine day just bite a rival? Yup, didn't think so.
There was an article published in the immediate aftermath stating that 'it was only a bite', arguing for some perspective on the grounds that it's not as if Suarez broke someone's leg, or injured someone in a gruesome manner. While all that is true, and my personal belief is that when a player like Ryan Shawcross breaks someone's leg the punishment should be a lot longer than the three match ban, it doesn't take away from the fact that biting is not acceptable in general everyday life, let alone in football. Suarez has missed an awful lot of football, something which could have been avoided by simply not biting another human being. It really can't be that hard. Look, a player is in front of you, all you have to do is not bite him. It's that simple. Normal adults don't do it, children don't do it, and most domesticated dogs don't do it.
The worst part about this entire affair is the only reason Suarez is even being offered any kind of support is that because he is an exceptional player. Imagine if Chamakh had bit someone, would he receive similar support? Our footballing culture is such that in 4 months time, when Suarez steps back onto the pitch, he'll be given a heroes welcome, and the sad irony is that most people would want a player of his talent playing for their team. He's a fantastic footballer, a winner, although what part of biting someone leads to a goal being scored, I'll never know. If anything is clear is that Suarez needs some form of counselling, and hopefully 4 months is adequate time to exorcise his inner Edward Cullen.
Now speaking about actual football, Columbia and Brazil are through to the quarters, along with Netherlands and Costa Rica. Brazil beat Chile on penalties, and in a hugely entertaining game, Chile deserved to win as much as Brazil. They hit the post in extra time, and in the penalty shootout. Sanchez of course hit a lovely goal (can we please get him Arsene?), and then missed a penalty.
The other team which really did deserve to go through was Mexico. Dos Santos scored a really lovely goal, and the Mexican defence almost did a brilliant job keeping out the Dutch-scumbag duo of Robben and Robin van Persie. It's really hard to like a team with a player like Robin in it, and when you add a disgusting player like Robben to the same team, it makes for my most hated team of the tournament. The first goal scored by Netherlands was a pretty good one actually, Sneijder shooting a scorcher, despite the fact that it was a defensive lapse. The second Netherlands goal, a penalty was one that can easily be avoided. Robben had been diving through the entirety of the match, and of course he was going to go down with the slightest of touches. The defender should obviously have been more careful since Robben's thieving reputation precedes him. Could Robben have stayed on his feet since the touch was minimal? Of course. Can anyone expect him to? Of course not. The defender really should have known better, and he is at fault for conceding a penalty in the dying stages of the game. It was a really cruel blow to the Mexican team, a team that clearly deserved much more. Alas, such is life.
And in the final match of the night (one that I kept napping through, stupid time difference), Costa Rica beat Greece on penalties to advance to the quarterfinals. This has been an absolute dream journey for this little team. Even if they don't progress any further (and I really hope they do), this World Cup will be memorable for this little team that could. Rewind to even a month back, and no one would have believed that in a group which included Italy, England and Uruguay, Costa Rica would be the team that reaches the quarters. They're not the most talented of the lot, but it's a team that's much greater than the sum of its parts. There's clear cohesion, desire and in a World Cup where players are being paid a bonus of 3 million just to play, a team like Costa Rica is heartening to see. That's really what football should be about. Of course, it does help that the Arsenal youngster is the star of the team (even if he was anonymous for large parts of last nights game). Hopefully he'll put in a great performance in the quarters.
Tonight we've got France v. Nigeria and Germany v. Algeria, the outcome of both matches not particularly hard to predict. I'll write in tomorrow on the same. Try not to bite anyone in the meanwhile.