Disgraced Luis Suarez has returned home to Uruguay to a hero’s welcome despite being kicked out of the World Cup.
Standing on the deck of his mother’s home in Lagomar, near Montevideo, he looked carefree as waved to crowds while holding his son Benjamin and daughter Delfina.
While Benjamin might not yet be old enough to know not to sink his teeth into others, perhaps Delfina could teach her father a thing or two about acceptable behaviour.
Suarez’s return came as his team-mates trained in Rio ahead of their clash with Colombia and news that Liverpool are set to sell him to Barcelona for £80million.
Fans flocked to Carrasco International Airport to greet the arrival of the banned striker who was handed a nine-game international ban and four-month suspension from all football.
Supporters turned out in force to greet the Liverpool star, with some wearing masks as a tribute.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica was at the airport at one point, but returned home because Suarez’s flight was delayed.
Because of the delay, the crowd of about 1,000 fans were moved from the airport terminal to an adjacent air force base to await his arrival.
Suarez was earlier seen with the rest of the team in Rio as they were pictured arriving at their hotel.
The Uruguayan Football Association are preparing an appeal against the severity of the sentence, which also includes a £64,000 fine. But there is no chance of Suarez appearing at Brazil 2014 again.
FIFA’s strict regulations barring him from any involvement in football mean he cannot even watch Liverpool or Uruguay in action — he is banned from football stadiums and must train alone away from Liverpool’s Melwood training ground.
Suarez can be sold during his spell in football exile — a strong possibility — but cannot personally join in negotiations in mooted moves to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Liverpool are taking specialist legal advice before deciding what to do about Suarez — a world-class footballer who comes with more baggage than any other elite star. Given the length of his ban, Liverpool, who have not been contacted by FIFA or the Uruguay FA, feel aggrieved to be punished for something in which they had no part. The news was greeted with dismay by the club’s owners in Boston.
Uruguay FA president Wilmar Valdez said: ‘We are preparing our appeal to present to FIFA in the next few hours. It’s an extremely excessive punishment, there was not enough evidence and I have seen more aggressive incidents. It feels like Uruguay have been thrown out of the World Cup. We all know what Suarez means to Uruguay and to football around the world. Luis will travel home to recover with his family.’
Following this third, high-profile biting incident, it is no surprise that Suarez’s major sponsor adidas are thinking of ditching him. He has already been punished for racially abusing Patrice Evra and biting Branislav Ivanovic.
A statement said: ‘Adidas does not condone Luis Suarez’s recent behaviour and we will again be reminding him of the high standards we expect from our players. We have no plan to use Suarez for any additional marketing activities during the World Cup. We will discuss all aspects of our future partnership directly with Suarez and his team after the tournament.’
Another of Suarez’s backers, 888poker, are likely to drop him, with a spokesman saying: ‘888poker is seriously reviewing its relationship with the player as we will not tolerate unsporting behaviour.’
The independent FIFA disciplinary committee, chaired by Claudio Sulser of Switzerland, reached the decision to hand Suarez a World Cup record ban after 10 hours of talks spread over Wednesday night and Thursday morning before it was announced at FIFA’s daily briefing at the Maracana. The player and the Uruguay FA had been informed minutes beforehand. The suspension starts with immediate effect.
The committee took into account that this was the third time Suarez had bitten an opponent. His first victim was PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in 2010, for which he received a seven-match ban, and then Chelsea’s Ivanovic in 2013, which brought a 10-game ban.
Sulser said: ‘Such behaviour cannot be tolerated and in particular not at a World Cup when the eyes of millions are on the stars on the field. The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suarez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the code.’
The Uruguayan media claimed that Sulser’s committee had come under pressure from South American football chiefs, including the English-hating Argentinian football president Julio Grondona, not to punish Suarez too severely.
But FIFA insisted that there was no interference at all in the process. The world body’s president Sepp Blatter had been in Manaus watching Switzerland beat Honduras and flew back to Rio while the Suarez hearing was going on. Meanwhile, the Football Writers’ Association, who made Suarez their player of the year last season, decided not to strip the Liverpool star of his title.
Uruguay face Colombia in the last 16 on Saturday Central defender Jose Maria Gimenez said the team were ‘more united than ever’, while the country’s sports minister Liliam Kechichian commented: ‘We are hurt by this excessive sanction. Now let’s see how we can help this human being and whether the group can show its class and its love for La Celeste.’
Britain’s FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce said: ‘The punishment is fully justified. Hopefully he will realise now that behaviour of this type will not be tolerated.’