Uruguayan striker Luis SuÃ¡rez is a study in contrasts. He’s certainly one of the most talented soccer (or football, if you prefer) players in the world, and has had many great moments for both his country and his club team, Liverpool. But he’s also developed a reputation for having an unstable temper and a penchant for biting opponents, one that reared its head again on Tuesday when SuÃ¡rez appeared to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder in their final World Cup group stage match.
There could be some serious consequences for that action, and they aren’t limited to suspensions or fines. 888 Poker quickly announced that they would be reviewing their relationship with SuÃ¡rez, who just joined the organization as a brand ambassador in May.
As a worldwide superstar and a spectacular goal scorer, signing SuÃ¡rez was something of a coup for 888 Poker.
“[He is] an incredible sporting talent — passionate, competitive, technically gifted, and emotionally invested in the game,” said 888 senior vice president Itai Pazner at the time of the signing. “It’s those qualities that make him an exciting player to watch, in poker as well as football. It’s fantastic to have him on board.”
But even at the time of the announcement, 888 Poker was aware that SuÃ¡rez could also be something of a risk. While heralded worldwide for his talents, SuÃ¡rez had also already been twice suspended because of biting incidents: once for seven matches while playing at Ajax, and again for ten more games while at Liverpool.
While 888 Poker may have been willing to consider those deeds water under the bridge, this latest incident at the World Cup was enough to get them to take a second look at their relationship with SuÃ¡rez.
“Following the allegations made against Luis SuÃ¡rez in regards to his behaviour during Uruguay’s World Cup match against Italy, 888poker is seriously reviewing its relationship with the player as we will not tolerate any unsporting behaviour,” the company said in a statement.
The alleged bite marred a 1-0 win for Uruguay over Italy, a victory that saw them advance to the knockout rounds of the World Cup for the second consecutive time. Although it was initially unclear what had happened during play, replays appeared to conclusively show that SuÃ¡rez had bitten Chiellini, and the Italian revealed what appeared to be bite marks to a referee seconds after the incident.
No action was taken by officials during the game (likely because nobody directly saw the bite occur). FIFA has confirmed that they have opened disciplinary proceedings against SuÃ¡rez, who was given about a day to present evidence in his defense.
If he is found guilty, SuÃ¡rez must be suspended for a minimum of at least two games. This would put a serious damper on Uruguay’s aspirations of a deep run in the World Cup. The nation next plays Colombia on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals.
However, not everyone was disappointed with this turn of events. A small number of gamblers worldwide won prop bets after correctly predicting that SuÃ¡rez would bite someone during the World Cup. At least 38 individuals won such a bet at 174-1 odds on sports betting site Betsafe. The site says that the bets will be honored, with a spokesperson saying it was “obvious” that Suarez bit his opponent on the play.