Uruguay striker Luis Suarez should be publicly condemned for his latest attempt to bite another football player – however, he should not be banned from football.
For yet again behaving like a toddler in a professional sporting contest, he should be shamed, ridiculed and pilloried from post to goalpost. He should be mocked by British tabloid newspapers, photoshopped as Hannibal Lecter in Internet memes and compared to a stray dog in inter-office emails.
But he should not be banned from the rest of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In fact, he should be privately congratulated by the FIFA top brass.
This World Cup is already being called the best ever. It has had it all. Exciting games, a lot of goals and the right amount of upsets.
It is, however, lacking one thing: a pantomime villain.
Luis Suarez is the perfect pantomime villain. He is very good at football, but is a swarthy, physically unattractive latino man who likes to play on the edge of legality.
This latest incident is Suarez’ third recorded bite in recent years. There may be other bites, or biting attempts, that we don’t know about. We do know that as a junior footballer he head-butted a referee. He has form when it comes to being a bad guy.
The World Cup needs bad guys and it needs Luis Suarez.
Billions of people across the globe enjoy watching sport – and the World Cup – because it boils down life’s challenges into a simple game. There are two sides, a clear set of rules and a definitive result (win, lose or draw).
In other words, sport provides a calm, reassuring an escape from most people’s chaotic, unpredictable and often miserable lives.
The narrative of sport, and the football World Cup in particular, further helps explain its popularity. We watch it because we enjoy the allegory. We revel in the characters, the David v Goliath battles, and of course the duality of the battle between hero and pantomime villain.
Suarez is exactly what this World Cup needs. He is the anti-hero to the media-hype-machine-produced Neymar. If Suarez is banned from the rest of the tournament, the public will be deprived of one of the great character-driven battles of the World Cup. Perfectly-coiffed local playboy Neymar versus deranged Uruguayan cheat Suarez in the Quarter Final.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter should condemn Luis Suarez’s behaviour, but he should not ban him. Instead, he should take Suarez aside, thank him for his contribution to the World Cup and ask that he tries to bite Neymar’s new haircut in the Quarter Final.
Because it will help with TV audiences.
By Ben Shine