RIO DE JANEIRO — After a few days of reflection, Luis Suarez acknowledged what millions saw on TV – he did bite an opponent during a game at the World Cup. In addition, he said he’s sorry about it, and promised it will never happen again.
Ending a unified protest in Uruguay by everyone from Suarez to teammates, fans and even the country’s president that the star striker had done nothing wrong, the Liverpool player on Monday offered an apology to Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.
“I deeply regret what occurred,” Suarez said in a statement posted on Twitter. “I apologize to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family. … I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like (this).”
The Uruguay striker was banned for four months from all football by FIFA for biting the shoulder of Chiellini during the team’s 1-0 win over Italy in their group-stage game in Brazil. The incident was not spotted by the referee, and the Uruguayans’ victory sent them through to the second round while Italy was eliminated. It is the third time Suarez has been banned for biting an opponent, after similar incidents at both Ajax in the Dutch league and Liverpool in the English Premier League.
Chiellini responded on Twitter shortly after Suarez posted his statement, accepting the apology.
.@luis16suarez It's all forgotten. I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension.— Giorgio Chiellini (@chiellini) June 30, 2014
Suarez had originally denied wrongdoing in a written response to FIFA, and had been staunchly defended by teammates and Uruguayan officials. His apology could be taken into account by FIFA when it considers an appeal of the ban, which the Uruguayan federation has said it will file.
“After several days of being home with my family, I have had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect about the reality of what occurred during the Italy-Uruguay match,” the statement said. “(The) truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.”
Suarez was also suspended from Uruguay’s next nine international matches – the first of which was a 2-0 loss to Colombia in the round of 16 on Saturday.
Suarez had already returned home to Uruguay by then, and has received an outpouring of support from Uruguayan fans and even the country’s president, , the famously casual Jose Mujica, who tossed some earthy expletives at FIFA over the Suarez ban.
Mujica referred to FIFA as “bunch of old sons of whores” as he welcomed Uruguay’s team back from the World Cup on Sunday. He put his hand over his mouth in mock horror at the expletive, but when a journalist for state television station asked, he said, “Publish it.”
He also referred to FIFA’s stiff penalty on Uruguay’s star striker as “fascist,” though he said that Suarez could have been sanctioned with a lesser sentence.
The president’s comments reflect the angry mood in Uruguay, a small country that is proud of its outsized soccer accomplishments, which include two World Cup championships.