RIO DE JANEIRO — As the world was judging Uruguay’s Luis Suarez for biting a player in the World Cup, his teammates, coaches and fans in his soccer-crazy country defended the star, blaming the foreign media, his Italian opponents and uneven treatment.
World Cup organizers scrambled Wednesday quickly decided on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.
“We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday.
A day after he tangled with defender Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez was coping well, according to the Uruguay football federation president.
“Luis is fine. He’s been through 1,001 battles,” Wilmar Valdez told the online site Tenfield.com. “We all know who Luis is, and that’s why we have to defend him.”
The bite – just before Uruguay scored the clinching goal to eliminate the four-time champion Italians –will now test FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s often-stated commitment to “fair play, discipline, respect.”
Blatter has pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.
Many are questioning where that leaves a player like Suarez, who has a history of disciplinary problems. Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committtee, will manage FIFA’s case against Suarez.
Sulser can choose to judge the offense within the scale of typical red-card incidents: A three-match ban may then be appropriate, banishing Suarez at least until the World Cup final should Uruguay advance that far.
The maximum penalty would be a ban of 24 international matches.
FIFA can also choose to ban Suarez for up to two years. That would cover club and international games and would ruin a widely speculated transfer to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Completing the case ahead of Saturday’s match could be complicated if Suarez appeals. That challenge could go direct to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for an urgent and binding ruling.
However, one option open to FIFA and Sulser to avoid that scenario is that a suspension of “fewer than three matches or of up to two months” cannot be appealed, according to FIFA rules.
10ThingstoSeeSports - Uruguay's Luis Suarez holds his teeth after running into Italy's Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan, File)×