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Why Luis Suarez Is the Latest Victim of Football's Moral Hypocrisy

07/07/2014 16:26 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 10:59 BST

The reaction to Luis Suarez's bite on Giorgio Chiellini has been, on the whole, fairly startling. Here's a couple of choice quotes:

"Why not give him a complete ban from international football for the rest of his life?"

"If you ever do this again, you must be banned - for life".

The ranting of fans on internet message boards? No, those were the words of former Liverpool striker John Aldridge and ex-England boss Glenn Hoddle. Men who are respected within football, advocating life bans for a bite.

What Suarez did was unquestionably wrong and he shouldn't get away scot-free. I don't think that anybody (apart from perhaps the man himself) would argue with that.

But the reaction has been almost comically out of proportion. To put it into a little context, Pepe was sent off for headbutting Thomas Muller in Portugal's opening game. He got a red card and was banned for a single game before returning with zero outcry. Why is a bite different? Both are deliberate violent acts, neither have an affect on the outcome of the game and neither cause any real injury.

It's true that a bite is rarer than a headbutt, but that shouldn't make a jot of difference. Bicycle kick goals don't count double just because they're unusual, why should an unusual foul?

Suarez has had his differences of opinion with the wider British public before and it does appear to be predominantly the British public and press who are overreacting to the situation.

The issue is an insidious problem in British football that rears its ugly head time and time again: the idea that fouls are only okay if you throw your whole body into them 'honestly', the good old fashioned British foul.

It's a ridiculous attitude that allows and even encourages genuinely dangerous tackles while dishing out overly harsh punishments to unpleasant, but ultimately less harmful 'crimes' like biting and diving.

Possibly the worst example of this culture is the disparity between the reaction to Suarez today and the reaction to Roy Keane's challenge on Alf-Inge Haaland.

Some of you will be familiar with the story already, but it bears repeating. A feud had built up between Haaland and some of United's players, one which had festered over a number of years. When Haaland and Keane met on the pitch in a Manchester derby in 2001, the Irishman lost the little cool he ever had. To quote his autobiography: "I'd waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***."

Haaland only ever played another 48 minutes of professional football as he never really recovered from the effects of the challenge. Keane got a three game ban, although the FA added another five games when his comments about the incident came out a year or so later.

So to recap. Keane admitted to deliberately injuring another player, contributed to the end of said player's career, had absolutely no remorse over the incident (choice quote: "He got his just rewards") and was banned for a total of eight matches. Luis Suarez, on the other hand, caused a man momentary discomfort from a bite to the shoulder and is banned from all "football related activities" for four months. Keane is a legend of English football, Suarez is a pantomime villain.

But then, that's the key phrase, isn't it? Keane's a legend of English football. Very few other footballing cultures would react in the way that we have, examined beautifully by Aldo Mazzucchelli in a fantastic piece in the Guardian that shows the culture gap between English football and much of the rest of the world.

As he says, the English didn't invent the game, we just created the rules to fit our way of playing and twisted sense of "honour", forcing the rest of the world to reluctantly go along with them.

If there should be four month bans being thrown around, they should be for players who fly into dangerous tackles and risk the health and livelihoods of their fellow professionals. It says a lot about the "hard-tackling culture" that when referee Graham Poll was asked to name the 10 worst tackles he'd ever seen, only one was committed by a player from outside Britain and Ireland.

That is a serious problem in football. One player biting another is not. And English football will be an international laughing stock until we can figure that out.

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