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 to quickly decide on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia on Saturday in the round of 16.
“We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday. “It’s our duty to see justice done.”
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, who was in the crowd for the Uruguay-Italy match at Natal, has pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.
Valdez said Uruguay officials were sent a video of the incident by FIFA, and would respond with footage showing Suarez — a striker for Liverpool and last season’s player of the year in England’s Premier League — as a victim of Italian aggression.
“When he falls, several substitutes insult him on the ground and some members of Italy’s staff even came out of the bench to try to hit him,” Valdez said, suggesting FIFA could investigate Italy.
Norwegian wins bet on Suarez World Cup bite
Suarez’s practice of biting opponents seems to be a safe bet.
More than 150 people across Europe put money down that he would do it again during the World Cup, and raked in winnings 175-fold, a Swedish gambling company said on Wednesday.
The biggest win went to a punter in Norway whose bonanza amounted to 2,000 euros ($2,700), while someone else in that Scandinavian country took home $916, Betsson group spokesman Mikael Mellqvist said.
In Sweden, Mats Johansson posted his betting ticket on Twitter and thanked Suarez for the 1,750 kronor ($260) he got after putting up 10 Swedish kronor.
Norwegian media identified one of the winners as Thomas Syversen, who reportedly was asleep during the Uruguay-Italy game Tuesday when Suarez allegedly bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the left shoulder.
“This is probably the sickest bet I have made, not to mention the sickest bet I have won,” Syversen was quoted as saying by the Norwegian Dagbladet daily.
FIFA: Ghana requests World Cup prize money early
Ghana’s cash-strapped football association has asked for an advance on the $8 million prize money it is guaranteed from the World Cup to pay outstanding debts to players.
FIFA said Wednesday that Ghana’s request was “under evaluation.”
FIFA’s statement appeared to contradict Ghana’s deputy sports minister, who said that as much as $3 million in cash would be flown into Brazil from the West African nation to finally pay the bonuses to unhappy players and avert a possible player strike.
It wasn’t clear how Ghana would bring such a large amount of cash into the country without declaring it and paying tax on it in line with Brazilian law.
World Cup prize money — which ranges in Brazil from $8 million for being knocked out in the group stage to $35 million for winning the title — is normally paid after the tournament.
The Ghana Football Association insisted that the problem had been resolved after intervention by Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who had spoken to players and guaranteed they would get their money by Wednesday afternoon, the GFA said.
Photo op leaves Brazil fans feeling green
Fans visiting Brazil’s training camp are lining up for a smashing photo opportunity with a huge statue of the superhero Hulk dressed in a national team jersey.
The statue, located in front of a restaurant just outside the training camp, wears the Selecao’s yellow No. 7, the number worn by the striker who goes by the same name.
“We came to try to see the players, but if they don’t let us, at least we got a photo with someone who we know is part of the team,” joked 17-year-old Brazilian fan Luana de Aguiar.
Brazil’s training sessions in the mountain city of Teresopolis, about an hour from Rio, have been closed to fans, although hundreds show up at the gates every day to try to get a glimpse of their idols.