The Brazilian miracle had captivated millions of soccer fans for the past 13 days like a perfectly scripted serial.
Newly finished stadiums haven’t collapsed. Transportation systems haven’t ground to a halt. Protests have been minimal. Contrary to predictions, the 2014 World Cup has been a resounding success.
Then Luis Suarez lowered his head Tuesday.
The “Cannibal of Ajax” allegedly bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 80th minute of Uruguay’s dramatic 1-0 victory in Natal, Brazil, sending reverberations around the world.
The volatile Uruguayan striker is soccer’s biggest villain, having been suspended for twice biting players since 2010, and for using a racial slur against yet another opponent. A newspaper in Holland gave him the “cannibal” moniker after the first biting incident while he played for the big Dutch side Ajax.
As a result, it was difficult to give Suarez, 27, the benefit of doubt Tuesday when he put his face into Chiellini’s left shoulder.
Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez was not in position to see the play clear enough to send the Liverpool striker off. But Chiellini pleaded his case by pulling down his jersey to reveal bite marks.
To be fair, Suarez might not have bitten his opponent. It doesn’t matter. With his reputation Suarez should not have put his head into Chiellini’s body the way he did. Also, in a bit of play acting that puts a stain on soccer, Suarez immediately fell to the ground holding his face after his opponent crumpled to the pitch.
Suarez wasn’t hurt—other than perhaps realizing the wrath he was about to bring on himself and his sport.
In a World Cup where everything had been going so smoothly, it unraveled in an instant.
Not on Uruguay captain Diego Godin, whose header about a minute after the Suarez incident sent la Celeste into the round of 16.