Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Punishing Liverpool over Luis Suarez leaves a sour taste

Luis Suarez has been banned from all football activity for four months
Luis Suarez has been banned from all football activity for four months

Fifa had a big decision to make over Luis Suarez and in my book they got it wrong.

Okay, maybe that is being a little harsh... they got it half right.

I agree entirely with their ruling to ban the striker for nine international games. That is a strong punishment, and the correct one given his disgraceful bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini came when he was wearing a Uruguay shirt.

My problem with Fifa comes from the fact that they have given the player a four month worldwide ban which, by my reckoning, means he misses nine Premier League games plus Champions League and League Cup matches for Liverpool.

How can it be right that Suarez will miss more Liverpool games than Uruguay games? I see that as unfair and a massive punishment for the Anfield club.

I think when those in Fifa who made the decision look at the various numbers of matches the player will miss for club and country, they will slowly realise that they don't add up.

Of course I can see Fifa's point and understand that they had to send out a message that biting an opponent is totally unacceptable, as I wrote earlier this week, and they certainly did that, but Liverpool being punished more than Uruguay seems odd.

Liverpool felt after his last biting controversy with Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic that they had sorted Suarez (pictured) out, so they will have been stunned to see him do it again and shocked once more with how this punishment hurts them.

Brendan Rodgers has to deal with the fall out now.

If I was in Brendan's shoes I would go and speak to Suarez, put my arm around him and try and help the guy eradicate the flaw in the character that makes him snap in such outrageous fashion.

Knowing what he can do on the field when he keeps his head, I would attempt to keep him in the fold.

That will be difficult though with clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid ready to tempt the striker. I doubt whether the biting will put them off, though if they do sign him I'd think they would write something into his contract about his standards of behaviour.

In terms of his football, how will it affect him? If anything, and excuse the pun here, I think all of this will make him hungrier.

Suarez should be feeling sad and foolish right now, realising that he has let everyone down.

I just hope with the right help that he will finally learn his lesson. Maybe if he had held his hands up and said sorry for his moment of madness, Fifa's punishment would not have been so severe.

He wasn't helped by those around him in the Uruguay squad who were coming up with ridiculous statements such as there was some sort of a European conspiracy against Suarez.

I've heard a lot of rubbish talked in football over the years, but that was up there with the worst of it.

Cap on foreign stars can benefit England

By now, Roy Hodgson and the England players are back at home licking their wounds after early elimination from the World Cup.

While some people in Northern Ireland are glad about that, I'm disappointed because I wanted them to stick around in the tournament.

Watching England in recent years at big tournaments, I do feel it is becoming harder for them to compete at the highest level.

It may be controversial, but in my opinion there is one thing that the game in England could do to instantly give themselves a better chance in future World Cups, and that is to restrict the number of foreigners playing in the Premier League.

There are too many for the good of the English national team and other home nations like Northern Ireland.

It is fantastic seeing foreign players turning on the style in the Premier League, but you look at all the teams in the top flight and they are full of non home nations players, which starves young English, Northern Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Republic players of the oxygen they need to become better players, leading to them struggle when they are involved at the highest level of international football.

The Premier League is great to watch and has become a massive commercial success across the world, but to the detriment of our international teams.

English football has to decide which is more important — a strong domestic league which is the envy of the world or a strong international team which can compete at the highest level.

The way things are now, the Premier League seems the priority and with so many foreign owners coming in, it may not change. The England team isn't going to matter to them, is it?

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