Football

Fifa: Suarez needs help

Luis Suarez faced mounting calls to seek professional treatment, even as the banned Uruguay striker's bite victim claimed his punishment had been too harsh.

Suarez returned home to a hero's welcome in Montevideo this morning (Singapore time), after being kicked out of the World Cup for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.

It is the third time in four years that Suarez has been sanctioned for biting.

Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke led calls for Suarez to seek help, brushing off suggestions that the Liverpool star's four-month worldwide ban from all football activity was too severe.

Asked if he had a message for Suarez, Valcke told reporters: "I think he should find a way to stop doing it.

"He should go through a treatment. It is definitely wrong."

The international professional footballers' union FIFPro said in a statement that Fifa should have made mandatory treatment part of its sanction.

"Luis Suarez should receive all the support he needs to deal with any off-field issues he may be experiencing at this time," FIFPro said.

"This means that the focus should be on the rehabilitation and serious treatment of the player. FIFPro believes that treatment must be a part of any sanction."

Italy defender Chiellini expressed sympathy for Suarez and criticised Fifa's punishment, which is the heaviest ever imposed on a player during a World Cup.

"I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive," said Chiellini on his website.

But Valcke said: "You will always find someone who says it's excessive. It's not only him who says it's excessive.

"They are decisions which are made by the disciplinary committee, based on what they have seen.

"It is not what you want your kids, the little ones who are playing football around the world, to see in a football game at the level of the World Cup, or any level - amateur football or professional football."

FAREWELL

Suarez, 27, bid farewell to his team-mates as they prepared for tomorrow morning's last-16 game with Colombia.

But Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said that Suarez's absence from the showdown between the sides will not affect his team's approach.

He said: "These are top-level opponents that we're facing. It's a very experienced team with a lot of abilities and a wonderful coach (Oscar Tabarez), who've had a successful cycle in the last few years. They're going to be difficult opponents."

Suarez's ban extends beyond the football pitch.

He could not stay at the team hotel, and will not even be allowed in a stadium where Uruguay are playing during the four months.

Uruguayans have rallied behind the shamed goalscorer, however.

Hundreds of fans, carrying banners with slogans such as "Luis, All Of Uruguay Is With You", were waiting for the Liverpool striker in Montevideo.

"He has been treated worse than a murderer, when it was just a mistake," one of the fans at the airport told AFP.

President Jose Mujica was also at the airport, and intended to greet the star striker. He left because Suarez's flight was delayed.

Suarez was driven away to his mother's home in Canelones.

Fallout from Suarez's ban spread quickly, with gambling website 888 Poker terminating its sponsorship deal with the player.

Sports equipment giant adidas said it was stopping the use of Suarez in advertisements during the World Cup. The company said it "fully" backed Fifa's ban.

British media speculated that the sanctions could wipe a substantial amount Suarez's value, if Liverpool decide to sell him. The English club have yet to comment on the case, insisting they were waiting to see Fifa's report.

Spanish media said that Barcelona remained interested in Suarez despite the scandal. Barcelona refused to comment on the reports that Suarez's lawyer would hold talks with the club.

After Suarez scored two goals against England, media reports said Barcelona and Real Madrid would be ready to offer 100 million euros ($170m) for the striker - triggering a release clause in his Liverpool contract. - AFP.

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