Luis Suarez is set to learn his fate today as his lawyer claimed calls for the Uruguay striker to face a lengthy ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini were part of an Anglo-Italian conspiracy.
FIFA’s independent disciplinary committee met until late into the night on Wednesday without coming to a verdict on the case of the Liverpool striker, who has been charged with misconduct for his attack on Italy defender Chiellini.
Uruguayan federation (AUF) president Wilmar Valdez emerged from the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro shortly after midnight local time to say the hearing would continue on Thursday.
Valdez said: “We know they met for a long time but we don’t know if that means a good or a bad situation. They will continue in the morning.”
Suarez’s lawyer Alejandro Balbi, who is also an AUF board member travelled to Rio to defend Suarez.
Balbi told Uruguayan radio: “We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suarez involved and secondly because Italy have been eliminated. There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy.
“There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we’re convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suarez can show a bruised and an almost closed eye.
“If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them, everything will be way too complicated in the future. We’re going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way.
“You shouldn’t forget that we’re rivals of many and we can be for the hosts (Brazil) in the future. This does not go against what might have happened, but there’s no doubt that Suarez is a stone in the shoe for many.”
An outcome is expected well ahead of Uruguay’s match with Colombia on Saturday and Suarez’s sponsors, including adidas, are keeping a close eye on the verdict.
The video evidence appears damning and one senior FIFA official with experience of disciplinary cases, who asked to remain anonymous, believes the biting should be judged to be at least as serious as spitting. That offence carries a minimum six-game ban, which would result in Suarez’s World Cup being brought to an abrupt halt.
However there are influential voices who are trying to bring pressure to bear for the player to be dealt with more leniently. According to Uruguay newspaper Subrayado, the most powerful figures in South American football gathered in the Copacabana Palace to try to secure a much less severe sanction.
These included Argentina’s long-standing FIFA vice-president Julio Grondona, who is second only to Sepp Blatter in the pecking order of the game’s global governing body, the president of the South American confederation CONMEBOL, Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay and his long-serving predecessor Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.
The independent disciplinary panel, chaired by Swiss lawyer Claudio Sulser, has a range of sanctions available up to a 24-match ban or a two-year suspension from all football. A worldwide ban would impact on him playing for Liverpool but there is no precedent for such a sanction happening.
It remains unclear whether Suarez’s previous biting bans - 10 games for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and seven matches for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal - would be taken into consideration, but the panel do have that power if they wish.
A FIFA spokeswoman said: “They can take in all elements they deem necessary.”
Suarez has not appeared in person at the disciplinary hearing.
There are also reports that the Uruguay federation is claiming pictures of teeth marks on Chiellini’s shoulder were digitally altered.
Suarez is sponsored by adidas. Following his previous biting incident with Ivanovic, the company reminded the striker of his responsibilities.
Executives from the sportswear manufacturer met in Rio to discuss the latest incident on Wednesday.
An adidas spokesperson said: ‘’adidas is aware of the issue involving Luis Suarez. We await FIFA’s full investigation into this matter and will respond accordingly.’’
Gambling company 888poker announced it is “reviewing” its relationship with brand ambassador Suarez, saying: ‘’Following recent allegations made against Luis Suarez, we are reviewing our relationship with him. We will not tolerate unsporting behaviour.’’
Uruguay won the Group D encounter in Natal 1-0 to secure a last-16 clash against Colombia.
Suarez defended himself on Uruguayan television after the flashpoint, saying: “These situations happen on the pitch, we were both just inside the area, he struck me in the chest with his shoulder and he hit me in the eye as well.”
Chiellini, however, insists that Suarez knew exactly what he was doing and was dismayed that he was not sent off for his apparent actions.
The 29-year-old defender told Rai TV: “It was ridiculous not to send Suarez off, it is clear, clear-cut and there was the obvious dive afterwards because he knew very well that he did something that he shouldn’t have done.”