Fifa has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Uruguay striker Luis Suárez after he appeared to bite Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.
“Fifa can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the player Luis Suárez of Uruguay,” the body said in a statement. Suárez could face a ban of up to 24 matches if found guilty.
The incident occurred during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy, a result that knocked the 2006 champions out of the World Cup. With the score at 0-0, Suárez leaned into Chiellini before appearing to bite his opponent’s shoulder. Suárez was not punished by the referee but Fifa said the proceedings related to any “infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention”.
Earlier in the day, senior Fifa official Michel D’Hooge told the BBC that “biting is not compatible with normal football practice”.
Jim Boyce, Fifa’s vice-president and head of the body’s referees committee, also took a dim view of the incident.
“I have watched the incident several times on television. There is no doubt Luis Suárez is a fantastic footballer but, once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism,” said Boyce. “Fifa must investigate the incident seriously and take whatever disciplinary action deemed necessary.”
Suárez defended himself on Uruguayan television after the match. “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,” he said. “These are things that happen on the pitch and you shouldn't attach so much importance to them. I'm very happy to have qualified. We are taking each game as it comes. We know that we're in a difficult situation; we're at our limits now.”
Some sources in Uruguay believe he has been targeted unfairly. The website of the Uruguayan TV station Tenfield questioned whether the pressure on Suárez was brought about by the British media.
“In the TV replay, as viewed in the press area, it appears that [Suárez’s] face comes in contact with Chiellini without it being clear whether he bites him as was claimed by those – especially the English – who were keen to play down Uruguay’s victory.
“British reporters in the press conference asked from the World Cup … It would be good if these Englishmen, who are concerned to have Suárez suspended, remember how they won the World Cup in 1966 with a ball which was not a goal.”
Suárez has been involved in two biting incidents in the past. He was banned for 10 matches in 2013 for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and in 2010 while playing for Ajax he was given a seven-game suspension for biting PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal.
Fifa said Suárez and the Uruguayan football association have until 5pm Brasilia time (9pm BST) on Wednesday to “provide their position and any documentary evidence they deem relevant”.