Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was punished by FIFA for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup. FIFA has banned the player from participating in any football related activities for four months, including going to practice and watching games at the stadium.
Team mate Diego Lugano called the ban barbaric and a violation of Suarez’ human rights.
Now there’s something to consider. The right to work as enshrined in the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”
Surely this was written with people in mind who would otherwise be condemned to poverty, starvation and a life of no hope? With an estimated nett worth of 34 million USD, only two things have been taken away from Suarez, namely the possibility to indulge in his life’s passion for a while and the possibility to get even richer—the Uruguayan striker was hoping for a transfer from his current employer Liverpool FC to FC Barcelona.
We need to make sure we safe guard the human rights of the people whose clinging to these right is tenuous, but that hardly stops the privileged from having human rights at all. It is not FIFA’s task to tell Suarez what jobs he must and must not take—especially considering the association’s human rights record regarding the under-privileged, which is dismal.
FIFA are in a tough spot, though. Giorgio Chiellini also has the right to “just and favourable conditions of work” and surely that includes the right not to be bitten by his opponents. Chiellini has the rightful expectation of some protection against such practices.
How much protection? That’s hard to say. FIFA will give a player a four month ban for causing a small bite mark on a shoulder, but closes its eyes to career ending tackles. In fact they have a history of handing out bans for offenses that them makes them look bad. In 2006 Zinadine Zidane was banned three matches for a light headbutt in the shoulder of Italian defender Marco Materazzi that did not influence play and that did not injure Materazzi (although you get to see some lovely acting from the Italian player if you look up the incident on YouTube).
Here’s my conclusion. I think FIFA should be able to show some respect for the human rights of Chiellini and his colleagues by offering him a reasonably safe working environment. Using a ban as a negative stimulus would be a reasonable choice to help ensure this right even if it directly infringes upon the same human right of the player that causes the workplace to be unsafe. The association should weigh both rights fairly though and come up with a punishment that does not infringe upon both rights more than it has to.
In that respect I think a four month ban is way over the top, especially considering that FIFA had other options. My choice would have been to ask Suarez to come with a comprehensive plan to stop his undeniable passion and drive from spilling over into uncontrolled aggression. He should then defend this plan in person.