Uruguay coach quits FIFA position over Suarez ban
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez quit FIFA’s strategic committee on Friday in protest at the ban football’s governing body imposed on his team’s star striker Luis Suarez for biting an Italian player.
Tabarez used the mandatory pre-match media event to make an often rambling 15-minute speech with no mention of the game on Saturday, when Uruguay faces Colombia in the Round of 16.
In his monologue, Tabarez blamed English-speaking media for creating pressure on the FIFA disciplinary panel to punish Suarez. He hinted that Uruguay, perhaps as a small country, was being singled out.
“It is not wise, at least it is not prudent to be in an organization with people who exerted pressure in order to promote this decision,” Tabarez said.
He said those who punished Suarez had “values that are very different from those that I believe I have.”
FIFA’s panel banned Suarez for nine international matches and four months for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in a group-stage match on Tuesday. Uruguay won 1-0 to advance.
It’s the third time Suarez has been punished for biting an opposing player on the field — the previous two suspensions were imposed by the Dutch and English leagues.
Tabarez said Suarez was being made a “scapegoat.”
“Who wins, who loses? Who benefits, who is harmed? Who ended up getting things their way?” the coach said in Spanish.
Tabarez said Uruguay’s staff and players had been expecting some action against Suarez but were stunned by the severity.
“We never thought or expected what we found out when we were told about the details of the punishment — of an excessive severity,” he said. “The decision was much more focused on the opinions of the media, and that media attacked immediately at the conclusion of the match. ... I don’t know what their nationality was, but they all spoke English.”
Tabarez, 67, a former member of coaching advisory groups at FIFA tournaments, said he must also leave those positions with the sport’s governing body.
The FIFA strategic committee is chaired by FIFA President Sepp Blatter and deals with “global strategies for football and its political, economic and social status.”
It meets no more than twice a year and has largely symbolic status within FIFA.
Tabarez left the news conference after his statement and did not take questions. No Uruguay player attended, which is a breach of FIFA’s World Cup guidelines.
He had earlier wrapped up by talking about Suarez “the person,” and said he was not suggesting the Liverpool star should not be punished.
“But always, always one must give an opportunity to the one that makes a mistake,” he said.
Tabarez ended his speech with personal words for Suarez, who has returned to Uruguay.
“To Luis Suarez, the person who has always been with us,” Taberez said. “We know him better than anyone else. The path that he has covered is a path that he will go through again, attempting as someone who starts again to be better.
“But to let him know — he will never be alone in that attempt.”
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar contributed to this report.
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP