Luis Suárez, George Orwell

by Andrew Stuttaford

If one wants to be all high-minded about it, the unusual eating habits of Luis Suárez, Uruguay’s cannibal football (soccer) star are a good opportunity to dust off this fine old quote from George Orwell (whose 111th birthday it is today):

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.”

Somehow I suspect that Orwell enjoyed playing or watching sport even less than I (high-school chess team, stamp club, cricket “scorer”) did or do. The full essay (from 1945) is wildly dyspeptic and (characteristically enough) veers occasionally into outright nuttiness, but I was delighted to detect the giveaway signs of a fellow Olympics hater:

I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

Then again, I’d rather not be too high-minded about all this. Of course I’m sorry for Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian player who found himself briefly transformed into an appetizer, but rarely can a quick snack have generated quite so many laughs worldwide — and a bit of money too.

Money? The Daily Mail explains:

Luis Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 win against Italy on Tuesday has won a lucky fan more than £500 after placing a bet on the Liverpool man to sink his teeth into an opponent at the World Cup. Norwegian Thomas Syverson staked £3 on the Liverpool forward attempting to bite someone at this summer’s showpiece at 175-1 through online gambling website Betsson. Mr Syverson, of Trondheim, was one of 167 punters who made this bet – with one person even scooping a larger win of almost £2,000.

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Suárez had previously bitten Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Eindhoven’s Ottman Bakkal.

The Daily Mail has a helpful round-up of reactions to this week’s meal here, and from Uruguay here is a collection of responses to the Ivanovic incident from last year.

Then again, maybe this is all unfair. Here’s Suárez with his explanation:

These things happen – I collided with his shoulder.