Once Bitten, Twice Decried: Uruguay Outraged By Suarez Punishment

Luis Suarez's sponsors are dropping him, his future at his team Liverpool is in doubt and his 2014 World Cup is over. FIFA dealt the Uruguayan soccer player an unusually harsh sentence for biting his opponent, and his home country is outraged.

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His sponsors are dropping him. His future with Liverpool is in doubt. His World Cup career is over. We're talking, of course, about Luis Suarez the Uruguayan striker, who bit an opponent during a World Cup game this week. Suarez received, what even some of his critics say, is an unusually harsh sentence from FIFA. And in his home country, there is outrage and despair. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has more.

>>GARCIA-NAVARRO: Uruguay's leftist president Jose Mujica - best known worldwide for legalizing marijuana in his home country and for living at his farm instead of the presidential palace - vociferously defended Suarez. He was all over Uruguay's media yesterday, denouncing the decision that saw Suarez banned from soccer for four months, effective immediately. And Mujica even called into soccer star Diego Maradona's TV show to express his anger.

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PRESIDENT JOSE MUJICA: (Spanish spoken).

>>GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mujica says we are small. Our TV rights aren't worth very much. We feel that there is an aggression against those who come from poverty. They don't forgive that he didn't go to university. He doesn't have an education. That he grew up on the field. And because of that, he has a rebelliousness and the pain that's carried by those who come from below. Suarez indeed grew up in abject poverty and many use that to explain why he's bitten players three times in his career now. But he's viewed as a hero in Uruguay. FIFA's punishment for biting Italian player, Giorgio Chiellini, is the most severe it has ever handed out by a World Cup and that has sparked controversy. The papers in Uruguay, this morning, took up Mujica's theme - one even alleging that Suarez had been practically deported from Brazil. Even Uruguay's minister of defense was quoted, proclaiming darkly, there are powerful interests behind football - very big financial interests. He went on to say that Uruguay has to shield their favorite football son because anyone can stumble in life. The man that Suarez bit, Chiellini, has also publicly said that FIFA's sentence was too harsh. But in Uruguay, the player, revered as a soccer God for score and the winning World Cup goal against Brazil in 1950, Alcides Ghiggia, criticized Suarez. I don't know what this kid thinks and what goes through his head. Soccer, he said, is not a war. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.

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