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Let’s show forgiveness to Luis Suarez

The punishment doled out to the Uruguay player sends completely the wrong message

By on Friday, 27 June 2014

Uruguay's Luis Suarez holds his teeth after biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini (AP)

Uruguay's Luis Suarez holds his teeth after biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini (AP)

I am not following the World Cup as religiously as some, but even I have heard the news that Luis Suarez has bitten another player, and, for this crime, has been sent home from the tournament, and banned from all footballing activity for four months. This news, the crime, and FIFA’s sentence, has dominated the airwaves.

But not everyone has agreed with FIFA’s decision. In Uruguay, his native country, Suarez is seen not as a villain, but as a hero and a victim of injustice.  If some people have done their best to demonise Suarez, others have displayed an equal and opposite reaction. The thought that FIFA perhaps has no right to take the moral high ground, and that Uruguay is a small country being picked on by the world, and that Suarez himself is a victim of anti-Latin prejudice – these are all thoughts that perhaps ought not to be lightly dismissed.

For my own part, I am left wondering at just how keen so many people are to see someone punished. We live in a permissive society. Most things, once frowned upon, are now regarded as OK. But at the same time, though morality is now much more relaxed, and some would say this is a good thing, Puritanism has not gone away. We still remain addicted to the thrill of punishment – not for ourselves, of course, but for others. To see someone humiliated gives us a buzz.

This is, I am convinced, the wrong attitude. This absurd sentencing of Suarez by FIFA sends the wrong message. Of course biting people is wrong: but would it not be much better for Mr Suarez to speak personally to the man he bit, apologise for his offence and ask forgiveness, and then do something to show he was truly contrite? Would it not be better for Giorgio Chiellini to forgive Luis Suarez? And for Luis Suarez to spend some time in a monastery in prayer and contemplation, and perhaps, helping the poor? This way, Suarez’s conscience would be brought into play; as it is, he is merely being forced to withdraw from the game by FIFA, something that may not necessarily touch his heart or change him, or make him a better person.

As for the crowd who want Suarez punished, they too need to reflect. Is this desire for punishment (and remember, Suarez did not bite them) merely a hysterical mass sadism?

Let’s have forgiveness for Luis Suarez. And let us hope he repents and reforms. And while on the topic, can we have forgiveness too for other criminals in the spotlight, for it would all do us the world of good, and well as help rehabilitate them. Rebekah Brooks, we now know, is not guilty: so can we all please lay off her, and treat her not as a special case, but as we would treat anyone else? As for Andy Coulson, who is guilty, does he really have to go to jail? He is now unemployed, he will never again be welcomed into the gilded salons of Downing Street, or the corridors of power. Surely he has been punished enough? Could those he has wrong not forgive him? Could he not say he is sorry, and do something to show that his repentance is not just words? Rather than breaking stones on Dartmoor, couldn’t Coulson do some work with the poor? Or do we just care about revenge?