Lucy Mangan

Lucy Mangan: "Suarez has got me bitten by the football bug"

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"My wilful ignorance of sport is such that when I heard that Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez had allegedly bitten Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, my first thought was simply that whatever strikers and defenders were, I didn’t know they were allowed to do that nowadays. (My second thought was ‘Is that how you spell Uruguayan?’ and my third ‘When will the Italians get a grip on their vowel distribution?’ I know they’re a generous and exuberant people but really, it gets ridiculous.)

But it appears they’re not allowed to do it, and FIFA has given Suarez a four month ban for possession of offensive dentistry or something. He has been found guilty of biting opponents twice before and pictures have emerged that appear to show him trying to take a toothsome chunk out of Chiellini during a Confederations Cup match last year.

Allegations of being ‘a bit of a crybaby’ (Uruguay’s captain Diego Lugano about Chiellini), conspiracy theories (Uruguay’s manager reckons it’s all been orchestrated by the English media) and counter-accusations (of Chiellini diving/ overreacting/ showing a scar he already had, and Suarez’s insistence that Chiellini ‘bumped into me with his shoulder’) started flying around all over the place.

For the first time for me, football is fun and I feel I can join in. There is something to get my teeth into, as it were. Ahem.

First of all, psychologists need to get back in their boxes. No, this does not mean that Suarez is working through issues that first arose when he was three or four, when the id is roused and at its most vulnerable, and needs long-term therapeutic help. It means he needs to be fed a couple of pounds of raw meat, possibly with an Ambien or two crushed in, just before he goes on the pitch. He’s probably just peckish.

Also, psychology is not a thing. It’s common sense dressed up in fancy clothes and accessorised with polysyllabic word jewellery. If anyone tries to tell you you need psychoanything, you bite them until they go away. Unless they’re talking about the Psycho DVD. You should get that. It’s a brilliant film.

Where was I? Yes, second of all: has anyone thought that Chiellini might have a uniquely delicious smell? Just something worth considering before we all rush to condemn Suarez and insist the ban should have been longer. If he smells of rump steak or chips and gravy, that’s surely a mitigating factor.

Thirdly, research by the FBI has identified three types of biter (excluding the consensual kind people become in the privacy of their own homes). They are the experimental biter (for whom gnashing on an unwilling fellow fleshbag is a form of sexual deviance), the frustrated biter (for whom it is an act born of criminal intent) and the threatened biter (when it’s paranoid and retaliatory).

I thought this was of purely academic interest until the Suarez thing broke and so many people I had hitherto regarded not just as friends but as fine, upstanding members of the community started using it as an opportunity to come out as biters themselves. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have of the number of people who have now told me they used to bite their siblings, passers-by, schoolmates and, in one case, their cat as children and it is deeply unsettling.

I am thinking in particular of the 33-year-old female friend who ‘explained’ her youthful career as a chompy savage by saying, ‘It’s just so satisfying that it’s really hard to stop,’ and the mother of my son’s three-year-old friend who looked up from the story on her iPhone and said, ‘Don’t you ever feel so angry with people that you could bite their faces off?’ No. No, I don’t. Please step away, deviant, criminal paranoiac, whatever you are. Keep stepping away and don’t come back.

Finally, could I just say that this absolutely proves my mantra for life? That nothing good ever comes of caring about something too much. Goals, sports, jobs, people… it only leads to madness and pain. Do what I do. Try not to get involved. Dial down those emotions, lower your expectations, put as little into everything as you can. No blood, no sweat, no tears, no bite marks. Not much of a life either, but you can’t have everything, now can you?"

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