Photo combo of Italy's defender Giorgio Chiellini (left) showing an apparent bitemark and Uruguay forward Luis Suarez holding his teeth after the 'biting' incident during the World Cup match between their countries. -- AFP
Emotion triggers infantile biting, say psychologists.
In apparently biting the Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday, Luis Suarez exhibited the behaviour of a frustrated child unable to control his emotions, according to psychologists, who urged the Uruguay and Liverpool forward to seek professional help.
After biting opponents on two previous occasions, in Holland and England, Suarez was given lengthy bans of seven and 10 matches respectively, which added to the shock that he would risk such a punishment again by transgressing in front of the cameras in such a high-profile match. Fifa, football’s world governing body, said that it opened a disciplinary case against the player.
Dr Abigael San, a clinical psychologist from north London, said it was because Suarez was led by his emotions, which he was unable to control in the way most people do, as opposed to reason.
“People do repeat behaviour like this when they know the consequences are bad,” she said. “It’s to do with not being able to control your urges. You can’t think rationally when you’re emotionally aroused.” She added that the biting was “very infantile, so emotionally he’s rather arrested”.
San said that anger management therapy with a psychologist could help the striker “to start recognising the early warning signs for the anger and frustration building up”. She said signs such as tension in the back and shoulders could manifest themselves in his body.
After the previous incident, in April last year, when Suarez’s bite of Branislav Ivanovic’s forearm while playing for Liverpool against Chelsea at Anfield earned him a 10-game suspension, he was offered anger management counselling by the players’ union, the PFA.
It is unclear whether he took up the offer – the release of such information could only be authorised by Suarez because of psychologist-patient confidentiality – but San said such therapy would work only if the footballer believed it was the right thing to do. To this end, she suggested there was motivational work that could be done with him initially to persuade him of its benefits.
“Everyone can be treated if they want to be treated,” she said.
Dr Saima Latif, a psychologist in Cheshire, said that, if Suarez had attended counselling, it was clear he had not been able to put it into practice and suggested an alternative approach. “Rather than just sending him to an anger management programme, get him to talk to victims of physical violence,” she said.
“They will be able to tell him how it made them feel, how it affected their lives.”
She agreed that Suarez had shown infantile behaviour. “It’s like a child biting when they get frustrated or angry, usually about the age of three or four,” she said. At the time of the alleged offence, Uruguay were drawing 0-0 with Italy, a result that would have eliminated the South American team from the tournament.
Latif said that psychotherapy could help identify the root of Suarez’s issues. “Maybe he was bullied in childhood or bitten,” she said. “How many times do we not know of? Maybe in his own private life he has bitten friends or relatives.” — Guardian News & Media