at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London - So Luis Suarez was sitting at home in Montevideo when he suddenly remembered that he had, after all, bitten Giorgio Chiellini. Well, these things can slip one’s mind.
Who hasn’t, at a busy moment, forgotten sinking their teeth into another human being? Who hasn’t been innocently enjoying a cup of tea, only to be hit by the realisation: “Didn’t I bite that bloke in the queue at Waitrose last Thursday?” Slap of the head, roll of the eyes.
So that’s what all the fuss was about with the police and the sirens and the handcuffs. We can surely now understand Suarez’s confusion. There he was, being bundled out of the World Cup, banned from football for four months, and all the time racking his brains. Why me?
What have I done? And then the penny drops. “Stone me,” he exclaims, a mere six days later. “It must have been that bite. The one I said was a complete accident, when I fell with my mouth open, landed on some chap’s shoulder and hurt my teeth. Now I come to think of it - I did do it on purpose. Just like I bit that other bloke, and the one before. I really should apologise. What a silly old sausage I’ve been. Three times now.”
There is, of course, another explanation: but one would have to be a real cynic, or an English journalist, to go there. Suarez is still at home in Montevideo but in this scenario the telephone rings. It is his representative. He has been speaking to Barcelona.
Apparently, they are reluctant to pay in the region of £80 million (R1.4bn) for a player who goes around chomping on people and then behaving as if he is the victim of a terrible conspiracy. They think it might be bad for their business.
If they are to pursue a transfer this summer, a slate needs to be wiped clean. Facts have to be faced. Responsibility has to be taken.
Say sorry, or no deal. This would be why, almost a week after the event, Suarez has acknowledged what the world - beyond Uruguay - knew all along. He committed a deliberately aggravated assault on an opponent, for the third occasion in his career. He promises it will never happen again.
Had that been his attitude last Tuesday it would have been more impressive, for it would have shown the remorse Fifa found so disturbingly absent from his statements after the game. Instead, Suarez was allowed to pose as the wounded party, abetted by his coach Oscar Taberez, whose resignation from Fifa’s technical committee now looks appallingly misguided, his captain Diego Lugano, team-mates, national association and his nation’s fawning media.
It also means he submitted evidence we now know was a lie, given his contrary admission since. Sadly, the sequence of events makes it impossible to take these latest words at face value. If they were sincere, why were they not said sooner? If he knows he did wrong now, why not then? The biter is opportunistic, and so is the man.
Given a pathetically easy ride by those in his camp, Suarez took the opportunity to remain in denial about his behaviour. He retreated behind a wall of risible counter-claim and victimhood, and was indulged. Dragged from this position by the reality of the global view, and football’s marketplace, he at last delivers truth. Sorry. The apology will be accepted no doubt but, given the timing, what is it really worth?
The conclusion is plain. Suarez will not bite anyone again: and if Barcelona hand over £80m he will surely prove it.