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FIFA’s Feudal Lords Show Their Stripes with Suárez Sanction

By: Hana Fischer - @hana_fischer - Jul 8, 2014, 8:39 am
Luis Suárez. (Wikimedia)
Luis Suárez. (Wikimedia)

EspañolThe World Cup is underway in Brazil, as organized by FIFA. And during the tournament, Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez stole the spotlight, as he appeared to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in his country’s final group game.

FIFA’s punishment for Suárez’s bite has also been a matter of controversy, beyond the act itself. Many have described it as “excessive,” “brutal,” and “unfair.” Still, Suárez’s actions deserved the consequent commotion, considering this wasn’t the first but rather the third time he has been accused of biting another player. One cannot help but wonder what might be going on in this man’s head.

Just as Suárez’s actions must be analyzed from a psychological perspective, we should examine FIFA’s actions and figure out whether or not this organization abides by the rule of law. In particular, we must determine if we are dealing with an institution of a feudal nature: one that considers itself a universal authority with the right to impose mandates and sanctions urbi et orbe. Is this an organization that believes it has the moral standing to impose the “civil death” of a person and violate the human rights of the accused, including third parties?

We must remember, feudal lords imposed their will on their own terms. They were a privileged caste, who did not pay taxes and lived off what they charged others; they imposed their own laws, had different and privileged rights, and their members were judged by their peers in special courts.

On the part of FIFA, their imposition of “civil death” is even more reactionary. This refers to the loss of all civil rights as a punishment. In the legal sense, the person is considered dead or nonexistent, while he remains very much alive. It is a sentence with devastating psychological results for the accused and for his family. Because of its cruel manner, it is no longer permitted in all modern states.

Now, lets analyze FIFA’s actions with regards to Suárez.

The Disciplinary Commission — headed by the Swiss Claudio Sulser — imposed a draconian sentence on the Uruguayan player: he was suspended from nine games, cannot engage in any type of soccer-related activity for four months, and therefore cannot attend any stadiums or soccer games; nor can he train with his peers. He cannot even negotiate with the clubs that are interested in offering him a contract. As if that were not enough, he was fined 100,000 Swiss francs (US$112,000), and the commissioner added that Suárez must leave Brazil as soon as he receives the sanctions. In other words, immediately.

“It is shocking he was expelled from the games as a delinquent,” said Diego Lugano, the Uruguayan captain, during his appearance at Diego Maradona’s television show.

He added, “it is an abuse to human rights that a player cannot enter a stadium where there are 80,000 people, and that he cannot even enter a hotel where his teammates are staying, nor even train with them or work for four months. This goes beyond winning or losing a game, or making a mistake on the turf; it is barbaric.”

Lugano was not the only one to speak out on behalf of Suárez: the Latin-American Judges Network, an international organization composed of magistrates from 19 different countries, released a statement as well. The network condemned the lack of proportionality between Suarez’s actions and the imposed sanction. They also stated that the Commission violates “fundamental rights and a person’s guarantees,” such as his right to work, to attend meetings, and to free passage through a state.

The former Uruguayan minister of foreign affairs, Didier Opertti, also believes the sentence constitutes an excessive use of power: FIFA “assumes the right to practically impose itself, with no limits, over the right to attend events, and the right to remain with his team throughout the World Cup.”

However, FIFA didn’t stop there. FIFA’s power-obsessed, omniscient mentality prevents it from knowing its limits. During Uruguay’s next match, even after Suárez had already been suspended, police forces did not allow Uruguayans with masks of Suárez’s face to enter the stadium. Even though they had payed for their tickets, they were asked to put the masks away, or otherwise their entrance would be prohibited. In other words, FIFA is not only restraining the rights of its players but of ordinary people too, limiting their freedom of expression.

On one hand, Football is an amazing business for FIFA. They take great profits from the games they organize. For example, they estimate that their incomes from this World Cup will be around $4 billion. On the other hand, FIFA enjoys of a tax-exempt universe. Not only are they not under the common legal system, they themselves solve all the legal and economic issues of their members. They even expel members who dare attend an ordinary court to claim a debt or broken contract. To make things worse, if their leaders are accused of corruption, they are charged and investigated by their peers, so they will never set foot on a court.

As Ricardo Peirano, director of El Observador said, “Suárez, who indeed must have been sanctioned for his actions, as well as Chiellini for his nudge, was treated as an outcast, without due process, a fair trial, and received a sentence that is not stated under any set of laws. We can only hear lawyers defenses while the [case brought against him] remains unknown. Those who accuse are prosecutors and judges at the same time.… The right to a lawyer and to due process does not exist.”

For all that has been said, it is clear FIFA is dictated by a feudal system and Suárez has been condemned to a “civic football death” for four months. In addition, that institution with its headquarters in Switzerland — ironically one of the most civilized places on earth — has not recognized essential individual rights.

Will anyone place boundaries? Will any international organization adhering to and defending a higher code of law come forth, and put FIFA under the common justice system?

Translated by Anneke Ball.

Hana Fischer Hana Fischer

Hana Fischer was born in and resides in Uruguay. She serves as a writer, researcher, and international affairs columnist in different media outlets. A specialist in philosophy, politics, and economics, she has written several books and received honorable mentions. Follow her @hana_fischer.