To Ban or Not to Ban

Tottenham v Southampton was a bit of a letdown for the former today, and a lot of people have said that Spurs have run out of steam. Maybe they have.

But let’s not forget that they’ve got two quality players out at the moment, Alli for throwing a punch and Dembele for gouging at Diego Costa’s eye last Monday.

The punch is a bit of an obvious one. No one was going to argue that it didn’t happen, or that Alli didn’t deserve a longer ban for it. The eye-gouging incident, on the other hand, has caused a great deal of discussion.

I remember seeing and saying, “How did the ref not call that?” I’m sure I was far from alone at the time, and the FA obviously agreed. A six-match ban seems pretty reasonable for intentionally gouging at someone’s eye, right?


Except pundits are saying that it’s too harsh. Sure, his hand was in the guy’s face, and yeah, Diego Costa’s face was super-red all around his eye, but can we really say that Dembele intended to “gouge” at Costa’s eye?

I’ve not watched this in super-slow motion, so I won’t get into the did-he-didn’t-he argument on intent or forcefulness or whatever. But this did lead to an interesting conversation with my dad this morning.

He said, “Anything like that that’s not a natural part of playing the sport from time to time, like the biting thing with what’s-his-name, should have long bans. Six matches is too short, I think.”

How long was the Luis Suarez biting ban, he asked me.

Which one?

We went to Wikipedia, because where else is someone’s list of unacceptable practices so neatly packaged, right?

First of all, let me just say that there are WAY too many famous Luis Suarez’s in Wikipedia. We could probably cull half of them and still have too many. When I finally found the right one, I went down to the World Cup biting incident, but it didn’t say specifically how long the ban was.

I clicked on a blue link in the paragraph that I expected to take me to something on FA rules about biting consequences, but NO.

Luis Suarez’s controversies have their own Wikipedia page, and biting’s only about half of it. At that point, you really have to question your life choices. I mean, isn’t this guy a parent?

So we looked. The first incident, a seven-match ban and an undisclosed fine. The second time, he got a ten-match ban and an undisclosed fine. The third time? A World Cup.

I remember watching this and thinking, “What on earth were you even thinking?” It was maybe the single stupidest life choice I’ve seen in sports, and his behavior about it afterward, basically trying to say it didn’t happen (and if he wasn’t biting, I don’t even want to know what he thought he was doing), that the pictures were doctored, etc. And while representing his country. It doesn’t get much more despicable.

Four-month ban, plus a fine of about 65k pounds. Since the earlier fines were undisclosed, it’s tough to say how that measures up by comparison, but a four month ban from ALL football related activities (including even going to a ground or training or anything) amounts to, while in-season, about sixteen matches. Plus it meant Uruguay was basically doomed in the next match at the World Cup.

Even then, people were saying it was too harsh.

I’m sorry, but if you go for someone’s eye, or you stick your teeth in another human’s flesh (or, idk, smell their neck awkwardly during a match where teeth-marks mysteriously appear later on camera?) during a FOOTBALL MATCH, I think you should feel pretty lucky all you’re getting is a ban that will eventually be over and a fine that’s a relatively small fraction of your wages.

Especially after the third strike.

Six matches for Dembele is less than the first biting incident with Suarez, and most of it will be served after this season. Maybe it’s harsh. Maybe, somehow, he didn’t mean to do it. But hopefully he’ll learn from the mistake and we won’t be talking about his four-month ban from all football related activity for trying to “swat a fly” out of a player’s eye for the third time.


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