The Cannibal

Yolanda de Sousa, Uruguay - Italy

Yolanda de Sousa, Uruguay – Italy

“The cannibal, as we know, has a devouring affection for his enemies and only devours people of whom he is fond.” — Sigmund Freud

Luis Suárez’s biting is a tactic. The bite is a gesture of infantile and intimate aggression. It’s child-like and animal-like. It is the gesture of the figure outside of society and the impulse of the cannibal. (The cannibal—a colonial expression of desire/fear as a fantasy of eating/being eaten by the Other.)

All sports play with social structures, and a dialogic team sport like soccer plays with the social contract—the founding agreements struck between and within communities which allow those communities to exist in a more or less stable order. The “Laws of the Game” don’t just regulate a match, they are a part of the game (e.g. debate about offside, goal-line technology, replay – the sense that the subjective nature of the referee’s calls is necessary to the game’s spirit).

One of the agreements made between teams, players, referees and spectators involves a promise to not harm each other, a willingness to address and prevent injury. When you are playing an opponent who violates that agreement so intensely and so deliberately—it throws you completely out of the organizing structures of play. It is no longer play. The victim of this violence is momentarily exiled from the social order. A game that plays with violence (and football does) is only possible if all of its participants resist the impulse to brutality.

Results hinge on how teams bear up under the strain of 90 minutes, the stress of the match. Deciding goals are scored in the 89th, 90th, 94th minute by teams with the capacity to exploit a moment of distraction, an error made from weariness. In this case, a goal was scored against a team that was left bewildered. Suárez has made an art of creating this state of confusion; team management know perfectly well that if he can score a goal, he can also goad and shock and disgust an opponent in a campaign to force them to surrender not the match, but the game itself.

Comments

  1. Chiellini, Ivanovic, and Bakkal: His three biting victims. Interesting that Suarez racially insulted Patrice Evra, but did not bite him. Might Suarez believe that blacks are too below him to be real enemies and hence devour them? – Dr. Tamir Bar-On – Tec de Monterrey, Mexico

  2. Interesting article about Suarez in the Daily Telegraph today (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/players/luis-suarez/10925858/Luis-Suarez-and-the-Bite.html) backing your freudian quote.

  3. I am very interested to see your rendition of the sport as dialogic carried out here. Player acts are speech acts. The pitch is a stage and the background is shared between players and between the game and its viewers. Biting and spitting hurt less than much of the game but biting and spitting mean something worse. The social contract explains this.

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