Disgraced Uruguay striker Luis Suarez apologized Monday to Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini for the bite that saw him banned for four months and expelled from the World Cup.
Suarez acknowledged for the first time that the Italian was bitten. “I deeply regret what occurred,” said the 27-year-old Liverpool striker.
“I apologize to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family,” said a statement on Suarez’s official Twitter account.
“I vow to the public there will never again be another incident like” it, he added.
Chiellini reacted quickly to Suarez’s apology. “It’s all forgotten. I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension,” he tweeted.
Suarez bit Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy on June 24 which took the South Americans into the World Cup last 16. They were beaten by Colombia on Sunday.
The prolific striker initially denied the charges against him. He told a FIFA disciplinary commission that he had lost his balance and there was no bite.
But within 48 hours of the incident, Suarez was handed a four month ban from all football activities, suspended from nine internationals and fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($112,000). It was the third time in his career he had been guilty of biting an opponent.
He returned on Friday to Uruguay where the sanction has caused national outrage. President Jose Mujica slammed FIFA leaders as “sons of bitches” for imposing the sanction.
But Suarez said: “After several days of being home with my family, I have had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect about the reality of what occurred during the Italy-Uruguay match on June 24, 2014.
He said there had been “contradicting declarations” of the events but that he had no “intention of interfering with the good performance of my national team.
“The truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me. For this:
“I deeply regret what occurred.
“I apologize to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family.
“I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like.”
Despite Suarez’s denials, the disciplinary commission gave a damning assessment of Suarez’s actions in its final report, which was leaked to various media.
It said “the offence was carried out directly against an opposing player, while the ball was not being disputed, and it was done deliberately, intentionally and without provocation.”
The apology came amid reports that Spanish club Barcelona are to bid for Suarez.
Alejandro Balbi, a lawyer for the player went to Barcelona the day after the bite and media reports said the club had a role in Suarez’s act of contrition.
“I hear that Barca insisted on apology if transfer is to proceed,” Gary Lineker, the former Barcelona and England player who is now the BBC’s chief football presenter, said on his Twitter account.
Several football leaders inside and outside FIFA have said that Suarez — one of the best strikers in the world but also one of the most temperamental — should seek counselling.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said at the World Cup that Suarez had to “find a way to stop doing it. He should go through a treatment. It is definitely wrong.”
The international professional footballer’s union FIFPro said FIFA should have made mandatory treatment part of its sanction.
Many have pointed to Suarez’s past offences however.
He served a seven-game ban for biting a player in November 2010 when he was with Dutch side Ajax and a 10 game suspension after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool in April 2013.
Suarez also hurled racial abuse at Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during a Premier League game in October 2011 and was banned for eight matches.
At the 2010 World Cup he caused a storm of controversy by stopping a certain winning goal by Ghana on the goalline with his hand. Uruguay went on to win a penalty shootout.
Since the latest furore, Suarez has lost a sponsorship deal with a gambling website and Adidas, the sports equipment giant, said it would not use any Suarez adverts during the World Cup.
But media reports say that aside from Barcelona their bitter rivals Real Madrid are also interested in buying the player from Liverpool.