• World Cup

Blatter backs Suarez playing return

ESPN staff
July 3, 2014
Colombia's big Test - Brazil

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has commended Luis Suarez for apologising to Italy's Giorgio Chiellini after he was banned for four months by the governing body for biting the defender during the World Cup.

Blatter, who had previously refused to comment on the biting issue or the Liverpool striker's punishment, also backed him to get back playing.

The biting furore appears not to have damaged Suarez's stock in the transfer market, with Liverpool and Barcelona holding "productive talks" over a potential £80 million sale, but Blatter's endorsement will surely do no harm as it could help in any ban appeal.

Blatter said: "He said 'I'm sorry' to the soccer family, and that's fair play. That shows he's a great player and I hope he can have his soccer career back."

Suarez issued a public apology last week after he was punished by FIFA. The lengthy ban - which also included nine international games - led to criticism from some quarters, particularly fellow Uruguayans, and Chiellini himself claimed the striker's punishment was harsh.

The country's elimination from the tournament in the knock-out stage to Costa Rica, with Suarez already suspended, prompted their president to lambaste FIFA but Blatter refused to be drawn on Jose Mujica's damning comments.

"The president is totally independent," he said, insisting Suarez's chequered past was taken into account by the disciplinary committee disappointed that an apology was slow in coming. "I can't comment on what he [Mujica] said."

Suarez received a hero's welcome on his return home © AP

Blatter was more forthcoming on Brazil's staging of World Cup, however,after the build-up to the tournament was overshadowed by the threat of anti-tournament protests and the prospect of incomplete stadia.

"I am a very happy man today," he said. "It is a success of the country, of this game.I would like to address my compliments to the people of Brazil. They accepted this World Cup."

In the first of the last eight fixtures, France face Germany in Rio on Friday before the hosts face Colombia later that evening.

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