Rio de Janeiro: Uruguay and Liverpool star Luis Suarez was suspended for nine matches for biting an opponent on Thursday as World Cup chiefs struck back with the heaviest sanction against a player in the tournament’s history.

Suarez, who sank his teeth into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during his team’s Group D win on Tuesday, was also banned from all football activity for four months and fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($112,000). “Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a Fifa World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field," Fifa Disciplinary Committee chief Claudio Sulser said.

The Suarez suspension takes effect immediately and he will not be able to play in Uruguay’s second round match against Colombia on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, even if he appeals. The four month ban from football activity means he will also be prevented from entering the stadium for Saturday’s game.

Suarez will not play again in the current World Cup in Brazil. If Uruguay reach the final of the tournament that would count for four of his nine-game ban. The forward would then miss the next five competitive games - which would be the 2015 Copa America in Chile. In theory, if Uruguay reach the final of that tournament as well he could return for that game.

More realistically, unless Uruguay reach the final of the World Cup and the Copa America, Suarez is likely to also be banned for part of the 2016 Copa America centenary tournament in the US.

According to FIFA, Suarez can play in friendly internationals after his four-month ban is served on 26 October.

The ban will also hit his club career with Liverpool in England’s Premier League.

Suarez will not be able to play for his club Liverpool until October 26. Unless there are changes to Liverpool’s fixture schedule he would miss nine Premier League games and the first match he would be eligible for would be at Newcastle United on 1 Novovember.

Suarez would also miss Liverpool’s Champions League group games until 26 October. While the draw for the tournament has not yet been made, that would likely rule him out of three games.

Liverpool said it would make no immediate decision. A statement issued by the English Premier League giants’ chief executive, Ian Ayre, shortly after Fifa announced the ban, said: “Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the Fifa Disciplinary Committee report before making any further comment."

The Fifa sanction was the toughest ever handed down for foul play at a World Cup, surpassing the eight-match ban against Italy’s Mauro Tassotti in 1994 for an elbowing incident which broke the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique.

It is the third time Liverpool star Suarez has been banned for biting players following incidents in 2010 in the Dutch league and 2013 in England. He also received a long ban in 2011 for racially abusing Manchester United’s French international Patrice Evra.

“The Disciplinary Committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suarez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code," Sulser said in a statement.

Uruguay football officials had argued against a ban, insisting Suarez had not bitten anyone and claiming the player was the victim of a media witch-hunt.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica had led the defence of the 27-year-old, telling reporters on Wednesday: “I did not see him bite anyone."

But the speed and severity of Fifa’s punishment reflected the widespread revulsion throughout the football world at an incident which was captured clearly on television footage.

There was also photographic evidence of Chiellini’s bite mark that he tried to show the referee immediately following the incident. Chiellini himself told Italian television: “He bit me, it’s clear, I still have the mark."

Suarez sought to play down the incident in comments to Uruguayan television, claiming Chiellini had barged him. “There are things that happen on the pitch and you should not make such a big deal out of them," Suarez said.

Fifa had faced mounting calls to issue a heavy sanction given Suarez’s previous disciplinary history.

Sponsors had also signalled dismay. Online gambling firm 888poker said it was “reviewing" its relationship with the player. “We will not tolerate unsporting behaviour," the enterprise said.

Although many in Uruguay believe that Suarez is being unfairly persecuted, an exception was ageing national hero Alcides Ghiggia, who scored Uruguay’s World Cup-winning goal against Brazil in the 1950 tournament. “This boy’s clearly not right in the head. That’s just not something you do on the pitch,’ said Ghiggia. AFP

Reuters contributed to this story

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