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Anger in soccer players - Only Suarez's family can make him change

The 3rd time Suarez bites an opponent, a way that he he expressed his anger in soccer. What is the reason why Suarez has gone so wild? The Football Journal seeks answers from sports psychologist Dao Tien Dung, who has helped many different sportspeople and teams achieve their medals.


- Reporter:

Does this type of incidence whereby one athlete bites another happen frequently in the history of professional sport?

- Sports psychologist Dao Tien Dung:

Yes, there have been many incidences, the most famous was Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear. Luis Suarez in particular has had three incidences at Ajax, Liverpool and now the Uruguay National Team. Biting is rare in football but more common in other sports disciplines with frequent body contacts and fast movements such as rugby or boxing; or in circumstances where athletes think they will not be noticed.

- As a sport psychologist, can you explain Suarez’s wild behavior?

His behavior was spontaneous. It happened when emotions overrode logical thinking. Biting is one way to express anger and disappointment when one cannot have what they really want. It usually comes from athletes with hot temper, unhappy and violent childhood.

- Do you see any similarities between Suarez’s and Mike Tyson’s behavior?

Yes, if you compare their childhood, you can find some similarities that might explain the spontaneous biting.

Both of them grew up in unhappy families. Suarez’s parents divorced when he was 9 years old, which made him desperate and want to give up football. Mike Tyson’s father abandoned his family when he was born. Both grew up in poverty, without a father and had early contact with violent cultures. These factors contributed to the formation of their personalities – they can become violent and act instinctively to get what they want.


anger in football player

- As a sport psychologist, what do you think went through Suarez’s mind before he commited such behaviour?

Suarez himself admitted that he is very committed to what he wants and if he can’t get it, he will have emotional distraught. Suarez cried when his team won 3-0 but he did not score. 3 times biting, racism towards Evra or using his hand to block the ball in the quarter-final against Ghana 4 years ago all come from his burning desire – Victory! He is willing to do anything to get it. This is one of the basic instincts that boys growing up on the streets might have: Do whatever it takes to survive. Biting Chiellini is an expression of his anger and disappointment when Suarez’s opponent did not let him get the ball.

- How do you think Suarez’s problem can be fixed with psychological therapy?

After biting Ivanovic (Chelsea) last year, Suarez was asked to join an anger management course. He is one of Liverpool players who have frequent sessions with sports psychiatrists. For Suarez, the problem cannot be fixed with fines or banned matches. Only those who really understand him can help him change. And these people are his wife and children.

- Can you elaborate on this?

At 15 years old, Suarez still showed his “untamed personality” even in football, until he met Sofia when she was 12. Because of her, Suarez regained his balance in life after the shock of his parents’ divorce. When Sofia left Uruguay for Barcelona in 2003, he was broken-hearted and quit football. However, this time he realized that football was the only way he could see her again. He did his best to be able to move to Europe and play for a small club in Holland (Groningen). Ajax’s captain Herman Pinkster once said: “Sofia is so important to him (Suarez). She is probably the only one who can tell him to calm down sometimes”.

People may think of Suarez as a player who uses “disgusting tricks” to win. But for his family, Suarez is a great husband and father who loves his family very much. It showed in the video clip where Suarez thanked his wife and children in the changing room after the victory over England. Criticism and fine are unavoidable for Suarez but I don’t think they can change his behavior on the pitch.

- If you were Suarez’s sport psychologist, what would you do or say to make him change?

I would discuss with him how his behavior would have negative impacts on his family and how his children would think of their father. Only his love for Sofia and his children can make him change.

- Do you have an advice for Suarez’s opponents to avoid his biting?

Don’t ever manipulate him, especially with words. It’s not a coincidence that Suarez bit an Italian player. Italian players are known for their tricks of making their opponents angry and commit fouls, like Zidane’s diving his head into Materazzi.

- Thank you for such an interesting talk!

When Luis Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic in April of last year, Dr Fawcett publicly predicted that the Liverpool striker would go on to repeat the incident within five years. And now the Salford University expert says it could happen for a FOURTH time.

"Given the right circumstances he will bite again, he's done it at league level, at Premier League level, and now at international level," the sports psychologist told MirrorFootball.

According to Dr Fawcett, Suarez doesn't make a conscious decision to bite his opponents, it's just a case of the red mist descending.

"It's in a football situation he will do it, it's a particular situation that hits his buttons, not in a family situation, he's a different character off the pitch.

"The biting is just an impulsive reaction to the situation. It's entirely predictable given the nature of his character."


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