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Steph Martin

Stephanie Martin, a writer and editor in Colorado, has 20 years of Christian publishing experience.

Sao Paulo, Brazil—Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suarez, nicknamed the “Cannibal,” received a four-month ban for biting an opponent during a World Cup match. The 27-year-old striker sunk his teeth into the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini last week.

This was the third biting offense for Suarez, who also will be banned for Uruguay’s next nine international games. Jerome Valcke, head of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, said, “What he did is unacceptable and not the image we want to give to the world.” He added that Suarez should go through treatment to “find a way to stop” biting.

Soccer-crazed Uruguayans expressed outrage, calling the punishment a conspiracy to end the country’s World Cup hopes. “The immorality and hypocrisy of FIFA has no limits,” tweeted a lawmaker. “Neither does Chiellini’s inclination for being a tattle-tale and a fink!”

Even Chiellini called the ban “excessive,” saying, “I don’t have any feelings of joy, revenge, or anger towards Suarez for an incident which happened on the field and finished there.”

Suarez, who’s known for passing blame when he’s caught, said, “These things happen on the pitch, and we don’t have to give them so much [importance].”

But columnist John Brewin called the ban “fully justifiable” because Suarez “lost control again.” He added, “If Suarez cannot play without entering such a frenzied state, then he should not be allowed to play top-level football.”

According to sports psychologists, emotion often trumps reason for athletes. “Intense emotions can lead to incredible performances, but they can also lead to total boneheadedness,” said Adam Naylor. “Frustration in particular is known to lead to aggression. Ironically, the more we try to control our impulses under stress, the tougher it gets.”

About the biting incidents, Suarez previously said: “Obviously, it’s not the most attractive image that I can have for myself. That’s not what I want to be remembered for. I want to do things right. I really, really do.”

Sources: Associated Press, washingtonpost.com, espnfc.com

* * *

How do you feel about Suarez’s behavior? In your opinion, is a four-month ban appropriate or excessive, and why? As a repeat offender, should Suarez be kicked out of the sport—at least until he can control himself? Why or why not?

Do you agree with Suarez that people are placing too much importance on this incident? If you were Uruguay’s coach or one of their players, what would you say to Suarez? When one person “goes rogue” in a group, how can it affect the group as a whole?

Why do people tend to justify the bad behavior of their friends and associates? When you really care about someone, is it better to defend them or to encourage them to straighten up? Explain.

Besides athletic competitions, what are some other times when emotion tends to trump reason? Do you think that’s more likely to happen to younger people than to older people? Why or why not?

How much self-control do you usually have? What frustrations push you to the breaking point, and how do you try to rein in those feelings?

Why do you think the Bible includes self-control as a fruit of the Spirit, along with more obvious things, such as love and joy? What can our self-control—or lack of it—convey to other people about Jesus? about our faith?

Why do we often do what we don’t want to do, and vice versa? As sinful humans, is there any way to get around that contradiction? If so, explain.

In what ways is the Christian life like a race or a sporting event? As you grow up, do you expect that following Jesus will get easier or more difficult? Explain. How can you set a good foundation now for your faith journey in the future?

Scripture links: Proverbs 25:28; Romans 7:15-20; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 5:22-23; Titus 2:11-15; and 2 Peter 1:5-11.

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