Of course, pretty much the entire world has seen – or heard about Luis Suarez taking a bite out of Giorgio Chiellini.
Yet one of the most amazing insights into Suarez was a story published before the World Cup began and before biting a third victim became a reality. You want conspiracies, mafia hit men, rags to riches, a love story, and a gone-missing referee bleeding like a slaughtered animal? We have got all that.
Writing for ESPN, Wright Thompson traveled to Montevideo in Uruguay from the U.S. to dig deeper into a story he had heard about Suarez headbutting a referee when he was 15 years old, apparently making the ref’s nose “bleed like a cow”. The trouble was no one involved in Uruguayan football wanted to talk about the incident and the referee appeared to have vanished from the earth.
But the story also uncovered the dark underbelly of football in Uruguay. There was, apparently:
“Mafia running Uruguayan football… drug cartels using the sport to launder money… systemic corruption… in the middle of the allegations, there was a story about how, in 2003, the head of youth soccer, Nelson Spillman, threatened a referee named Luis Larranaga.
Spillman, according to the story, tried to pressure Larranaga into changing a postmatch report to the disciplinary committee – the one chaired by the lawyer with the matching tie and socks. Larranaga had given a red card to an unnamed player who then physically assaulted him. Quick math said that Suarez would have been 16 then, not 15, so either the timeline didn’t work or the news reports were off by a year.
The story got weirder. An investigative reporter broke the news about Spillman threatening Larranaga. Less than a month later, a hit man shot the reporter at the door of his house. The hit man had been paid $500. The assassination failed, and Nelson Spillman and his brother, Daniel, who reportedly drove the getaway car, went to jail for the botched hit.”
The story, which reads like a movie script, links violent outbursts by Suarez to disruptions in his personal life and the key role of the apparent love of his life Sofia Balbi, the girl he fell in love with when he was 15 years old, followed to Europe, and is now his wife.