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Venezuela's president has weighed into global controversy over Uruguay striker Luis Suarez's World Cup expulsion, saying he had been unfairly punished for helping eliminate Italy and England.
"They can't forgive Uruguay that a son of the people has eliminated two of soccer's big nations, so they invented a whole case. No one denies some corrective measures were needed, but to suspend him for four months from soccer where he shines? [...] We reject it totally", Nicolas Maduro said.
Suarez scored two goals against England in a 2-1 victory, and helped his team to a 1-0 win over Italy in the group stages, meaning Uruguay and Costa Rica made it to the next round while the humiliated Europeans went home.
Luis Suarez said he did not deliberately bite Italy's Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, according to the Associated Press.
In paragraph six of Fifa's ruling on the Liverpool striker, which has been seen by the news agency, Suarez wrote: "After the impact...I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent.
"At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth."
Suarez has been banned from football for four months after Fifa ruled his bite was "deliberate, intentional and without provocation."
Uruguay football manager Oscar Tabarez has resigned from his position on the TSG - a group of experts that analyses international matches - because of the punishment given to striker Luis Suarez, who he said had been made a "scapegoat". In a 15-minute statement, Tabarez said:
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has said that the English media were to blame for Luis Suarez being handed a nine-match ban from FIFA for biting an opponent.
Tabarez refused to answer questions at a packed news conference the day before his team face Colombia in their World Cup last-16 match at the Maracana, and after reading from a prepared statement for over 14 minutes left to loud applause from Uruguayan reporters.
"The reporters that only care about that thing (Suarez) I don't know what nationality they were, but all of them speak in English", Tabarez said.
"All the media was only focusing on Luis' previous incidents, the things that happened to him before, where all of us know that he was sanctioned for, and served his punishment".
Luis Suarez received a rapturous reception when he appeared on the balcony of his home in Uruguay after he was forced to leave the World Cup in Brazil for biting an opponent.
Uruguay football manager Oscar Tabarez said the media reaction to Luis Suarez's bite on a World Cup opponent contributed to an "excessive" four-month ban for the Liverpool striker.
Tabarez described Suarez as a "scapegoat", according to the The Daily Telegraph's football correspondent Henry Winter, who is at the Uruguay team press conference in Rio:
Sky News sports correspondent Paul Kelso reported that Tabarez intimated that he considered the English media especially culpable.
Tabarez reportedly left the press conference to applause from the Uruguayan journalists present.
Diego Maradona has attacked Fifa's ban on Uruguay and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez as "criminal" and said world football's governing body might as well handcuff the striker and lock him up in Guantanamo prison.
Maradona, who made to comments during his soccer commentary programme broadcast on Venezuela's Telesur and Argentine public television on Thursday night, asked: "Who did Suarez kill?"
The Argentine footballing legend added: "This is football, this is contact.
"They may as well handcuff him and bring him to Guantanamo directly.
"If he made a mistake, fine, they should punish him, but they shouldn't exaggerate, they shouldn't be moralistic."
Maradona, who like Suarez rose to fame from a poor background, fervently defended Suarez throughout the programme and unveiled a T-shirt with the words "We're with you Luisito" scrawled on the front.
Italian defender and victim of Luis Suarez's latest bite Giorgio Chiellini has spoken for the first time since FIFA confirmed it's ban on Thursday. The Liverpool striker was handed a four-month suspension from all football and fined 100,000 Swiss Francs:
"Now inside me there's no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suarez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that's done. There only remain the anger and the disappointment about the match," reads a statement from Chiellini on his own website.
"At the moment my only thought is for Luis and his family, because they will face a very difficult period.
"I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive.
"I sincerely hope that he will be allowed, at least, to stay close to his team mates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player."
Online gambling firm 888poker have terminated their relationship with Luis Suarez with immediate effect after he was suspended from football for four months for biting an opposition player.
"888poker signed Luis Suarez following a fantastic season for which his achievements were widely recognised," a statement said.
"Regrettably, following his actions during Uruguay’s World Cup match against Italy on Tuesday, 888poker has decided to terminate its relationship with Luis Suarez with immediate effect."
Adidas, who also used Suarez in their World Cup advertising campaign, said they fully supported Fifa's sanctions and would be discussing further aspects of their partnership with the Uruguayan striker after the World Cup.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has been unfairly victimised in his "barbaric" expulsion from the World Cup for biting, his disconsolate grandmother has said.
"Everyone knows what they've done to Luis. They wanted him out of the World Cup. Perfect, they did it. They chucked him out of there like a dog," a sobbing Lila Piriz Da Rosa told the Reuters news agency from Suarez's birthtown Salto in north-west Uruguay.
Piriz, who has 22 grand-children, said football authorities had been watching Suarez from the outset.
"This was on purpose," she said of the sanctions given to the brilliant but volatile Suarez, who has been punished three times now for biting and once for racism.
Latest ITV News reports
If upheld, the four-month Luis Suarez ban from football would see him miss 16 matches, including nine Premier League games.
Big brands are continuing to exploit Luis Suarez's latest biting incident with a series of adverts.