Suarez needs help, claims sports psychologist

The Uruguay striker has been handed a nine-game ban and a four-month suspension from all football-related activity, and Andy Barton thinks he should seek professional advice

Luis Suarez has been urged by a leading sports psychologist to seek help following his bite on Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

The Uruguay international has been handed a nine-game suspension and four-month ban from all football-related activity after biting Chiellini in his side’s 1-0 win over Italy on Tuesday.

Suarez, who has twice been at the centre of similar controversies previously in his career, is once again in the spotlight, with the ban from Fifa set to rule him out of the World Cup and a section of the Premier League season.

Mental performance coach Andy Barton, who has worked with athletes across a range of sports, believes Suarez could again bite an opponent if he does not seek help and urged him to treat the ban as a “wake-up call”.

“It could happen [again]. It’s happened three times now and it could happen [again],” Barton told Perform.

“But he may be able to get help with it and find alternative ways of responding. He’s not doing it on purpose – it’s not a calculated thing. They’re in-built safety mechanisms or ways of dealing with frustrations.

“Hopefully he’ll get some help and people won’t be too harsh on him. It’s an unhelpful thing to be doing – for his career, his team and if he doesn’t [get help] you may find players purposefully start winding him up to get him to do that kind of thing.

“So it’s in his best interests to deal with it and hopefully it’ll be a wake-up call for him to get the right kind of help.”

Suarez has been backed by Uruguay team-mates and even the country’s president, despite receiving widespread condemnation from elsewhere in the world.

Barton is confident the player, who previously bit Otman Bakkal when playing for Ajax and Branislav Ivanovic earlier in his Liverpool career, can adapt his behaviour should he receive support.

“I don’t know what help he had after the last couple of incidents but yeah, I think it could be changed to hopefully make a difference,” he added.

“Anything can be changed – it seems to be something that’s become a habit and something he maybe had from childhood as a defence mechanism.

“I see people make changes of that kind all the time so I’m a firm believer it can be changed.

“We have triggers and we have things that set things off. We saw it with Zinedine Zidane a few years back where he completely lost it [when headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final]. We all have these triggers so it could be a level of frustration, it could be aggression, it could be anger, fear.

“Certain triggers, in the right or wrong place, can set you off.

“That’s been his response and I wonder whether it’s something he’s had from childhood – his way of dealing with it is to bite.”

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