Well, dear readers, if you have not been residing in a cave or under a moss-covered hollow log deep in the forest, you’ve heard a little something recently about a talented Uruguayan soccer player by the name of Luis Suarez, and his behavior in the June 24 match between Uruguay and Italy during this year’s World Cup.
No, you say? Tell me about it, you say? Come on, now. Even I, a soccer-challenged fair-weather fan of the sport, have read a little something about this match.
Well, OK, pull up a chair and let Auntie Sheila tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a soccer player named Luis, who played for his team from Uruguay. Luis was a very good player, and he loved the game very much. He was always very happy when his team won games.
But there was a problem. Sometimes, when Luis played, he would bite a player from the other team. When his team played Holland he bit a player from that team. He was punished for biting. He wasn’t allowed to play for the next seven matches. Another time, when his team played against England, he bit a player from that team, too. He was punished again. He couldn’t play for the next ten matches.
Then came time for the most important event for soccer players everywhere: the World Cup. All the very best players from all over the world came to Brazil to play many soccer games, to find out which team was the best of all. They played many days, and ran and ran and kicked the ball and smacked it with their heads and tripped and fell down and ran some more and sweated a lot. This is why they were all in such good shape.
One day, Luis’ team from Uruguay was playing a game against Italy. It was a very tough game, and if Uruguay lost they would be out of the competition and couldn’t play any more and would have to go home. Luis did not want to lose this game. He did not want to go home. When he and an Italian player, Claudio Machisio, both tried to kick the ball, Claudio turned around, and Luis jumped on him and bit him on his shoulder!
Claudio pulled his shirt down to show everyone the bite marks on his shoulder. Luis rolled and rolled on the ground and squinched his eyes shut and held his teeth with his fingertips.
Luis was punished again. He was not allowed to play with his team for their next nine games. Plus, he was not allowed to play any soccer at all for four months (that’s like not being able to play from Halloween all the way until after Valentine’s Day).
Luis said it was an accident. He said, “I hit my face against the player, leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
Claudio forgave Luis. He said, “I have no feelings of joy, revenge or anger … I believe 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.” Claudio is pretty emotionally intelligent, if not a bit loquacious.
Luis is on a long time-out from soccer. If he hadn’t bitten, he could still be playing the game he loves so much.
Let’s think about some other things Luis could do instead of biting, OK?
When he gets angry, or worried about losing the game, he can take a deep breath to help calm himself down.
He can use his words. He can say, “Hey! I’m gonna take that ball away from you! I’m gonna kick a goal! Hey, look at that pink elephant over there! Ha ha! Made ‘ya look!”
He can say, “I’m really worried that we might lose this game,” or “I’m angry that he got the ball away from me.”
He can talk about the happy feelings he has when he wins a game and the angry feelings he has when he loses a game. When he loses a game and feels angry, instead of biting, he can pound some play dough or tear up some scratch paper or kick the ball around until he feels calmer.
He can ask his parents or his teacher to read him the book, No Fighting, No Biting! by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak.
If Luis tries some of these ideas, he will know that it’s OK to be angry, but it’s not OK to bite when you’re angry. Biting hurts. It’s not OK to hurt yourself, other people, or to break things when you’re angry. It’s not always easy to do that, though, because our feelings can be very strong.
But if Luis tries really hard, and plays more and more soccer games without biting, he will be an even better player. More important: he will learn how to be a good sport.
That’s a big job.
So this story doesn’t really have an ending. What do you think Luis will do while he is on his time-out? What do you think he will do when his time out is over and he can play soccer again? Share your ideas!
And remember: No fighting, no biting. Peace and love.