RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — As the world was judging Uruguay's Luis Suarez for biting a player in the World Cup, his teammates, coaches and fans in his soccer-crazy country defended the star, blaming the foreign media, his Italian opponents and uneven treatment.
World Cup organizers scrambled Wednesday to quickly decide on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.
"We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow," FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday. "It's our duty to see justice done."
The disciplinary committee meeting was already underway on Wednesday evening, FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said.
Wilmar Valdez, Uruguay football federation president, told the Associated Press shortly after midnight local time that the disciplinary hearing will continue Thursday morning.
"What we know is they (the disciplinary panel) met for a long time," he said. "We don't know if that's a good or a bad situation."
A day after he tangled with defender Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez was coping well, according to Valdez.
"Luis is fine. He's been through 1001 battles," he told the online site Tenfield.com on Wednesday. "We all know who Luis is and that's why we have to defend him."
The bite — just before Uruguay scored the clinching goal to eliminate the four-time champion Italians —will now test FIFA president Sepp Blatter's often-stated commitment to "fair play, discipline, respect."
Blatter, who was in the crowd for the Uruguay-Italy match at Natal, has pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.
Many are questioning where that leaves a player like Suarez, who has a history of disciplinary problems including separate bans of seven and 10 matches for biting opponents in the Netherlands and England.
Valdez said Uruguay officials were sent a video of the incident by FIFA, and would respond with footage showing Suarez — a striker for Liverpool and last season's player of the year in England's Premier League — as a victim of Italian aggression.
"When he falls, several substitutes insult him on the ground and some members of Italy's staff even came out of the bench to try to hit him," Valdez said, suggesting FIFA could investigate Italy.
Uruguay also will cite Brazil star Neymar getting only a yellow card in a clash with a Croatia player, Valdez said.
Uruguay federation board member Alejandro Balbi, who is Suarez's lawyer, blamed European media reporting.
"This happened because there have been campaigns launched by the media in England and Italy," Balbi told Uruguayan radio Sport 890.
Suarez's teammate Diego Lugano agreed.
"The British media has a vendetta against Suarez, and everyone knows that," he said. "It's obvious the vendetta sells newspapers in England, otherwise you wouldn't be here. Uruguay and Italy played yesterday. On Saturday Uruguay plays Colombia, I don't know why there's a British journalist asking about Suarez."
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