Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez finally owned up to one of 2014 World Cup's strangest, saddest scandals.
On Monday, Suarez, who previously claimed innocence, admitted on Facebook that he did indeed bite Italian player Giorgio Chiellini.
"After several days of being home with my family, I have had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect about the reality of what occurred during the Italy-Uruguay match on 24 June 2014," reads a statement Suarez posted to his Facebook page, which contains a fan base nearing nearly 7.9 million likes.
Suarez originally claimed that "in no way it happened how you have described, as a bite or intent to bite" in a letter the day after the June 24 incident, which occurred in the Group D match between Italy and Uruguay in Brazil, the host nation for this year's World Cup. "After the impact ... I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent," Suarez told a review panel after the game.
Soccer's governing body, FIFA, ultimately took swift and harsh action against Suarez, banning him for four months, plus nine international matches alongside a $111,000 (£65,000) fine. Now, it looks like the controversial 27-year-old forward is no longer pretending he simply lost his balance.
"Independent from the fallout and the contradicting declarations that have surfaced during these past days, all of which have been without the intention of interfering with the good performance of my national team, the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me."
The statement, which concludes with an apology to Chiellini and a vow to the public, was also sent out to Suarez's 3.21 million Twitter followers.
My apologies to Chiellini: pic.twitter.com/CvfkkjxzlM
-- Luis Suarez (@luis16suarez) June 30, 2014
The biting episode carries especially bad blood considering it occurred during the Group D match between two teams that were vying for a spot in the next stage, the group of 16. Uruguay won that game 1-0, knocking out Italy. However, the squad would go on to face off against Colombia without its star forward -- who also plays for the English club Liverpool -- as Suarez couldn't resist sinking his teeth into the shoulder of Chiellini.
Following Suarez's ban and the ensuing controversy, Colombia knocked Uruguay out of the tournament in a 2-0 victory Saturday.
An even stranger element of the story is the fact that this incident marked Suarez's third instance of biting an opposing player. Suarez did it notably in 2010, while playing for Dutch club Ajax in a neck-biting offense that earned him a seven-match ban and the nickname, the Cannibal of Ajax. Suarez's prominent incisors struck again in April of 2013 when they closed in on English club Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic while Suarez played for Liverpool, netting Suarez a 10-match ban.
FIFA's response, which was called harsh even by Chiellini, was so severe this time around precisely because of Suarez's numerous biting offenses, making him a repeat offender seemingly without remorse for his actions, the seven-person disciplinary panel determined.
Still, Suarez's admission would not be quite so surprising had it not come off the heels of a fierce back-and-forth between Uruguay's soccer establishment and FIFA. Uruguay soccer officials have claimed they will appeal the ban, while Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said excessive English media reports were out to get Suarez and contributed to the harshness of the ruling.
Uruguay's team caption, Diego Lugano, described FIFA's decision to ban Suarez for four months as "barbarity" and a "breach of human rights." The president of Uruguay, José Mujica, even weighed in, calling the ban fascist in an expletive-laden tirade against FIFA officials.
None of that would appear to be able to reverse the course of soccer history, however, as Uruguay is out of the tournament and Liverpool is left determining what to do with its lineup before Suarez can return to the field in October. For Suarez, who despite his fantastic playing record has struggled immensely in recent years to put his image back on track, it's another lesson learned the hard way: Stop biting people.