Suarez thanks supporters
Luis Suarez (Supplied)
RIO DE JANEIRO June 28
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez thanked his fans for their support on Saturday, making his first public statement after football's governing body FIFA handed him a lengthy ban for biting a rival at the Soccer World Cup.
"Hello, everyone. I am writing this message to say thank you for all the expressions of support and affection I have received," Suarez wrote in Spanish on Twitter.
"My family and I are very thankful."
FIFA banned Suarez for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the shoulder on Tuesday. It was his third offence after similar incidents while playing for Ajax Amsterdam and Liverpool.
Brazilian legend Pele waded into the controversy, saying the ban was fair.
"FIFA's decision was good, it was right, because one has to set an example," Pele was quoted as saying late Friday.
"If this example is not there from the start, then this (behaviour) will spread.
"I think it was fair because it will serve as a point of reference," the 73-year-old added.
Uruguayan fans have criticised the ban for nine national team games and an additional four months overall from football as too harsh.
Argentine star Diego Maradona has also sided with Suarez, saying FIFA's ban was "criminal".
The ban has cost Suarez major sponsors. German sports gear manufacturer Adidas dropped the player from its World Cup advertising campaign and 888poker terminated its sponsorship of the 27-year-old, who returned home on a private jet from Brazil on Friday.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said Suarez should seek treatment given he was a serial offender.
Uruguay's 1950 goalscoring hero Alcides Ghiggia agrees with Pele. He told a Colombian radio station that what Suarez did "was wrong".
But Ghiggia also criticised FIFA, saying its ban was harsh.
"It was not that bad," the 87-year-old told La FM radion of the biting incident.
"I think FIFA was wrong," added Ghiggia, who scored Uruguay's winning goal in their 2-1 victory against Brazil in the 1950 World Cup final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez this week condemned the "excessive" ban, and announced his resignation from FIFA's important strategic committee.
The absence of Suarez, who scored twice in Uruguay's 2-1 win against England in Group D, could put the team at a disadvantage when they play Colombia for a place in the quarter finals on Saturday.
But Ghiggia said the ban should motivate the team to win.