There is probably no image that has cropped up more during this World Cup than that of Uruguay’s star striker Luis Suarez nursing his teeth after sinking a bite into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. It is not, of course, the first of such incidents in which Suarez has bared his teeth and it has resulted in a lengthy ban for the player (although not lengthy enough to deter his suitors in Barcelona). Perhaps, though, in amongst the various excuses that Suarez has put forward for himself and others have put forward for him, he should have suggested that he only tucked into Chiellini’s shoulder in the absence of a more favoured treat.
Yes, the entire Uruguay squad were said to have struggled at the start of the World Cup without their favourite caramel spread. 36 kg of Dulce de Leche, a candied milk product, were seized by Brazilian authorities as the Uruguay team landed at Confins airport. Apparently the dairy product was lacking the appropriate documentation (although given the extent to which the Uruguayan media viewed their star player’s ban as an international conspiracy against them, they may well perceive the same about the caramel seizure).
Uruguay’s caramel crisis is hardly the first World Cup food scandal, though. In Germany they have had to endure the opposite of Uruguay’s Dulce de Leche concerns with a sweet spread crisis of their own. Since 2004 there has been a tendency of popular European chocolate spread brand Nutella using young, up and coming German stars of the future to advertise their product. The only thing is that players appearing in the Nutella ad quickly lose the form that got them the Nutella job in the first place.
Kevin Kuranyi, Benny Lauth, Andreas Hinkel, Tim Borowski, Tobias Weis, Simon Rolfes, Marcell Jansen, and Arne Friedrich are all players who suffered the “Nutella Curse” and are no longer considered key parts of the national set up. Jermaine Jones, meanwhile, turned his back on the country of his birth after 3 caps and a Nutella ad to turn out for his parents’ country, the United States, scoring a beautiful equalising goal in the first round against Portugal but failing to make the difference in the 1-0 loss to his birth country.
One of Jones’ co-stars in that ad was Manuel Neuer, the Bayern Munich goalkeeper widely considered to have since become the world’s top keeper, which somewhat gives the lie to the veracity of the Nutella Curse. Anyway, Germany have a new food scandal to worry about: defender Kevin Grosskreutz’s kebab throwing antics. The Borussia Dortmund player (recently reprimanded for urinating in a hotel lobby) very nearly failed to make the final call up due to an incident in which he threw a donner kebab into the face of another team’s fan. Fortunately, the testimony of a witness taxi driver was enough to exonerate Grosskreutz of the accusation that the kebab’s hot chilli sauce seriously burnt the fan’s eyes. One way or another, Grosskreutz is yet to play for Germany at this World Cup.
England have no such culinary excuse for their failings as the dodgy food on offer at their Rio hotel was disposed of long before they arrived. In the build up to this year’s tournament England’s hotel had to have 2.6 kg of salmon and ham thrown out as unfit for consumption, something that seems relatively insignificant compared to the 25kg of past its use by date seafood thrown out from the Italy team hotel.
Back in the era when England had a shot at challenging for the World Cup itself, though, it was a different story. In 1970 with England defending the title that they had won on home soil four years earlier a strong line-up looked like contenders, especially with goalkeeper Gordon Banks in the form of his life, making what is widely regarded as the greatest World Cup save of all against Pele and Brazil. With England visiting the swanky Guadalajara Country Club (membership £19,000 per year) Banks drank a beer that left him feeling “very ill indeed”. With Banks “in imminent danger of being violently sick or something even more embarrassing” (in his own words), Chelsea’s Peter “the Cat” Bonetti came in for the crucial quarter-final against West Germany. He was not up to the task. But for that dodgy beer, who knows how far that England team could have gone?
And what about Suarez? Where now for the famous biter? Well, while many of his sponsors, such as betting site 888.com, may have been quick to drop their association with the troubled striker, it does open up a world of opportunities in food advertising, with Italian food companies Barilla and Eataly just as quick to make associations with the incident. Eataly, who own food emporiums at home and abroad, took out an advert stating “Everyone wants to eat Italian” above a picture of Chiellini. If Suarez is after some endorsement money then he need look no further. Just look at the success that England players have always had in flogging pizzas off the back of World Cup disasters!