MONTEVIDEO - Luis Suarez flew home to Uruguay on Friday after being thrown out of the World Cup in Brazil and banned from soccer for four months for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in a Group D match earlier this week.
The Liverpool striker was met by President Jose Mujica when he landed at a military base next to Uruguay's main airport before dawn, an air force spokesman said.
Mujica had joined hundreds of fans who gathered at the airport on Thursday night to show their support for Suarez but they left after a few hours when it became clear he had not yet left Brazil.
After his arrival on Friday, Suarez, his wife and other family members were driven to a home he has in the small coastal town of Solymar.
Soccer's world governing body FIFA ruled on Thursday that the 27-year-old
star striker cannot play in Uruguay's next nine competitive matches and suspended him from all soccer-related activity for four months.
The punishment immediately ended his involvement in the World Cup
in Brazil, with Uruguay due to face Colombia in a round of 16 tie on Saturday.
"He is totally distraught. He never thought the punishment would
be so severe,'' said Alejandro Balbi, a member of the Uruguayan Football Association's board and Suarez's lawyer.
FIFA ruled that Suarez bit defender Chiellini during Uruguay's final group match on Tuesday, as his side knocked Italy out of the tournament with a 1-0 victory.
Suarez's ban is the longest ever imposed at a World Cup. It means he is unlikely to appear in competitive matches for his country until 2016 and he will also miss the first two months of the Premier League season in England.
Although it was the third time Suarez has been banned for biting, his team mates and most Uruguayans jumped to defend him, believing the punishment was excessive.
"There are different standards. That's what infuriates and hurts us most,'' Mujica said on Thursday night in an appearance on a TV show hosted by former Argentine star Diego Maradona, who also said FIFA had gone too far and was treating Suarez like a criminal.
Suarez had missed Uruguay's opening match of the tournament, a 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica, as he recovered from knee surgery but returned to score both goals in the side's 2-1 victory over England.
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