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Soccer-Silent Suarez back home after World Cup expulsion

Reuters

* Italian defender Chiellini claims ban is 'excessive'

* Maradona voices support for Uruguay striker (Adds Chiellini, Maradona comments)

By Malena Castaldi

MONTEVIDEO, June 27 (Reuters) - Luis Suarez flew home to Uruguay on Friday after being thrown out of the World Cup and banned from soccer for four months for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, who criticized the punishment as "excessive".

Liverpool striker Suarez was met by outraged 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 and the player appeared keen on maintaining a low profile.

The 27-year-old star striker has not publicly spoken since soccer's world governing body FIFA ruled on Thursday that he cannot play in Uruguay's next nine competitive matches and suspended him from all soccer-related activity for four months.

The ban has sparked fury in his homeland and even Chiellini, whose shoulder Suarez sank his teeth into, came out on Friday and said he felt no anger towards the Uruguayan.

"Now inside me there's no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suarez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that's done," the Juventus centre back said in a statement on his website.

"... I believe that the proposed formula is excessive," Chiellini added.

LONGEST BAN

The punishment immediately ended Suarez's involvement in the World Cup, with Uruguay due to face an in-form 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 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 over-reacted.

The outspoken Maradona went even further, saying world soccer's governing body might as well handcuff Suarez and lock him up in Guantanamo prison.

"Who did Suarez kill?" Maradona said. "This is football, this is contact... They may as well handcuff him and bring him to Guantanamo directly."

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. (Additional reporting by Josh Reich in London and Alexandra Ulmer in Buenos Aires; Writing by Kieran Murray; Editing by John O'Brien)

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