Footballers’ moments of madness

Date: 3rd June 2015

SCOTTISH football came to a dramatic close at the weekend with late drama in both of our season-ending weekend matches. 

On Saturday, there was a 76th-minute sending off for Inverness Caley Thistle’s Carl Tremarco, a late addition to the starting line up after David Raven missed out through injury. 

Then on Sunday, the Scottish domestic football season ended with scenes suited more to a UFC cage rather than a football pitch; albeit the scenes we watched were not quite as physical, but just as aggressive. 

Rangers defender Bilel Mohsni kicked and punched Motherwell’s Lee Erwin after the striker pushed him in the back, before apparently getting of his team bus and standing outside Fir Park’s main stand, waiting to have a square go with Erwin. 

This got us thinking of some other footballers moments of madness… with a little extra thrown in!

Now just over 20 years ago, few will forget Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan after he was sent off. Throughout the match, Cantona was involved in a long-running battle with Palace centre-back Richard Shaw, when, just after half-time, the eccentric Frenchman kicked out at Shaw and was subsequently shown a deserved red card by referee Alan Wilkie. As he was making his way off the park, Cantona was goaded by an Eagles supporter before approaching him and launching his attack. The kick earned him 120hours community service and United dropped two points on the day.

Who could forget Paul Gascoigne’s infamous challenge on Gary Charles in the 1991 FA Cup Final. The tackle changed Gazza’s career entirely, while Charles was able to hobble away from the incident. The former Spurs maestro lunged in so ferociously he managed to tear his own knee ligaments which ruled him out of the sport for several months.

This time, the year is 1983 and Rangers are playing Steau Bucharest in the European Cup. The midfielder picks up the ball in the midfield after the Romanian side clear a corner. Souness dances past one, who looks to clip the back of his calf, before a second player the unfortunate Gheorghe Rotariu comes in to make a tackle. The Ibrox legend sees his opponent approach, before completely ignoring the ball and ramming his boot into Rotariu’s leg above the knee. This resulted in two astonishing moments. The first of which was Souness quickly dropping to his knees and motioned that it was he who was caught. The second, and perhaps more astonishing moment, was that Souness received no punishment for his actions. Changed days! 

Fourteen years ago, Roy Keane got his revenge on Alf-Inge Haaland after he stated in his autobiography that the Norwegian stood over him when the Irishman ruptured his cruciate ligaments in a previous match against their city rivals in the 1997/98 season. Keane admits that since that day, he sought to hurt Haaland and he exacted his plan in 2001. Keane aggressively lunged in at his opponent, which forced him to be carried off and Keane did not dispute his straight red card. 

Every football fan remembers Zinedine Zidane’s farewell match in the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy. What people remember even more is Zidane’s very own sending off after he headbutted Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the chest after the Italian allegedly insulted Zizou’s mother. However, what many fans forget is that the talented Frenchman has history. Six years previous, he received a five-match ban for headbutting Hamburg’s Jochen Keintz in the Champions League. The violent action was so severe that Keintz had a cracked cheekbone and concussion. 

Now, while not strictly a football player’s moment of madness, how could we not include Sir Alex Ferguson kicking a football boot and causing David Beckham to receive stitches above his left eye? Fergie cited the fact that he had a problem with Becks choosing to lead a celebrity lifestyle, which made him bigger than both the Scot and Manchester United, something he could not stand for. Sir Alex reveals in his autobiography how: ‘He (David) was around 12 feet from me. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye.’ Just months later Golden Balls was shipped off to Real Madrid. 

A much more recent example next. Earlier this season, Worcester City’s Shab Khan attracted a severe amount of unwanted publicity after he body slammed Stockport midfielder Charlie Russell. Khan perhaps felt that Russell deserved what he got, after he was plainly ripped by Khan and took him clean out the game. However, after the Worcester man rose to his feet, his picked his opponent up and slammed him to the ground, giving wrestling fans a good example of a german suplex. He still needs a bit of work to get the move done correctly, though.

Lee Bowyer had a decorated career as a footballer, not so much for the trophies he won or the things he did for England, but for his antics on the pitch. Not only did he fight with Newcastle team-mate Kieron Dyer on the pitch once, he also showed his nasty side in the Champions League for Leeds United against Malaga. UEFA deemed his actions as ‘an act of serious assault,’ after he was given a booking by the referee at the time for the tackle which led to the stamp, which was missed by all officials. Bowyer got a six-match ban. 

Almost 10 years ago now, former Rangers man Pedro Mendes was involved in a clash on the field with Ben Thatcher. Thatcher deliberately elbowed Mendes in the face which resulted in the Portuguese collapsing on the pitch and requiring oxygen pitchside. The FA acted quickly with regards to Thatcher and he was given an
eight-match ban with an additional 15 games suspended for 24 months. However, even his club Manchester City were not going to let him away with it, banning him for six matches, too. 

Back to Ibrox we go, this time 1994. Duncan Ferguson, Rangers’ £4million man had gone over 12 hours without scoring his first goal for the club, when in a match against Raith Rovers, he finally found the net in a 4-0 win. However, he might not have been on the pitch. The big striker smashed his head into Raith full-back John McStay and, amazingly, was not shown a red card with referee Kenny Clark maintaining afterwards that he did not see the incident. Which was a bit strange considering he contrived to award a free-kick and lecture both players. See, Scottish refs are not only now being given bad press!

Back closer to the present day now. In 2009, Real Madrid defender Pepe was becoming a renowned centre-back when, in a match against Getafe, he all but destroyed his reputation at the time. The Portuguese star was sent off after conceding a penalty late in the match and then subsequently aiming a kick at his opponent. He was so irate that his team-mate Iker Casillas had to help him leave the pitch afterwards. He even managed to get a slap in on Juan Albin, too. The incident left Pepe questioning his future in the sport, before he decided to carry on as a footballer. He missed the final six La Liga games of the season as well as four at the beginning of the next. 

As we reach the end of our footballers’ moments of madness feature, we go right back to the 1982 World Cup with Harald Schumacher’s tackle on Patrick Battiston. This tackle is still touted as one of the worst in World Cup history, right up there with the likes of Luis Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini and Nigel de Jong’s stomach stamp on Xabi Alonso. Schumacher rushed out to collect a loose ball, clattered into Battiston and left the Frenchman unconscious and minus three teeth. Remarkably, Schumacher was not punished by the referee and actually received the free kick!

So many moments and so much madness. Still so much more to look forward to. 

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