Footballers' 9 worst on-pitch meltdowns
With Uruguay striker and Italian-shoulder enthusiast Luis Suarez receiving worldwide condemnation for his “gnash and grab” job on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, we decided to look at some of the best on-pitch meltdowns from players of the so-called beautiful game...
9. Lee Bowyer — Back in 2005, bad-boy Lee Bowyer was playing for a Newcastle side that were losing 3-0 to Aston Villa at home.
The abject performance got the better of Bowyer and teammate Kieron Dyer, who got involved in a bizarre wrestling match and had to be separated by players of the opposing team.
Both Newcastle players offered apologies immediately after the game.
8. Joey Barton — Barton has never shied away from an on-field explosion, but perhaps his most outrageous breakdown was during a vital game for QPR at Man City on the last day of the 2012 season.
Barton was sent off for his reaction to a punch from City striker Carlos Tevez, who he appeared to elbow.
In his anger at being sent-off he waged war on the City team — kicking Sergio Aguero and headbutting City captain Vincent Kompany before trying to take on the Italian Mario Balotelli, who always enjoys a good melee.
Barton was later banned for 12 matches.
7. Ben Thatcher — Another player who received a lengthy ban for an on-field assault was former Man City defender/UFC fighter Ben Thatcher.
He was banned for eight games after a brutal elbow on Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendez, which left the former Portugal international out cold.
Thatcher was not actually shown a red card for the incident, but the FA hit him with the ban after watching it back.
6. Paulo Di Canio — While Suarez became enraged with a fellow player yesterday, it was referee Paul Dirkin who courted the anger of Italian timebomb Paulo Di Canio in 1998.
During a match between Di Canio’s Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal at Hillsborough the striker was shown a red card by Dirkin.
Rather than accepting his punishment gracefully, Di Canio forcefully shoved a helpless Dirkin, who tried in vain to stay on his feet, before landing squarely on his back-side.
He was banned for 11 matches.
5. Roy Keane — This list would not be complete without an entrance from all round hippy and keeper of the peace, Roy Keane.
Prone to a violent reaction from time-to-time, Keano’s most aggressive assault came during a Manchester Derby in April 2001.
As part of an ongoing feud with Man City player Alf-Inge Haaland, the Irishmen flew through the air, driving his studs into the Norweigan’s leg and hurling him into the air.
The United captain was sent off for the offence, but when he later appeared to admit in his autobiography that the gruesome foul was intentional — the FA fined him and banned him for 5 games.
4. Zinedine Zidane — Nicknamed "Zizou", Zidane was one of the most elegant players to grace the modern game, but his last game for the French national team will be remembered for a decidedly inelegant moment.
During the 2006 World Cup final in Germany, Zidane was arguing with Italian defender and wind-up merchant Marco Matterazzi.
The Italian said something to Zidane that must have been pretty harsh — because the French wizard promptly spun round and planted his head into the defender’s chest, throwing him to the ground in a Dirkin-esque fall.
Zidane was dismissed and Italy went on to win the final on penalties. C’est la vie.
3. James Cotterill — Away from the glitz of the World Cup and straight to Cumbria for a player whose violent on-pitch reaction landed him in the slammer.
During an FA cup match in 2006 between Barrow and Bristol Rovers, Barrow player James Cotterill punched Bristol’s Sean Rigg square in the face, leaving him with a double fractured jaw.
The Tyson-style hook meant that Rigg was only able to eat with a teaspoon and a straw, making it difficult to chew those pre-match carbs.
Cotterill was banned from all football activity until several months later, but was also jailed for four months after admitting GBH.
2. Eric Cantona — King Eric, as he was affectionately known by Man Utd fans, became the king of kung-fu in 1995 when he aimed a flying kick and a series of punches at an abusive Crystal Palace fan during a match at Selhurst Park.
Cantona had been sent-off for a kick on Palace player Richard Shaw, and when fan Matthew Simmons aimed some apparently xenophobic abuse at him, the Frenchman thought he would continue the kicking.
He was arrested and convicted of assault and ended up being given 120 hours of community service.
While violence like this should never be applauded, the incident did result in Cantona making a hilarious speech about seagulls following trawlers at a press conference, so swings and roundabouts.
1. Luis Suarez — So last, but by no means least is Liverpool-playing, shoulder-nibbling, naughty boy Luis Suarez, who followed up two previous chomping efforts in Holland and England by plunging his decidedly pronounced gnashers into the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during his Uruguay side’s 1-0 win over the Azzuri.
As Suarez awaits a potentially lengthy ban for his actions, we can’t help but feel that a muzzle and a year’s supply of pedigree chum might just be the answer.
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