Anyone who believes that soccer is not a violent sport or cannot be considered a MAN’s game needs to re-think their assessment after considering the following on-pitch assaults.
7) David Navarro on Nicolas Burdisso
This was pure cheekiness! The unused Valencia substitute must have been bored. After seeing trouble flare up at the end of the Champions League encounter against Inter Milan, Navarro decided to get ‘involved’ so he ran on to join the fun and proceeded to punch Argentinian Burdisso, who was helpfully being held back by the opposition, leaving him with a broken nose. Sensing that he had probably done something he shouldn’t have, Navarro then decides to ‘leg-it’ and outruns the entire Inter team before hiding in the dressing room! The Spaniard was banned for six months but did state he would contact the player he assaulted to apologise. However, he probably decided to do this by phone rather than face to face!
6) Paolo Di Canio on Paul Alcock
One word sums this attack up perfectly, hilarious! The then Sheffield Wednesday player, having just been red-carded, decided to shove referee Paul Alcock (scores highly on the stupid-name-ometer) with little or no force. However, the official seemed to lose all control over his bodily movements and was left flailing around before falling to the floor in a manner more becoming of a small child. Di Canio received a lengthy ban but went on to become a West Ham legend. Alcock runs a shopping mall in Kent.
5) Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes
This one falls in the category of “wince when watching”. The Man City full-back decided, quite intentionally, for no apparent reason other than basically being a bit of a psycho, to lead with the elbow in a challenge that left poor Mendes hurtling towards the advertisting hoardings. It left the Portuguese international requiring oxygen before being taken to hospital. Former Millwall man Thatcher obviously has previous for such offences – he produced similar assaults on the likes of Tottenham’s Allan Nielsen and Sunderland winger Alan Summerbee. Thatcher was banned for eight matches.
4) Zinedine Zidane on Marco Materazzi
Probably the one thing no one predicted to occur at the 2006 World Cup Final! The usually calm and collected French legend takes offence at the insults aimed at him from the towering Italian centre back and then decides to aim a full-throttle headbutt into Materazzi’s midriff, leaving him pole-axed on the ground probably wondering what day of the week it was. Regardless of what the Inter man said, which Marco claimed was “that he would prefer the whore that is Zidane’s sister” as opposed to the shirt Zidane had comically offered after yet another tugging, the Real Madrid man had to be ordered off in what was to be the last professional game of a glittering career.
3) Eric Cantona on Matthew Simmons (aka a thug)
This assault is possibly the most bizarre on-field attack ever. The Frenchman having just been dismissed in a game against Crystal Palace then, as we all watched aghast, launched a wild, almost comical, kung-fu kick on a supposed football fan who was, I think we will agree, a thug who himself was jailed when he quite stupidly attempted a similar-style kick at the prosecution counsel during his own trial for using threatening behaviour. This incident further added to the enigma that was Eric Cantona, who was clearly one of the best players to ever grace Old Trafford and possibly the key player in the Ferguson reign.
2) Roy Keane on Alf Inge Haaland
Manchester United legend Keane loved to rough it up on the pitch but that was part and parcel of a truly fantastic midfielder who did on more than one occasion cross the line from hard tackle to bodily assault. Norwegian Haaland had angered the Irishman over previous claims he had made about Keane faking injuries. Clearly Roy hadn’t forgotten about this and decided to inflict a world of pain on the Man City man towards the end of the local derby. It was a particularly horrible challenge that was revealed as 100% intentional in Keane’s biography leading to another ban.
1) Toni Schumacher on Patrick Battiston
One that has stuck in my mind since it occurred fully 25 years ago. The horrible moment when the West German keeper decided that the best way to prevent French defender Battiston from scoring in the World Cup semi-final was to knock him unconscious in a blatant attack. Everyone in the stadium and watching on television could see it was an offence that warranted a red card, a penalty and a spell in prison – however, the referee awarded a goal-kick! Patrick had two teeth knocked out and suffered damaged vertebrae in the deliberate collision and of course West Germany went on to win after penalties, a result even more insulting due to the fact that Schumacher saved two spot-kicks!