The beautiful game of football has given us a lot to love. Underdog stories, transfer sagas, high-scoring games, the passion of the fans, record-setters and record beaters, all are a part of the beautiful history of this sport. But with the countless beautiful moments, we sometimes ignore the dark side of the football world. Every hero has its villain and similarly, ‘The Beautiful Game’ also has its dark side. We are going to see the top 10 most disgraceful moments in the history of football!
Luis Suarez vs Ghana 2010
Uruguay was facing Ghana in the quarter-final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Ghana had remarkably reached the second round of the knockout stage and was looking to cause an upset to the South American giants. The game headed into extra time with the score at 1-1. In the last minute of extra-time, Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah won the ball over the Uruguayan defence and headed it towards goal. With the goalkeeper beaten, Luis Suarez, who was standing at the goal line, produced a terrific save with his hands. Although he stopped the ball from going in the net, he was shown a red card and a penalty was awarded to Ghana in the 120th minute. What could have been the next step of a dream run turned into misery as Asamoah Gyan missed from the 12-yard spot. The game headed into penalties where Uruguay won 4-2. Even though Luis Suarez was suspended, his quick thinking and decision-making allowed him to send his team to the next round. Ghana was supported by millions of African and football fans from around the world and Suarez was widely hated for his act of cruelty.
Cantona’s Kung-Fu Kick
Manchester United was taking on Crystal Palace away from home in the premier league in 1995. Eric Cantona was always in the news for his on and off-field antics. Early in the second half, Cantona came against Crystal Palace’s Richard Shaw and gave him a nasty kick while the ball was in play. The incident saw him receive a straight red card. While he was walking after his dismissal, Eric jumped and hit a Palace fan with a ‘Kung-Fu’ sort of kick. The United legend received a nine-month suspension from the FA due to his act of violence. He pleaded guilty to assault and also took part in community service. Cantona called the victim a ‘Holligan’ and wished he would have hit the man even harder.
Roy Keane tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland
Speaking of tackles from Man United legends, it is hard to ignore Roy Keane’s tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland. Yes, you read the surname right. Alf-Inge is the father of Erling Haaland, one of the brightest young talents in football. In 1997, Roy Keane was playing against Alf-Inge’s Leeds where the former injured himself trying to tackle the latter. Keane snapped the cruciate ligament of his right leg but Alf-Inge thought he was acting and decided to mock his opponent. This sparked a feeling of revenge in Roy Keane. Although the two played against each other several times, the Irishman waited 4 years to take his revenge. Haaland was playing for rivals Manchester City when the two met on April 21st, 2001. Towards the end of the game, Keane took his studs high as he went straight for Haaland’s knee. Keane was fined £5,000 by the FA but after he admitted in his autobiography that that tackle was intentional, he had to pay an additional £150,000. There are rumours that Keane’s tackle ended Haaland’s career. Although this isn’t entirely true, Haaland was never able to play a full 90 minutes after that tackle.
Pigs Head thrown at Figo
Luis Figo was one of the best players at Barcelona. He was admired by fans for the way he played ‘the beautiful game’. But in the year 2000, the admirers became miserable when Figo left the Catalonian club after five years for their bitter rivals Real Madrid. He went from being one of the most loved players in Barcelona to the most hated. 2 years later, Figo was in a white shirt taking a corner against Barcelona. While he stood there near the corner flag. The fans grew wild as they started throwing objects on the pitch. Lighters, cigarettes, bottles, and coins were all seen on the pitch. One of the players even admitted that he saw a knife on the pitch. But the weirdest thing on the pitch that night was the severed head of a pig. Barcelona’s fans threw the head of a pig where Figo was taking a corner. This act is one of the most disgraceful acts seen in the history of football. The fans’ behaviour got wild as the referee had to temporarily stop the game since the fans’ riots were out of control and the police felt powerless.
Luis Suarez’ Bite (multiple occasions)
It is hard to make a list of disgraceful moments without including Luis Suarez more than once. Ignoring the great goalscorer he is, Luis Suarez has been caught doing some bad stuff. To be precise, biting the opponent. Yes, you heard that right. Suarez has bitten an opponent on three different occasions in his football career. He bit Otman Bakkal in 2010 when he was playing for Ajax in the Netherlands. He received a 7-game ban for his assault. But he did not learn his lesson as he was caught on camera biting Branislav Ivanovic in 2013 while playing for Liverpool. He received a 10-game ban for his actions but he was caught in the act once again a year later when he bit Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup. Only Suarez himself knows what goes in his brain that leads him to do such things.
Thierry Henry’s infamous handball
France was playing the Republic of Ireland in a world cup qualifier in 2009. France had won the first leg 1-0 but a first-half goal from Robbie Keane in the second leg forced the game into extra time. In the 103rd minute, Thierry Henry handled the ball as he sneakily laid it off for teammate Gallas to head it into the goal. The ball was bouncing and about to go out of play when Thierry used his hand to stop the ball near the goal allowing him to play the pass to his teammate. Thierry Henry admitted to handling the ball in the media after the game and despite several attempts by the Football Association of Ireland, the decision was not overturned and the game was not replayed. Henry received tons of hate and abuse on social media as his act stopped Ireland from playing in the upcoming World Cup. He was even forced to hire a bodyguard for his daughter due to safety concerns.
Chelsea vs Barcelona 2009
The champions league semi-final second leg between Chelsea and Barcelona is one of the most controversial games in the history of football. The teams were facing each other at Stamford Bridge after a 0-0 draw in the first leg. A win or a draw with the score-line of 1-1 or more would have been enough to see Barcelona through to the final thanks to UEFA’s away goal rule. Chelsea started the game strong as Essien scored a wonderful volley in the 9th minute. But Chelsea would not like what was about to come. Referee Tom Ovrebo had one of his worst nights as an official. He denied four penalty claims from Chelsea that could have easily settled the game for the London-based football club. Moreover, there was a clear red card decision that was ignored by Ovrebo leading to the Chelsea players and fans being furious. Ballack was seen running across the length of the pitch with the referee shouting in his ears to give the foul. After the game, Drogba was shouting on camera calling the game a ‘disgrace’. It seemed as though the referee was hell-bent on helping Barcelona equalise which they eventually did thanks to Andres Iniesta’s late equaliser. That goal helped Barcelona reach the final of the champions league. There were rumours that UEFA did not want a repeat of last year’s champions league final, thus they tried to influence the game in favour of Barcelona which would set up a Manchester United vs Barcelona final instead of Chelsea.
Hand of God
It is tough to talk about football history and not talk about this incident. Argentina was taking on England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final when Maradona used his hand to slide the ball past the rushing goalkeeper. One of the most famous moments in football history, ‘Hand of God’ was widely hated due to Maradona using an illegal technique to score a goal. What made it worse was the ignorant officiating by the referees. The whole incident called for greater officiating from global governing bodies and raised concerns on the level of officiating.
Lampard’s goal (miss) at the 2010 world cup
England was losing 2-1 to Germany in the round of 16 at the 2010 world cup. Frank Lampard struck the ball which bounced off the crossbar onto the ground and was then caught by the goalkeeper. There were English shouts that the ball had went in but the referee continued the game. Replays showed that the ball had clearly crossed the line but the officials were not able to see it. That goal would have shifted the momentum in England’s favour as the scoreline would have been 2-2. A disallowed goal resulted in a loss of momentum and morale for ‘the Three Lions’ as they went home with a 4-1 defeat.
South Korea at the 2002 World Cup
South Korea along with Japan was the joint hosts for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. South Korea qualified from the group stage but what followed went on to be one of the biggest controversies in football. South Korea took on Italy in the round of 16. The Koreans opted for an aggressive approach in the game as they were launching reckless tackles at the Italians. The referee ignored these and the fouls were left unpunished. Italian striker Francesco Totti was wrongfully shown a red card for diving. Furthermore, an Italian goal was ruled out due to an incorrect offside decision. There were rumours that South Korea had unfairly won the match. These rumours showed no signs of stopping when South Korea controversially beat Spain in the next round. The Koreans were aggressive against Spain as well and the refereeing decisions were no better. The referee took multiple game-changing decisions in the favour of South Korea including denying a fair goal that the Italians had scored. It seemed like the referees were favouring the nation that is hosting the world cup. Coincidence?