Wednesday, September 23, 2020



Unforgettable World Cup bust-ups

Unforgettable World Cup bust-ups
July 13
09:03 2014

By Duro Okinbaloye



Many have dubbed the World Cup as the biggest sporting event on earth ─ quite rightly so. Hence, the huge build up of expectation, anxiety and emotion do sometimes lead to unprecedented fracases and altercations that blight the game and the individuals involved. To the utter consternation of the watching world, players vent their anger on fellow team mates, opposing players, their coaches or managers, referees, ball boys on the sidelines or in fact anyone around the stadium. A review of juicy instances that have marred the otherwise beautiful game.

Starting from the tournament in Brazil, the dramas of fierce fights on the pitch have happened amply.


The world watched with discomfiture when Cameroonian team mates, Benoit AssouEkotto and Benjamin Moukandjo, squared up and had to be separated during their match against Croatia. The fight started when Assou-Ekotto, for reasons best known to him, head-butted his compatriot.

Earlier in the same match, Cameroon’s former Arsenal midfielder, Alex Song, was also given a red card for deliberately elbowing Croatian striker, Mario Mandzukic. The omens were bad enough. The central Africans could not make it past the first round (unlike their enviable feat of 1990 in Italy, when they became the first African country to get to the quarter finals of  the World Cup).

Worst still in the current campaign, things turned uglier, when Luis  Suarez, the Uruguayan striker (who is fast becoming a serial ‘biter’) sank his conspicuous teeth into the left shoulder of an unwary Italian defender, Giorgio Chiellini. The biting encounter which happened during the countries’ first round match left a big damage on Suarez’s image. He was consequently sent packing from the competition via a four month ban from all football activities, to include nine international matches. This means he would miss a considerable part of his club’s league matches. He was also fined.


Uruguay’s World Cup never survived this incident. In Suarez’s absence, they were beaten 2-0 by Colombia in the round of 16.

A remarkable  drama of 2010 World Cup concerned the French team. Striker Nicholas Anelka gave an earful of bashing to his manager, Raymond Domenech at half time of their first round game against Mexico. Anelka was enraged at certain instructions from his manager on how to play. He was widely reported to have told his manager to “f*** off, son of a bitch”. The manager later clarified in a book that the striker actually said, “F*** off, look after your shit team alone.” Events took an uglier turn when the rest of the squad agreed to go on strike, skipping trainings in support of Anelka. He was of course put on the plane home, over the incident that the French Football Federation said was ”totally unacceptable”.

The French (France ’98 champions) also ignominiously crashed out of then competition in the first round, without scoring any goal!

Perhaps one of the most shocking and unforgettable World Cup fracas yet involved the French team in the final match of the 2006 edition, between them and Italy. The pulsating match was deadlocked at 1-1 in regular time, leading to a tension-soaked extra time. It was at the 110th minute of the stalemate that French legend, Zinedine Zidane, stunned the world by viciously flooring Italian defender, Marco Materazzi, in a debilitating head butt (pictured). Zidane got an unavoidable red card and a three-match ban.


After a barrage of speculations in the media over what Materazzi actually said to infuriate Zidane, the former later confirmed in his autobiography that he said: ”I prefer the whore that is your sister.” Those who know Zidane know he gets edgy whenever anyone tries to disparage his humble Algerian-French background.

The incident effectively ended Zidane’s otherwise glittering soccer. He then finally retired from football.

The 2006 finals has yet another incredible drama of fights famously dubbed the battle of Nuremberg. In the second round match, head butts and elbows flowed freely as opposing players tried to outdo one another. Many will remember Luis Figo’s unabashed head butt on Mark Van Bommel. Portugal manager later famously approved Figo’s aggression, saying if Jesus Christ could turn the other cheek but “Luis Figo is not Jesus Christ”.

The match between Portugal and Netherlands quickly descended into a blatant fiasco leading to the referee awarding a record of four red cards and sixteen yellow cards – the most cautions in any World Cup match till date. Portugal won the match 1-0.


The 2002 World Cup jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan saw a fight between manager and player, where the player visited his raw spleen on his manager.

The Slovenian star player, Zlatko Zahovic, was substituted in the 63rd minute of their opening match against Spain. Like most players, he was clearly unhappy about the incident but unlike most players he let his emotions over boil and showed an unambiguous umbrage at his manager, Srecko Katanec.

“You are a prick of a coach, you were a prick of a player. I could buy you, your house and your family,” Zahovic reportedly told his boss. Talk about footballers earning far more than their managers.

Slovenia lost the match 3-0 and Zahovic was promptly put on the plane home.


Italia ’90 finals saw its fair share of drama. The final match of that encounter between Argentina and Germany saw the World Cup final dishing out its first ever final red card. Argentina’s Pedro Monzon viciously hacked down German’s Jurgen Klinsman to get a straight red card. Monzon’s team mate, Gustavo Dezotti, was also sent off in a match the New York Times described as a ”controversial artwork” and ”world-wide ugliness”.

The Germans won the match through a spot kick in the 85th minute that earned the Germans their third World Cup.

And finally in this selection was arguably the worst of instances of a World Cup bust up. It is accordingly dubbed the Battle of Santiago. The  1962 edition of World Cup featured what ended up being a very acrimonious football fight between Chile and Italy.

Sparks started flying at only five minutes into the game, with players mindlessly tackling and kicking their opponents. The duel saw players no way near the ball being brazenly kicked kung-fu style, with high leglung aimed at players’ heads.

Disgracefully still, the match witnessed players with beef clearly fighting in ground-rolling wrestling type and unambiguous fisticuffs.

The high point of the fiasco was the Chilean winger Leonel Sanchez giving a very vicious kick to the face of Mario David, an Italian player. Sanchez was frustrated because David kicked him twice while he was down on the turf, with the ball ensconced in him. David a few minutes later found an opportunity to aim a devastating flying kick to the head of David. The whole field was engulfed in the brawls as players tried to take sides with their mates.

Incidentally, Leonel Sanchez still found time to break the nose of  Humberto Maschio, another Italian player in the same match. And interestingly, Sanchez got no marching orders for neither of the affront.

It took 57 minutes to complete the first half of the extra-ordinary game.

The shambles came to a head when the organisers of the game had to call in the police and the army to calm frayed nerves. Two Italians were sent off in the game which a BBC commentator, David Coleman, called “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting, and disgraceful exhibition of football possibly in the history of the game.”

The host nation Chile won the match 2-0.

Okinbaloye is a UK based freelance journalist


  1. Walatt
    Walatt July 14, 08:42

    Despite his disgraceful behaviour, should any club be coughing out such mega amount of money to buy Suarez as Barcelona did.
    Are they approving of his biting, even when sponsors are withdrawing sponsorship rights from him. What a shame!

    Reply to this comment
  2. September 20, 12:41

    I always spent my half an hour to read this web site’s articles daily along with a mug of coffee.

    Reply to this comment

Write a Comment