Craziest On-Pitch Moments in World Football

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2012

Craziest On-Pitch Moments in World Football

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    Football, bloody hell.

    It's a crazy game. Often the most dramatic sport in the world, fans have grown accustom to witnessing miraculous happenings on a weekly basis.

    I've taken a look through the archives to produce a round-up of football's craziest moments.

    It's important to note this is by no means a definitive list. I've hunted down feats of fair play, outrageous results and dangerous tackles, but this is just the beginning.

    If you have anything to add, please check out the last slide. Together, we may create a definitive list.

    Enjoy the article!

Watford vs Reading: The Ghost Goal

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    When: September 20, 2008.

    Where: London, England.

    Fans often have plenty to gripe about in football.

    Offside goals may be given. Wrong decisions might arise if the ball bounces on or off the line. Human error ensures these mistakes are always going to happen.

    Try and tell Watford fans that.

    Thirteen minutes into the clash with Reading at Vicarage Road, one of the sport's greatest howlers emerged.

    A decent corner bounced around the Watford box before being smashed against the bar. As the ball cannoned off the woodwork, a curious whistle sounds.

    Linesman Nigel Bannister flagged for a goal. From his view, the Watford defence had scored an own goal before Reading struck the frame.

    Usually I would tell you to watch the video carefully. Most of the time a bad decision is on the cusp of being correct. Not here.

    Bannister must have thought he was officiating one of the world's least important matches. Nobody cheered, no arms flailed in celebration, and the players resumed with a goal kick.

    Realisation soon set in. Referee Stuart Attwell ordered the goal to stand in a game that would eventually finish 2-2.

    Reading's Stephen Hunt didn't hesitate in his reaction: "Probably the worst decision I've ever witnessed in football." (via The Guardian)

The World's Most One-Sided Match: 149-0

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    When: October 31, 2002

    Where: Antananarivo, Madagascar

    Breaking any kind of world record should be a momentous occasion.

    Before the end of October 2002, association football's highest scoreline remained Arbroath's 36-0 win over Bon Accord in 1885.

    It's worth noting that Bon Accord were actually a cricket team, mistakenly invited into the Scottish Cup by hapless organisers.

    This incredible scoreline may have lasted 117 years as the largest ever, but two teams from Madagascar eventually outshone the mismatch.

    Most teams are able to shake off any sense of injustice.

    Stade Olympique l'Emyrne were battling for the national championship. Decisions in a four-team playoff went against them, and this lead to one of the craziest events in football history.

    Lining up against already crowned champions AS Adema, the SOE players decided to make a statement. A few deliberately scored own goals would force the Madagascan FA to take notice.

    Ninety minutes later, the game finished 149-0.

    Add up the total amount of own goals scored by Jamie Carragher, Richard Dunne and Frank Sinclair. Even this doesn't come to 149!

    Safe to say, SOE were heavily punished. The team's coach and four players were banned for three years (via The Guardian).

    Will this scoreline ever be toppled?

The Ultimate Showing of Fair Play

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    When: May 14, 2012

    Where: Arasen Stadion, Lillestrom

    Imagine your club were battling against relegation rivals.

    Play is stopped so an individual on the other team can receive attention. You take possession of the ball and sportingly launch it into the gloves of the opposition's keeper.

    Imagine if you accidentally scored.

    Imagine your colleagues stormed over to your position, hounding you for acting so selfishly.

    This is exactly what happened to Brann midfielder Erik Mjelde earlier this year. His innocuous pass took a wicked bounce and floated over Lillestrom's Stefan Logi Magnusson.

    Calamity ensued.

    As mentioned already, Mjelde was on the end of some fierce words from his peers. The player acknowledged his mistake straight away, suggesting he didn't aim to score in such circumstances.

    Brann allowed Lillestrom forward Bjorn Bergmann to reduce the deficit, or at least most of the team did. The video clearly shows Polish keeper Piotr Leciejewski trying to stop the free goal being scored.

    Hilariously, Bergmann's goal turned out to be the winner.

Nigel De Jong's Falcon Kick on Xabi Alonso

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    When: World Cup Final, July 11, 2010.

    Where: Johannesburg, South Africa.

    How do you overcome the brilliance of Spain's tiki-taka football?

    It's a conundrum that many can't answer. Four years after the nation's Euro 2008 triumph, slick passing continues to rule.

    Vicente del Bosque's team clinched their first World Cup in a 1-0 victory over The Netherlands. Despite losing, the side in orange more than left their mark—a statement Xabi Alonso knows all too well.

    Nigel De Jong has many passions in life.

    He enjoys a spot of Angry Birds before big games (via Metro). The defensive midfielder has also been known to thrive on riding his luck. He is a keen escape artist, often dodging red cards with the diligence of Houdini squirming his way out of an impossible tight spot.

    De Jong's favourite pastime must be Kung-Fu movies. Taking inspiration from the masters of martial arts, the former Manchester City midfielder falcon kicked his way into Xabi Alonso's chest. Just like the challenges that left Stuart Holden and Hatem Ben Arfa with fractured legs, he remained on the pitch once more.

    The AC Milan destroyer isn't known as "The Lawnmower" for no reason. His ability to cut down players is world renown.

    After his challenge on Alonso, surely "The Flying Dutchman" is a more suitable moniker?

Zinedine Zidane Headbutts Marco Materazzi

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    When: July 9, 2006

    Where: Berlin, Germany

    From one World Cup final to another. Maybe Nigel De Jong was influenced by the work of Zinedine Zidane four years earlier?

    After all, the legendary Frenchman also left a dent in the chest of an opponent.

    Marco Materazzi's career could be defined by his ability to wind up opponents, but Zidane immortalised the Italian with a quick butt between the nipples.

    Post-match speculation surrounded the incident. Zidane's final action in competitive football threatened to outshine a career of brilliance.

    Word quickly spread that Materrazi had insulted Zizou in some fashion. Did the Italian complain of blinding light bouncing off Zidane's head? Did he tell the former Real Madrid star he could hear creaking in his legs?

    It was far simpler than that.

    Materazzi insulted Zidane's family (via The Daily Mail). While he didn't resort to jokes about the playmaker's mother, he indicated Zidane's sister satisfied men as often as her older brother satisfied the Bernabeu crowd.

    The result? One of world football's most iconic moments.

Roy's Revenge

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    When: April 21, 2001

    Where: Manchester, England.

    Roy Keane is not a man to mess with.

    The former Manchester United captain's ferociousness is still talked about to this day. In April 2001, the midfielder's thirst for revenge came to fruition.

    Keane versus Haaland had become the subplot of an intriguing Manchester derby. Four years earlier, Haaland accused his rival of feigning injury in United's 1997 clash with Leeds.

    Sir Alex Ferguson's player would miss the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage.

    Fast-forward to 2001, one of football's most infamous tackles reverberated throughout the world—and Haaland's knee.

    Keane's attempt at the ball was non-existent. This was assault.

    The Red Devil lunged towards his foe, leaving the Man City player tumbling towards the floor in horrific fashion. Keane shouted his notorious words and marched straight down the Old Trafford tunnel.

    Many believe Keane ended his enemy's career. Many say an injury to his other leg forced early retirement. In a 2008 interview with The Daily Mail, Haaland indicated what really happened:

    It is still there, every day.

    The knee still hurts, that isn't going to go away. I have to accept that. Did that tackle end my career? Well, I never played a full game again, did I? It seems like a great coincidence, don't you think?

Lee Bowyer vs. Kieron Dyer

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    When: April 2, 2005

    Where: Newcastle, England

    Footballers are paid a lot of money to entertain their crowd. This can be achieved through amazing goals, industrious hard work and a showing of passion that embodies what any club is about.

    Former Newcastle teammates Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer tried to innovate. Instead of turning up to St James' Park for a spot of kickball against Aston Villa, the duo flexed their muscles for an inadvertent boxing match.


    Bowyer leans in with an early attack, throwing a right-handed hook to Dyer's temple! What's this? Referee Gareth Barry has stopped the fight! The man from Hastings moves quicker than ever before to end this contest early.

    The judges have made their decision. Ladies and gentlemen, your winner is...TWO CAREERS THAT WILL NEVER RECOVER!

A Celebration of Rene Higuita's Footballing Career

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    When: 1985-2010

    Where: Across the globe

    When I say Rene Higuita, which incident comes to your mind?

    I bet it's the retired goalkeeper's hilarious scorpion kick. His decision to perform such a manoeuvre against England is one of the sport's most recognised clips.

    Higuita wasn't a one-trick pony.

    This is a player who regularly dribbled around opponents and towards the centre of the pitch. He often took free kicks, scoring over 30 goals in his career.

    The Colombian keeper was also prone to terrible errors, making him a liability to any team that was brave enough to use his services.

    Rene Higuita should be celebrated. He is arguably the craziest professional footballer to have lived.

    This sport is often taken too seriously. Higuita's cartoon antics served as a reminder that football is a form of entertainment.

The Anfield Cat

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    When: February 6, 2012.

    Where: Liverpool, England.

    Animals often invade football pitches. Squirrels have scuttled across grass, pigeons have nestled on goal nets and Lee Cattermole regularly plays for Sunderland.

    Kenny Dalglish may have suffered a torrid time as Liverpool manager, but even he could raise a smile to the homeless tabby that invaded his side's clash with Tottenham Hotspur (via The Daily Mail).

    The cat's agility and turn of speed may have aided Dalglish's side up front. If the Scot had his thinking cap on, Liverpool could have splashed £35 million on the confident intruder.

    Needless to say, The Anfield Cat has become quite a sensation. A parody Twitter account currently enjoys the attention of over 70,000 followers.

    Somebody give him a round of apaws.

Rivaldo's Fake Injury

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    When: June 3, 2002

    Where: Ulsan, South Korea

    Simulation has become a major part of football.

    We witness dives, fake injuries and a host of other sillies on a weekly basis. Rivaldo may have produced the most famous incident of awful acting in the sport's history.

    The Brazilian's overreaction managed to get Turkish defender Hakan Unsal sent off in a vital World Cup group game. He admitted fooling the referee and showed no remorse for his actions (via BBC Sport).

    I want to know one thing: what exactly is Rivaldo simulating?

    Unsal launched a ball at his leg. He didn't lunge in with a misplaced challenge, nor did he take aim with a sniper rifle. The Turkish defender merely fired a football into another adult's protected shin.

    Even if Rivaldo was hit in the face, would it have hurt as much as he suggested?

    The former Barcelona man took a $7,350 hit to his wallet, although he probably fell down clutching his integrity with the verdict.

Have Your Say

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    I've outlined 10 crazy moments from the world of football.

    Each slide represents an event or clip that will remain in the sport's history books for years to come.Of course, there's plenty I've left off the list.

    Let's take a look at some honourable mentions:



    I decided against including comebacks for one main reason: it's hugely difficult to suggest one deserves to be on this list over another. I have, however, compiled a selection that includes some of the craziest turnarounds:

    Arsenal recover from 4-0 down to beat Reading 7-5

    Manchester City snatch the Premier League title with 3-2 win over QPR

    Liverpool's overturn 3-0 deficit against AC Milan to win Champions League title

    Manchester United score two late goals to win Champions League crown against Bayern Munich

    Sweden score four second half goals to draw 4-4 with Germany

    Fulham triumph 5-4 against Juventus after trailing 4-1 on aggregate

    Deportivo La Coruna destroy AC Milan 4-0 in the Champions League to lead 5-4 on aggregate


    Other Events

    Luis Suarez handball saves Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup

    Diego Maradona's Hand of God beats England in the 1986 World Cup

    Roy Carroll drops Pedro Mendes's shot over the line, no goal given

    Eric Cantona kung-fu kicks a fan (technically off the pitch)


    Now it's your turn. Which crazy moments in world football live on in your memory? Let me know in the comments section below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter: