Luis Suarez's Bite and the 15 Worst On-Pitch Incidents in Football History
The recent controversy surrounding Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and his bite on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has left the Uruguayan striker facing months of inactivity, as the FA handed down a hefty 10-match ban in his direction.
Biting and spitting, in particular, are offences that tend to rile observers more than most. They are deliberate acts, normally committed away from the ball and are almost seen as sub-human behaviour.
What they are not, though, is among the worst offences that can be committed on a football field, and, for that reason, many will feel that Suarez has been harshly dealt with.
The next fifteen slides, though, will take a look at some of the incidents (predominantly from recent years) that rank among the worst to be committed on a football pitch.
Norman Hunter vs Franny Lee
One of the best examples of the way things were, before football fights in Britain became battles of slaps and theatrics, as Leeds' Norman Hunter and Derby County's Franny Lee go toe-to-toe twice in a matter of seconds.
Lee had won a penalty, which he stepped up and converted himself. Hunter, who felt that Lee had unfairly won the spot-kick, would then let him know as much—cue scenes befitting a boxing ring.
The pair were split up, and dismissed, but on their way off the pitch it once more kicked off between the highly combative pair. It is said to have continued in the tunnel, with Lee attempting to enter the Leeds dressing room.
Had it occurred now, the public outcry for record bans would be almost intolerable.
Terry Fenwick Tackle on Garth Crooks
In an incident that says much of the accepted standards of the time, QPR full-back Terry Fenwick launches himself at Tottenham's Garth Crooks in what must be one of the worst tackles in FA Cup history.
Laughably, it is Crooks who ends up entering the referee's notebook for subsequently kicking at at his assailant.
Thirty years on, such a tackle would have brought an instant red card and media vilification. Remarkably, at the time, the commentator barely seems to register the violent nature of the challenge.
It was certainly not a passage of play befitting an FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Harald Schumacher Takes out Battiston
It was the 1982 World Cup semi-final and French defender Patrick Battiston running through toward the opposition goal, onto the end of a through ball.
German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, though, had other ideas and appeared to deliberately take out his opposite number in mid-air after he had taken his shot.
Battiston was left unconscious by the collision, with damage to vertebrae, with three cracked ribs and without two teeth. It was a cynical and intentional act from the German keeper. (Guardian)
The Frenchman would later accept an apology for the incident, but Schumacher's challenge is remembered to this day as one of the most infamous events in World Cup history.
Graeme Souness' Infamous Attack
"Souness nearly killed him—it was horrific, one of the worst tackles I have ever seen," said Steaua defender Gheorghe Popescu of Souness' tackle on Gheorghe Rotariu in the 1988 European Cup.
Known as a tough tackler, Souness was not scared to push the boundaries of physical combat with his opponents. This effort, though, crossed those boundaries by some distance.
Given the Scot's views on playacting, though, it is quite interesting to see him claim injury after the incident.
Likewise, such tackles make his recent criticism of Uruguayan Luis Suarez look somewhat disingenuous.
Eric Cantona's Kung-Fu Kick
When Eric Cantona infamously kicked a Crystal Palace spectator on 27 January 1995, the Frenchman left arguably his most famous legacy on the Premier League—in spite of his magical performances. (BBC)
United would go on to ban their attacking star for four months, before the FA in turn would lengthen the ban to eight months—despite a supposed agreement that the club's punishment would be final. (The Sun)
Cantona was also sentenced to 120 hours community service by the criminal courts. Matthew Simmons, the man on the end of the kick, was himself sentenced to a week in prison for using threatening language and behaviour.
The French star has since described the incident as "a dream", saying: "When I did the kung fu kick on the hooligan, because these kind of people don't have to be at the game ...it's like a dream for some, you know sometimes to kick these kind of people." (Telegraph)
Palmeiras Response to Corinthians Showboating
Showboating is never looked upon favourably by opponents in football, and nowhere more so than in Brazil, where it has been the cause of several major on-field disagreements.
This incident, sparked by the keepy-uppies of striker Edilson in the final of the 1999 Campeonato Paulista, though, is among the worst of the lot.
Immediately, Palmeiras full-back Junior swings a kick at the forward, before Paulo Nunes' involvement sees the fight spill out of control.
Corinthians' reserve goalkeeper Renato making a jump for the changing rooms after an altercation with Roque Junior is the highlight of the piece, but it was an unsavoury moment all-around.
Roy Keane on Alf Inge Haaland
The Roy Keane tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland has become known as one of football's most unsavoury incidents of the modern era, mainly due to the Irishman admitting that he had intended to injury his opponent.
Never one to forgive and forget, Keane's grudge with Haaland dated back four years to an incident in which he had ruptured cruciate ligaments tripping the Norwegian. Haaland, at the time, accused him of feigning injury to avoid punishment.
"I'd waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard," Keane wrote in his autobiography. "The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don't ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries."
It was a passage that would earn him a further five-match ban from the Football Association.
The tackle is often said to have ended Haaland's career, which is not quite true. The Norwegian played on after the incident, and instead retired due to an injury to his other knee. He would, though, never play ninety minutes again and insists the tackle did play a role in his retirement. (Daily Mail)
Lee Bowyer Stamps on Gerardo's Head
A completely unnecessary and somewhat shocking act of violence from Leeds United midfielder Lee Bowyer would eventually earn the England international a six-match European ban.
Quite how he would escape from the encounter against Malaga without a red is anybody's guess.
Having hacked down opposition midfielder Gerardo, which earned him a yellow card, Bowyer would proceed to deliberately stamp on the face of his Spanish opponent.
Aside from the dangers of stamping on someone's face in particular, it was a callous and somewhat cowardly act. Having later been involved with a fight with a teammate, though, Bowyer is no stranger to on-pitch controversy.
QPR vs. China: Olympic Preparation Goes Wrong
It was 2007 and the Chinese Under-23 football team were on tour in Great Britain to prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games which they themselves would host.
After a feisty match with Chelsea days earlier, a fixture with Queens Park Rangers descended into chaos as striker Gao Lin responded to provocation from a Rangers defender with a flurry of punches.
The mass brawl that followed left China left-back Zheng Tao needing hospital treatment for a broken jaw. Seven of the touring party would be sent home for the roles they played in the incident, while QPR assistant Richard Hill was sacked for his part in the sorry affair.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life," the Ealing Gazette quoted a witness as saying. "There were punches, kung-fu kicks and all sorts. It was absolute mayhem."
Ben Thatcher's Elbow on Pedro Mendes
Ben Thatcher's act of "serious foul play" in elbowing Portuguese midfielder Pedro Mendes would leave his opponent out cold, while the Welshman would serve an eight-match ban for his troubles.
Police charges were ultimately not pressed against Thatcher, but he was perhaps fortunate not to be left facing criminal proceedings given the violent nature of the incident.
While Stuart Pearce initially described the challenge as "a bit mis-timed," others were clearer on the matter.
"How can that not be a sending-off? What do you have to do, kill someone?" asked Portsmouth's Matthew Taylor post-match, while Harry Redknapp added: "What he did tonight was horrendous." (BBC)
Mendes, though, eventually opted not to take legal action over the challenge that he called: "the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my career." (BBC)
Argentina Goal vs Nigeria: The Referee
One of the most shocking refereeing decisions of all-time came in a seemingly innocuous friendly between Nigeria and Argentina in 2010.
The referee, Ibrahim Chaibou of Niger, had already given a soft penalty to Nigeria in the first half. However, he wasn't done yet, playing a remarkable eight minutes of added time before handing Argentina a penalty for a non-existant handball.
FIFA investigated the game, with bookmakers reporting a surge of bets on over 4.5 goals as the game entered its final stages.
The investigation also brought into question several other games refereed by Chaibou—including a Bahraini victory over a fake Togo national team. NY Daily News report that at least five of his games have been flagged as suspicious.
Chaibou, though, maintains his innocence, while FIFA ended investigations upon Chaibou's retirement from refereeing—a somewhat unsatisfactory outcome.
Pepe's Getafe Meltdown
Real Madrid's Pepe is a brilliant defender. He is, though, also somewhat of a hot-head, as his tally of disciplinary offences over the years will attest.
One incident in particular, though, stands out above all others—with his assault on Getafe's Javi Casquero earning him a 10-match ban in April 2009.
The Portugal international's ban was a composite punishment for kicking and raking the back of Casquero, striking Juan Albin in the following melée and also launching a tirade of abuse at officials on his way off the pitch.
It is fair to say that he was lucky to escape with only 10 games given his multiple sins on the day.
Joey Barton vs Manchester City
In perhaps one of the biggest examples of pure stupidity in football, QPR midfielder Joey Barton earned himself a 12-match ban for his violent reaction to being shown a red card against Manchester City.
It was the final game of the 2011-12 season, and Barton had reacted badly to a punch from Argentine Carlos Tevez. His aggressor had escaped without punishment, and Barton had seen red.
Never one to back down, Barton would angrily kick out at Sergio Aguero, before aiming a headbutt at City captain Vincent Kompany. On the way off the pitch, he would then have to be forcibly restrained from also taking on Italian Mario Balotelii who had predictably tried to get involved.
Barton would leave his QPR side a man short while still facing the danger of a final day relegation. A year later, though, he would still have the cheek to accuse players of letting his former side down.
Nene vs. Houssine Kharja: Trouble in Qatar
Another incident from 2013, in which former PSG forward Nene sparked a mass brawl with what can only be called a cowardly punch from behind on midfielder Houssine Kharja.
Kharja, of course, took the incident as well as could be expected—unleashing a flurry of punches at the Brazilian as it all kicked off on the pitch.
The Moroccan would ultimately be given a 10-match ban for his troubles, while Nene would only receive nine games for his initial act of wanton violence—and existing red card. (Doha news)
It certainly wasn't the way Qatari football had hoped to make global headlines when signing the likes of Nene in recent years.
Indonesian Referee Punched
A recent incident, from the Indonesian Super League last month, has seen Persiwa Wamena striker Pieter Rumaropen banned from playing football for life after punching a referee.
The striker, who was left incensed at the decision to award a penalty against his side, left the referee requiring four stitches after his right-hook landed with precision and power on his victim's nose.
Hinca Panjaitan, a member of the disciplinary commission of the Indonesian Football Association said of the incident: "This was a terrible act that we cannot tolerate. It has tarnished the image of Indonesian football in the international community, I hope this punishment will repair that."
Other incidents have seen referees chased, punched and kicked, but are too numerous to list here.