50 Most Troubled Players in World Soccer History: Part One
There are some footballers whose reputation has always preceded their talent, some who have wasted a chance of glory due to persistent ill discipline and making the wrong decisions and some who had such a gift for football that no matter they did off the pitch they will be fondly remembered for their achievements as footballers.
So for every Mbulelo Mabizela (above) there is an Eric Cantona.
Two of the world's greatest ever players, Diego Maradona and George Best led famously controversial and often illegal lifestyles.
However, for every high there is a low. In the case of several footballers, that meant taking their own lives or being caught in the wrong time at the wrong place as was the case for tragic Colombian star Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga in 1994.
Here in no particular order is a list of the 50 most troubled stars to have played professional football.
Where Fame Was Fatal
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The Rose Bowl, Pasadena. 22 June 1994. With 33 minutes on the clock, 27-year-old Colombian defender Andres Escobar scores an unfortunate own goal. Less than a fortnight later, Escobar is murdered in a restaurant car park with his killers shouting ''Gol'' for each of the 12 bullets fired into his body. It is thought the tragic Colombian was killed on the orders of a huge betting ring after his team crashed out of the FIFA World Cup.
"I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family", wrote former English footballer Justin Fashanu in a suicide note after he had hanged himself in a garage in East London. The incident happened just weeks after he was linked to a sexual assault on a 17-year-old in Maryland, USA. Ever since he announced he was gay in 1990, fans and fellow players had verbally abused him.
Married with an adopted child, second-choice goalkeeper for Germany. A life of fame and wealth. But no happiness. And so on 10 November 2009, 32-year-old German goalkeeper Robert Enke stepped in front of an express train in Neustadt am Rubenberg, Germany. He had struggled with depression after losing his daughter at a young age to a heart defect.
Less than a year ago, young England C and Rushden & Diamonds goalkeeper Dale Roberts hanged himself at his flat. His teammate Paul Terry, brother of full England international John, had been having an affair Roberts' girlfriend Lindsay Cowan six months previously.
Just a few months ago, 25-year-old Nigerian footballer Olubayo Adefemi died in a car crash in Greece, where he played club football for Skoda Xanthi.
Don't Do It: The Drug Addicts of World Soccer
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Former Liverpool forward Robbie Fowler famously answered his critics when he pretended to sniff the goal line as a celebration for scoring a goal for his club. Although never caught in possession of drugs, Fowler was thought to have had a habit in his playing days.
Other footballers to have indulged in a potentially lethal habit include Romanian striker Adrian Mutu, fined nearly $25 million for breaching his Chelsea after failing a drugs test for cocaine, and Argentina legend Diego Maradona.
Although not caught in possession of drugs or having failed a test, England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was fined $80,000 and banned from the game for eight months after missing a regulation drugs test in 2003.
Welcome to the Players' Club: Football's Dangerous Womanisers and Boozehounds
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In 2005, British football mourned the loss of former Manchester United and Northern Ireland winger George Best, who had drunk himself to an early grave.
So highly did United's fans regard the dashing footballer that the saying went: ''Maradona good; Pele better; George Best''. They also put up with his drunken, occasionally violent behaviour away from the football pitch, where he was accused of assaulting a server and punching wife Alex (pictured above with Best) on more than one occasion.
"The lad has had a very bad time with his health. He was away on a bender when he was taken to hospital", said PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor in 1998 when news emerged that talented midfielder Paul Gascoigne had been admitted to a ''drying out'' clinic following problems with alcohol abuse.
Other British footballers to have battled with the bottle include World Cup winner Jimmy Greaves and former Arsenal players Tony Adams, Paul Merson and Malcolm MacDonald. Fortunately, as the Premier League has attracted increasing TV coverage and revenue and standards have been raised by an influx of foreign players and improved training methods and fitness, so the alcoholism has died down.
The Young Troublemakers: Joey Barton, Ashley Cole, Craig Bellamy and Co.
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What charming fellow Newcastle United's Joey Barton is. Pictured here picking a fight with England North East rival Lee Cattermole, Barton is never far away from the headlines through his mixture of outspoken views and thuggish behaviour. In 2005, his brother Michael was ordered to life imprisonment for committing murder, while Joey has been suspected of assault and criminal damage, stubbing a cigar in a youth player's eye, breaking a teammate's jaw and attacking a fifteen-year-old Everton fan.
Manchester City winger Craig Bellamy has been involved in three cases of suspected violence: assaulting two women in Cardiff city centre, drunkenly confronting teammate Johne Arne Riise with a golf club, and attacking two men who suffered facial injuries in January this year.
Where Barton and Bellamy like to use their fists, Ashley Cole prefers air rifle. He famously shot a young work experience boy from five yards during a training session in February.
New York Red Bulls' Luke Rodgers is no stranger to an English police office either, having twice been arrested for assault and been cautioned for setting off a firework which severely scarred a young girl's face.
In short, welcome to the charming and friendly world of English football.
Footballers: Good with a Ball, a Liability Behind the Wheel
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On June 7 2008, Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick (above) was driving back from the wedding of teammate David Norris when, drunk, he crashed into another car. He killed two children aged eight and ten and injured three more. He was driving under the influence of alcohol and without a licence and was swiftly sentenced to nearly eight years in jail.
World-class footballer Patrick Kluivert owes his stellar football career to some very lenient Dutch judges, who amazingly let him off a prison sentence when, aged 19, he killed one of his own fans when he drove into the car of of theatre director and father of two Marten Putman at 55 miles per hour while attempting a U-turn. As he was not drunk, he was only sentenced to community serviced and fined for his grossly irresponsible act. He went to become one of the best forwards of the modern era in world football.
Seven years ago, Notts County forward Lee Hughes was convicted of death by dangerous driving after killing a man while driving 170 kilometres per hour in his $170,000 Mercedes coupe sports car. He was jailed for six years and is already rebuilding a career that has made him millions of dollars.
Football Scandals: Britain 1964, Germany 2009, Calciopoli and Scomessopoli
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Four Serie A teams were deducted points, Turin giants Juventus were relegated to Serie B and the club's Director General Luciano Moggi received a lifetime ban from football. Fifteen others who were supposedly involved were banned and two men were jailed.
In 2006, several high-profile teams were accused of rigging matches by appointing referees who would act favourably to their cause.
The scandal rocked the foundations of Italian football, which was enjoying an apogee.
Five years later, former Italian international Beppe Signori was among those accused of fixing 17 Serie B and non-league Italian football matches and attempting to fix one Serie A match in a scandal dubbed ''Ultima Scomessa'' (Last Bet).
Two years ago, German prosecutors revealed that as many as 200 matches in a short period may have been fixed by betting rings within the country. Raids carried out on many homes uncovered €1 million in cash and many vital documents, although no famous players were accused of wrongdoing.
Back in 1964, former Charlton Athletic and Everton forward Jimmy Gauld sold a story to the Sunday People newspaper for £7,000, which blew away the cobwebs on a series of fixes. He and nine other received jail sentences.
Dodgy Bosses: Mourinho's Mouth and Redknapp's Bungs
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Many may disagree with this selection, but ever since Jose Mourinho moved from Porto to become Chelsea manager, he and his team have managed to start more fights than a group of drunken football hooligans in a English city centre on a Saturday night.
Just last weekend, the Portuguese coach was captured attempting to gouge Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova's eyes in the middle of a mass brawl involving more than 20 players and coaches during Barcelona's 3-2 win in the second leg of the final of the Supercopa. This has led for calls within Spanish football for Mourinho to be sacked. Previously, he has on several occasions shown a lack of respect by accusing referees and players of cheating, some comments leading to referee Anders Frisk receiving death threats from the public.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has a murky past and has been accused of accepting bungs from players' agents and others in the business, including a $295,000 payment from then Portsmouth chairperson Milan Mandaric and of accepting a ''gift'' of a racehorse. Previously as a player, he had the misfortune of being involved in a serious car crash that killed four people in 1990. Recently, he has angered his neighbours by threatening to pull out of a housing scheme he owns if the local council insists he includes social housing as part of his company's plans.
Harking Back to the Old School: Brothers, Counterfeits and Porn Mags
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Yes, that's what former Arsenal player Peter Storey got up to after retiring from the game.
Back in those days, players earned a wage, which was above average but they were living in a different world to today's multi-millionaire players, who are told what to say and when, wrapped up in cool and throw a tantrum when things don't go their way.
As for Mickey Thomas (above), he just made do with printing thousands of pounds of money.
While that is all fun and well, such behaviour sometimes leads to tragic consequences.
Former Reading star Robin Friday was accused of impersonating a police officer who confiscated other people's drugs. After decades of excesses, he was found dead in his Acton flat in 1990 aged just 38 having overdosed on heroin.
Football's Sexual Deviants
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After a backlash from the Scottish football community, Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov conceded that there was no immediate future for midfielder Craig Thomson (above), who was accused of engaging in ''sexual conversations'' with two underage girls over the internet. In an effort to calm the anger, which met this news, he loaned the player to another of his clubs, FBK Kaunas until November this year.
Recently, England star forward Wayne Rooney was exposed in the media for reportedly cheating on his pregnant wife Coleen with a 52-year-old grandmother and with two other £1,000-a-night prostitutes.
Last year, Bayern Munich and France midfielder Franck Ribery was questioned over allegations he slept with an underage prostitute.
Zahia Dehar, now 19, also claims international stars Karim Benzema and Sydney Govou paid to have sex with her.
Back in 2004, forward Stan Collymore admitted practicing ''dogging'', having sex with strangers in car parks, while Israeli manager Avram Grant was pictured entering a seedy Thai massage parlour, an action which wife Tzofit defended as an innocent gesture by a man looking only for a rubdown.
Then there is Graham Rix, who was convicted of raping a friend's 15-year-old daughter!
The Curios Case of ''Old John'' Mabizela
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The slideshow's cover man is former Tottenham Hotspur midfiled Mbulelo Mabizela, who joined the club from Orlando Pirates in 2003 after he impressed in a 2-1 win against the London club in their preseason tour of South Africa.
Despite scoring a breathtaking goal against Leicester City in the Premier League in his debut season, he only played on six other occasions in the top flight before his contract was cancelled by mutual consent.
It is thought the player had a drug habit that was spiraling out of his control. Then in December 2006, he was banned for six months from the sport for drug offences and was then caught drink driving in his first few months at new club Platinum All Stars.
However, his coach forgave him and he has started to rebuild career, although with his skill he could have become a very capable Premier League player rather than an also-ran in South African football.
Part Two: Balotelli, Cantona, Higuita and Maradona...It's Going to Get Messy!
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Join me tomorrow for the Final Part of World Soccer's Most Troubled Players, where there will be kung-fu lessons, karate in front of the King of Spain, dentist chairs and more.