World Football: 40 Biggest Scandals in Football History

Vijay MuraliAnalyst IOctober 28, 2011

World Football: 40 Biggest Scandals in Football History

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    There has been plenty of controversies involving football, and for a sport attracting plenty of attention and generating plenty of money, it is likely to have its fair share of controversies as well.

    Though some footballers do have excellent virtues and can be a role model even away from the pitch, there are many who are involved in affairs and the like, and when they do get caught, it is embarrassing for the footballer and those around him as well.

    There have been many scandals in world football ranging from match-fixing to drugs, and many footballers have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

    This is a list containing 40 of the biggest scandals and controversies in the history of football.

1. Calciopoli Scandal (2006)

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    Calciopoli Scandal in 2006 rocked world football when it emerged that many top clubs in Italy had been involved in influencing the appointment of referees for their games among various other allegations.

    Juventus who had won the 2005 and 2006 league were stripped of their titles and were relegated to Serie B where they stayed for one season before returning to top flight immediately. Though Juventus were punished seriously for their involvement, AC Milan and some other clubs could consider themselves fortunate not to endure such serious consequences.

    It had a major impact on Italian and world football, and since then, extra precautions have been enforced in football in this regard. Juventus have since not won a single league title and have not been the same force in the last few seasons though under the diligent Antonio Conte, they have shown that they can be serious contenders for the title this season.

2. John Terry's Affair with Wayne Bridge's Wife Vanessa Peronncel

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    Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge was devastated after it emerged that John Terry could be involved in an affair with his wife Vanessa Perroncel. Bridge and Terry have played together for both Chelsea and England in the past and were considered to be good friends before this incident. It is no surprise that Bridge reacted in this manner and even refused to play for England if he is to play alongside Terry.

    In the games against Chelsea that he has taken part since details of the alleged affair emerged, he has refused to shake hands with Terry. The Chelsea defender also had a tough time following the affair, considering that he was stripped of his captaincy before the world cup by Fabio Capello and had to endure plenty of criticism.

2. Referee Robert Hoyzer's Fixing Scandal

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    German referee Robert Hoyzer was under the scanner after the German football federation suspected him of rigging a Cup game involving Hamburg. He had initially denied the charge but later accepted that he was to be blamed and promised to cooperate completely for the investigation. In the game between Hamburg and Paderborn that was investigated by the DFB, he awarded two penalties against Hamburg and also sent off a Hamburg game.

    "The accusations that have been raised in public are true," he said. "I regret my behaviour profoundly and apologise. I have documented completely and unsparingly my behaviour and my entire substantial knowledge of all facts and people known to me in this matter."

    Hoyzer has told state prosecutors Friday that other referees and players were involved in the scandal, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Friday.

4. Adrian Mutu Drug Scandal at Chelsea

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    Adrian Mutu was signed by Chelsea in August 2003 from Parma for big money and then, just over a year of his stay at Stamford Bridge, he was embroiled in plenty of controversy when he was sacked after he was found using cocaine.

    This led to his suspension, and he was subsequently moved on by the club. Mutu was ordered to pay a bill in excess of £14.6 million after he was moved on under forced circumstances by the Blues. 

5. The Unfortunate Murder of Andres Escobar

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    Colombian defender Andres Escobar was murdered in July 1994 just after the team was eliminated from the World Cup due to his own goal, and it is widely believed that it was why he was killed.

    It could be some drug traffickers who lost money betting on the team that they targeted the respectable defender. In the above video, it is quite clear that it was an unfortunate error which could happen at times even to the best defenders of the game, and it is a tragedy that he was murdered.

    Let us hope that such incidents never happen again in the future.

6. Ryan Giggs Affair with Imogen Thomas

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    Ryan Giggs was at the heart of the controversy when it was revealed in parliament by a MP that he was the footballer who had obtained a super-injunction to stop publicizing his affair with former Big Brother star Imogen Thomas.

    Giggs, who is married and has children, would have certainly been shattered by the events, and it was an unfortunate time for Manchester United as well as it was only days before their important Champions League Final against Barcelona. 

7. Mexico's Drug Scandal in the Gold Cup (Chicken-Gate Incident)

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    Before the Gold Cup in 2011, five Mexican players were found guilty when they were tested for drugs and were subsequently banned from the competitions.

    Goalkeeper Memo Ochoa, forward Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez, forward Sinha, defender Edgar Duenas and defender Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez were the five members of the team found guilty, and it was speculated that they had eaten tainted meat which was the reason for them testing positive.

    It was a major embarrassment for the country, but they were able to overcome the losses of the suspended players and won the Gold Cup thanks to the performances of Giovani dos Santos and Javier Hernandez.

8. Brazil's World Cup: 2014 Scandal

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    Brazil have faced difficulties in hosting the 2014 World Cup, and it will be a demanding task for them to meet the deadline with full facilities for the tournament. The Brazilian government have had to face many serious charges of corruption and as many as six Brazilian ministers have resigned over the corruption scandal.

    The people of the country have been encountering problems of corruptions for a long time, and it has meant that the government and President have had to take a strong stance against this.

9. Wayne Rooney's Affair with Jenny Thomson

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    Wayne Rooney had to face a very hard time following allegations that he had slept with an escort girl at the time when his wife Coleen Rooney was pregnant. It led to several reports being published in the media, and after a disappointing World Cup, it was another blow to the Manchester United striker.

    The striker subsequently endured a long contract saga with Manchester United, and also, lost form for the next few months before signing a new contract with the Red Devils. 

10. Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and the Underage Prostitute Zahia Dehar

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    Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Sidney Govou were involved in an alleged sex scandal involving prostitute Zahia Dehar, who is still a teenager. She has been accused of sleeping with all three footballers at the time when she was lesser than 18 years of age though Ribery and the others claim that they had no knowledge of her age when they were involved in the incident.

    She said that they were all nice to her, and that she was surprised that they could face criminal charges in the future.

11. Ashley Cole's Affairs

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    Ashley Cole has been involved in a number of extramarital affairs leaving his ex-wife Cheryl Cole disappointed with his character on several occasions. Chelsea star Cole has established himself as one of the best players in the world, but his affairs have meant that Cheryl has had to divorce him.

    The Girls Aloud beauty has tolerated Cole's misbehavior on several occasions in the past before they officially broke up and Ashley Cole has tried to reunite with her in the recent past.

12. Kolo Toure's Testing Positive for Manchester City

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    Manchester City defender Kolo Toure tested positive when he was tested for drugs, and it was a major surprise considering that he had a relatively clean record till then as a player. His club and his former manager Arsene Wenger, who managed him for a long time at Arsenal, offered support to the defender with the French manager revealing that it was his diet pills which got him into trouble.

    Wenger also insisted that he was certain that Toure had not taken it for the purpose of performance enhancement. Toure was subsequently banned for six months and has made his comeback following the completion of the ban.

13. Oliver Kahn and the Affair

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    Oliver Kahn is considered as one of the best ever Germany goalkeepers, but his actions off the field did not always go down well with the public.

    He received plenty of negative publicity when he ditched his pregnant wife Simone to be with night club hostess Verena Kerth, who was referred to as the "Pierced Party Chicken" by some tabloids.

    Bayern Munich commercial manager Uli Hoeness said that the incident made him "vomit," and Kahn got plenty of criticism for his actions. 

14. Italian Football's Betting Scandal

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    Italian football has gone through a number of tough periods, and there could be further scrutiny following this latest betting scandals, the details of which emerged recently this year.

    The police have made 16 arrests as part of the betting and match-fixing scandals with many current and recently retired footballers believed to be a part of the circle.

    Former Italy international and Lazio captain Signori has also been arrested along with several others, and this investigation is likely to continue in order to make efforts to eradicate fixing in Italian football.

15. Maradona's Drug Addiction

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    Diego Maradona is widely recognized as one of the greatest ever players to have played the game, but it was his addiction to cocaine which did taint his career to some extent.

    Maradona did suffer from health problems at a young age and did undergo rehabilitation in a bid to get rid of his addiction. He could have been even better without the influence of drugs though he still accomplished history with Argentina.

16. Rio Ferdinand's Missed Drug Test

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    Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who was signed by the Red Devils for big money, was banned for eight months following his failure to undergo a drugs test despite him knowing that he was required to be present for the test.

    Ferdinand was ignorant which is why he was banned, and it did set a precedent to those who thought they could take these tests casually. Though Ferdinand offered to take the test a little later, it was declined, and he was found guilty of missing the test which is why he received a considerable ban.

17. Tomas Rosicky and His Friends' Night with Prostitutes

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    Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky and his teammates were caught late into the night when they were with prostitutes by an undercover female reporter, who posed as a fan.

    The Czech had lost 2-1 to Germany in a European qualifier, and there were five players with six hookers in the night.

    Rosicky said that he had a "clear conscience" with regard to what had happened and said that they had celebrated due to married defender Tomas Ujfalusi's birthday.

18. Benjani's Affair with Henrietta Rushwaya

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    Benjani is one of Zimbabwe's top prospects, and though he did show flashes of his quality during the last few seasons, he has failed to produce consistently enough in the Premiership.

    His affair with Henrietta Rushwaya, the chief executive of the country's Football Association raised more than a few eyebrows around the world. It was even more surprising that it was revealed that she had affairs with more than one footballer, and Benjani had a fight with former striker Peter Ndlovu over Rushwaya.

19. Edgar Davids Testing Positive for Drugs

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    Edgar Davids who played for numerous clubs during his career did also have his share of controversies during his career. The former Dutch international tested positive for banned steroid Nandrolone and the midfielder who was playing for Juventus at that time was subsequently banned for four months following the test. There were many at that time in Serie A who were banned after they also tested positive for Nandrolone.

20. Jaap Staam and Frank de Boer Testing Positive for Nandrolone

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    Jaap Stam was the third Dutch player who tested positive for Nandrolone following Edgar Davids and Frank De Boer who had earlier tested positive for the same drug.

    Stam was stunned by the results of the test and was subsequently banned, but he did protest that he was not guilty of taking any performance-enhancing drug.

    The Dutch federation also took notice of the fact that three Dutch internationals were found guilty and did launch an inquiry if it was possible that the national team had any connection to this.

21. Ronaldo's Encounter with Transvestites

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    Ronaldo was involved in a hugely embarrassing moment when he took three ladies to his home only to discover to his surprise that they were actually transvestites.

    He admitted that it would taint his character and claimed that things had turned ugly when he discovered that they were transvestites, and they had asked for a sizeable sum of money in order to keep it silent.

    However, his companions insisted that he had known that they were transvestites and had even joined them in snorting cocaine.

22. Mark Bosnich's Cocaine Addiction

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    Australian keeper Mark Bosnich dramatically admitted that he was addicted to cocaine, but he protested that he only started taking the recreational drug following his nine-month ban from the FA.

    Bosnich also claimed that he was willing to change after realizing what his actions could mean for others close to him. He apparently mistook his father for a burglar when he was on a high and did point a gun at his father which was the reason why he felt the need to change completely.

    He took a long break in his career and did return to the Australian league in 2008.

23. Paul Merson's Drug Addiction

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    Paul Merson was one of the many gifted players to have played at Arsenal, but he was another footballer addicted to cocaine and gambling habits, which he did confess in a press conference. He even got help from the club and spend six weeks in rehabilitation. He was a very talented player and had contributed quite a lot to the Gunners.

    However, after Arsene Wenger took over at the club, Merson, though technically excellent, did not last long and was on his way shortly. Merson later hinted that Wenger used to inject him with drugs, but the Frenchman refused to accept the accusation and used his track record of not having a single player suspended under him due to drugs to justify his claim.

24. Israeli Team's Prostitute Enjoyment Following 8-0 Defeat

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    Former Israel manager Shlomo Scharf resigned from his post as manager and said that he was "dumbfounded" by the actions of his players after they were beaten 8-0 on aggregate against Denmark in the European playoffs. It was revealed that the players had invited call girls before the games to their hotel in Israel before the game and also at Copenhagen before the return leg which came as shocking news to the poor manager.

25. Bruno Fernandes' Love Affair Ending in Murder

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    This is one of the most unfortunate incidents involving rash actions, and hopefully, we will not have to see these type of incidents again.

    Bruno Fernandes apparently got his former lover Eliza Samudio pregnant in their first encounter, and Fernandes was infuriated by her decision to keep their baby. He had threatened her on several occasions, and the Flamengo goalkeeper was incensed by her stubbornness.

    Later, he, along with a retired policeman Santos, allegedly lured Samadio to a place where she was murdered. 

    The Flamengo goalkeeper was one of the most highly-rated keepers in Brazil, but this unfortunate incident will certainly have its effect on his future as well. 

26. Franz Beckenbauer's Affairs

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    Franz Beckenbauer was one of the best players in the world during his playing career, and the world class defender is still renowned for his unique style of play. But his extracurricular activities did not always go down well with people.

    In 1963 at the age of 18, he got his girlfriend pregnant but refused to marry her. He was subsequently banned from the youth side and was reinstated only after he agreed to share a room with the coach.

    In 2000, he apologized to his second wife Sybille for fathering a child conceived during the Bayern Munich Christmas party. However, after three years, he left his second wife to marry his mistress Heidi Burmester.

27. French Football's Racism Scandal

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    France manager Laurent Blanc along with some other senior executives came under immense scrutiny for allegedly holding racist discussions in a meeting.

    Blanc is alleged to have said that France are not producing enough skilled players and are only producing big, strong and athletic players (the Blacks). However, although shocked by the comments, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who has managed several French players, does not believe that Blanc is racist.

    Blanc later apologized and is still the France manager.

28. Rio Ferdinand's Affairs and Cheating Ways

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    According to the Mirror, Rio Ferdinand had affairs with a number of women despite being married and having children. The Manchester United defender was alleged to have cheated on his wife with as many as 10 women.

    The defender was clearly perturbed by the newspaper publishing the article exposing his activities and sued the Sunday Mirror for breach of privacy over an article published in the paper. 

29. British Football Fixing Scandal, 1915

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    The fixture on Good Friday of 1915 between Liverpool and Manchester United was judged to be fixed, which caused embarrassment to two of the biggest clubs in England. The match which ended 2-0 in United's favor helped them avoid relegation in the process getting Chelsea relegated.

    However, the first division was expanded ensuring that Chelsea stayed in the division. Players from both United and Liverpool were involved, and four from United and three from Liverpool were banned for life after the FA investigation found them guilty.

30. Marseille (1993)

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    Marseille was involved in a huge fixing controversy in 1993 in which some players from other clubs were apparently approached.

    Arsene Wenger, the manager of Monaco, when they finished runners-up to Marseille in 1991 and 1992 had criticized the ways of Marseille and their president Bernard Tapie.

    Tapie was later found guilty of fixing matches and the club was stripped of its title and relegated. 

    "We fought against people who didn't use regular methods," Wenger has said. "I am sure we would have won more titles in normal circumstances."

31. Garrincha's Various Affairs

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    Garrincha is one of the greatest football players to emerge from Brazil helping them win several major tournaments in his playing career. His activities off the field drew criticism, and he is rumored to have fathered as many as 14 children and slept with numerous women. He was embroiled in two famous scandals during his career.

    The first involved him getting a Swedish girl pregnant while touring the country in 1959, and he was unsurprisingly given a hostile welcome. He was confronted by an angry mob, and in the confusion, he ran over his own father. In 1965, shortly before a World Cup, he left his wife with whom he had eight children for a fling with Brazilian singer Elza Soares.

32. Carlos "Kukin" Flores' Ghost Story

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    Carlos "Kukin" Flores of Peru's Inti Gas Deportes was stopped by the police in December last year when he was running naked through the streets of Huamanga.

    When questioned, he said that he could not stop as he was chased by ghosts. He later confessed that he had made up the story so that his wife believed it because in reality, he was "engaging with dirty ladies" and they had mugged him.

    He admitted "I didn't want my wife to be suspicious about ladies so I just told her it was a ghost. She failed to believe me."


33. Match-Fixing Scandal in Korea (2011)

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    This recent match-fixing scandal is under investigation and is threatening to escalate into the worst scandal that has rocked the K-league in its history.

    The prosecutors have arrested two brokers and are investigating around 10 players, including former National team member Kim, with many more suspected to be involved. It is feared that this scandal could have a huge impact in how games are viewed in the future.

    If a player makes a genuine error in the penalty area, he could be suspected of being involved in rigging the game. Goalkeepers and defenders are commonly targeted while strikers may also be targeted as they can miss opportunities to score goals contributing in the side losing the game.

34. Brazilian Football Scandal of 2005

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    Many Brazilian league and Cup games came under scrutiny after a magazine revealed the possibility of the games being fixed due to bribed referees.

    Referee Edilson Pereira de Carvalho, who was then a international referee, was apparently bribed by some businessmen who asked him to rig the games according to the betting sites.

    The referee was subsequently removed, and it was a major embarrassment to Brazil football.

35. Accrington Stanley vs. Bury

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    A League Two game in 2009 between Accrington Stanley and Bury attracted plenty of controversy when it was exposed that four players from Accrington and one from Bury had made bets that Bury would win.

    According to the rules of the FA, a player is not supposed to make bets that his team would win, and therefore, all the five players were banned. It did attract attention, and hopefully, we can have football secure from these rigging scams.

    The game ended in a 2-0 win for Bury with all players winning their bets but facing serious consequences.

36. Vagner's Love with Brazilian Prostitute Pamela Butt

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    CSKA Moscow's Vagner Love was involved in some controversy after a video of him having sex with Brazilian "porn" queen Pamela Butt emerged on the internet. Surprisingly, it was Pamela who was more enraged, and she said that she was not paid money for this.

    "It's appalling," she moaned. "I'm very well paid to have sex on camera, but I earned nothing for this."


37. Wayne Rooney's Father and Uncle Arrested in Betting Scandal

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    Wayne Rooney's father and uncle Richie were both arrested in relation to a betting scandal investigated on a Scottish game between Motherwell and Hearts. The investigation was conducted on a red card obtained by Motherwell's Steve Jennings against Hearts and the midfielder has subsequently been questioned.

    The irregular patterns of betting on the game also adds to the suspicion, and many arrests have been made in this case. Despite his close family members being arrested just before a important game, Wayne Rooney played the game against Montenegro, but in the end, he kicked a player to get a red card and get himself suspended for the group stages of the Euro Championships. 

38. Ron Atkinson's Racist Comments on Television

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    Ron Atkinson, who was a renowned ITV broadcaster, made racist comments on television when he thought that he was not on air and the company and Atkinson decided to part ways on mutual consent.

    His comments were regarding Chelsea's Marcel Desailly in a Champions League game against Monaco. He did apologize to Desailly and also said that it was a lapse considering that he has worked with many black players in the past and has had a good record with no racist slurs in the past.

39. Richard Keys and Andy Gray's Comments on Female Linesman Sian Massey

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    Sky Sports commentators Richard Keys and Andy Gray came under immense criticism for mocking female linesman Sian Massey during a game between Liverpool and Wolves.

    Fernando Torres raced to a through ball provided a Raul Meireles and the linesman declared it not to be offside which proved to be the right decision, but that did not stop the commentators from making unwanted comments.

    "Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her,” Keys said. “Can you believe that?” Gray responded. “A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” “Course they don’t,” Keys replied. “I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny [Dalglish] will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before? Wendy Toms?”

    The commentators later apologized to Sian Massey, but the damage had been done, and the long-serving commentators were sacked by Sky Sports.

40. FIFA's Bribery Scandal Involving Mohammed bin Hamam and Jack Warner

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    This is arguably the biggest scandal to hit the FIFA organization with their members being accused of corruption and even the bids for 2018 and 2022 have been viewed with suspicion by many people.

    FIFA banned Asian chief Mohammed Bin Hamam and Jack Warner when it was revealed that they had tried to bribe Caribbean members who could vote for Bin Hamam in an attempt to unseat Sepp Blatter.

    The Telegraph also obtained a video containing Warner's speech, and this has prompted further investigation into the incident.