World Football: 15 Ridiculous Red Cards
Red cards. Sendings-off. Early baths. Marching orders.
They happen every week, in every league in the world, though these days they are as likely to be a pair of technical infractions as a two-footed lunge from a burly defender on some poor, skinny-legged winger.
But every now and then, a referee will give a side a numerical disadvantage for the oddest of reasons.
Here are 15 such occasions. Feel free to add your own examples below.
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There seems no better place to start than the present.
Last month, Stoke City hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv in a Europa League group match.
The Pottters had already had Cameron Jerome sent off just before halftime after going into a three-goal lead.
Any hope of the visitors using their one-man advantage to claw back a result evaporated on 55 minutes when, after a tussle with Ryan Shotton loosened his laces, Israel international defender Viv kicked his boot at the linesman.
The 30-year-old was shown off the pitch, and Stoke closed out the 3-0 win.
With four matches gone, Maccabi are sitting bottom of Group E, while Stoke are top.
The second of our entries from this season concerns Ghana international Inkoom.
The 22-year-old Dnipro defender was already on a yellow card when he was substituted in last month's Ukrainian league match against Karpaty Lviv.
Inkoom was walking off and removed his shirt before he had left the field of play, and the referee showed him a second yellow and a red.
The absurd sending-off also meant that the awaiting substitute, Evgeniy Shakhov, could not come on.
The most recent example here, having happened just last week.
The Morocco international casually kicked the ball back in the general direction of where the set piece was to be taken, but it hit the official on the back.
Quick as a flash, the referee rounded on Boussoufa and whipped out his red card. Whatever happened to employing common sense?
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A classic World Cup cock-up, this, and one from which referee Graham Poll never recovered.
The English official was in the middle for a bad-tempered group match between Croatia and Australia, but he ended up as the one in the spotlight.
Having already booked Croatia's Simunic in the 61st minute, he then showed a second yellow for a nasty foul on Mark Viduka in the 89th.
The only problem was, Poll thought it was only the first booking he had shown the defender.
The Socceroos players were up in arms, but Poll waved away their appeals and restarted the game with Simunic still on the field.
Perhaps he was keen to put things right, as Aussie-born Simunic earned a third booking for dissent towards Poll and finally earned himself a red card.
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Even by Real standards, the Brazilian was dismissed by some as a luxury—all tricks but little end product.
He went some way to mend his reputation with five goals in the tight run-in, including one in the vital win over title rivals Sevilla.
Robinho celebrated his 77th-minute goal to put Real 2-1 up by removing his shirt and twirling it in front of a jubilant Bernabeu crowd.
Unfortunately for him, he had already been booked and received a second yellow card as well as a red for taking his jersey off.
Fortunately, Real went on to win 3-2 and would eventually seal the 2006-07 title.
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Not nearly as stellar as some of the other names on this list, but Todd has been unofficially credited with the quickest red card of all time in October 2000.
Todd lined up for the start of the Sunday League match between his team, Cross Farm Park Celtic, and opponents Taunton East Reach Wanderers.
Todd had his back to the referee as the whistle was blown for kickoff, and in his shock exclaimed: "F*** me, that was loud!"
The next sound he heard was the referee blowing the whistle again, this time to stop play and show Todd a straight red card for using foul and abusive language.
"I wasn't swearing at the ref or anyone else," said Todd. "Anyone else would have done the same—he nearly blew my ear off."
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Todd's title of fastest ever red card is unofficial because it only happened in an amateur match. However, Keith Gillespie can lay claim to being sent off before a ball was kicked.
In the 53rd minute, with United 2-0 down, Gillespie came on as a substitute for Derek Geary. Before referee Mark Halsey blew the whistle to restart play, Gillespie clashed with Reading's Stephen Hunt, elbowed him in the face and was sent straight back down the tunnel.
The Blades went on the lose 3-1, and were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season. Next time a Sheffield United blames it on Carlos Tevez, remind them of this incident as another factor in them suffering the drop.
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Zinedine Zidane, one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game. A winner of Serie A, La Liga, the Champions League, the World Cup, the European Championship, the Ballon d'Or and three World Player of the Year awards.
But his name transcended football when he was shown what must have been the most-viewed red card in history during the 2006 World Cup final.
With 10 minutes of extra time remaining, the France midfielder took umbrage to an insult muttered at him Italy defender Marco Materazzi, allegedly casting doubt over the virtue of Zidane's sister.
Zidane responded the way every big brother probably thinks they would. He reared up, set himself and then delivered a solid headbutt to the sternum of Materazzi, for which he was sent off.
Italy went on to win the match on penalties and claim their fourth World Cup. The man who lifted the trophy, Fabio Cannavaro, later said when asked about the incident: "No, I didn't see the headbutt. But I heard it."
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Another English non-league red card, and a cautionary tale for anyone who tries to do a good deed.
Back in March of this year, Dorchester Town's Blue Square South match at Havant and Waterlooville was poised at 1-1 when a fan ran on to the pitch dressed in nothing but a Borat 'mankini.'.
The Havant stewards made a poor fist of trying to catch the fan, who led them around the field in a Benny Hill-style chase for more than a minute.
Fed up with seeing the match delayed, Dorchester player-manager Vickers took matters into his own hands by taking out the fan himself.
The grateful stewards grappled the invader off the field, and the crowd gave Vickers a big cheer. The referee was not so impressed and showed Vickers a red card.
"I'm dumbfounded and speechless. I thought I was doing them a favour," Vickers said afterwards. "It beggars belief. Their players told the ref not to send me off and their chairman even offered to take a player off to even things up."
Robin Van Persie
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It seems so obvious after the fact that Barcelona won through their second-round Champions League clash against Arsenal last season, but it is easily forgotten that the Gunners led for a significant portion of the tie.
Having won the first leg in London 2-1, Arsenal went ahead again at the Camp Nou when Sergio Busquets's 53rd-minute own goal cancelled out Lionel Messi's opener on the night.
But Arsenal hearts were broken just three minutes later when van Persie, already on a yellow card, shot and missed the goal a second after referee Massimo Busacca's whistle went for offside against the Dutchman.
The official showed van Persie a second yellow for kicking the ball away, despite van Persie's rather flimsy excuse that he could not hear the whistle because of the noise from the 90,000-strong crowd.
Even now, RvP hasn't learned his lesson. Next time he is through on goal, only to be flagged offside, just watch: he still shoots.
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The enfant terrible of French football was causing trouble long before he came to England and launched kung fu kicks into the crowd.
Take, for example, the time he played for Nimes in 1991 when, after taking umbrage to a decision by the referee, Cantona threw the ball at him and stormed off the pitch before he even saw the red card that came his way.
It got better. When he was called to a disciplinary hearing with the French Football Federation, the story goes that Cantona took the time to approach each member of the panel and, individually, call each one of them an idiot.
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The scousest of all Scousers, Carragher has had a long and distinguished career with Liverpool, regularly punctuated by trophies and the odd own goal.
However, there have also been a few red cards, and none were more senseless than the one he picked up at Arsenal in 2002.
Liverpool were defending FA Cup champions when they rocked up at Highbury to face their vanquished final opponents in the fourth round.
Dennis Bergkamp opened the scoring but not long after Martin Keown was sent off, the Dutchman too got his marching orders.
Incensed, one fan in the home crowd threw a coin at Carragher and his aim was true. The Reds defender picked up the offending article and, instead of handing it to the referee, threw it back into the crowd.
Arsenal won the game and Carragher was fined £40,000, but in his autobiography years later, he was able to see the funny side.
He wrote: “I think there were 38,000 thousand inside Highbury that day, and only five of them failed to make an insurance claim.”
Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer
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Sometimes, when things go wrong, they really go wrong.
In 2005, Graeme Souness was in charge at Newcastle. While he would have wanted his players to show the kind of fighting spirit that embodied his own playing career, two members of his team took it a little too far.
With eight minutes remaining and the Magpies already three goals and a man down at home to Aston Villa, referee Barry Knight had to stop play to break up a fight. The fight happened to be between Lee Bowyer and fellow Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer.
Both players were sent off and missed the next four domestic games. Newcastle lost all four.
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One of the most famous moments of Beckham's career was his red card while playing for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. The midfielder saw a straight red for his cheeky flicked leg which tripped Diego Simone, and for a time was a national pariah in his homeland.
However, that is not why Becks makes the list. The honour comes for his red card while playing for Real Madrid against Valencia in 2005.
In the final few minutes, with Real losing 2-1 at the Bernabeu, Beckham was booked for dissent by referee Arturo Dauden Ibanez. The then England captain continued to remonstrate, and sarcastically applauded the official's disciplinary action, thus incurring a second yellow.
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Vengeance has a name, and thy name is Keano. The former Manchester United captain is not a man to upset.
But that is exactly what Leeds defender Alfe Inge Haaland did in 1997 when he was fouled by Keane. With the Irishman writhing in agony, Haaland stood over him and told him to stop faking it. It turned out that Keane had ruptured ligaments in his knee.
Fast forward four years to April 2001 and Keane met Haaland again, this time the Norwegian was wearing the colours of Manchester City.
With four minutes to go, Keane unleashed what was less of a reckless tackle and more outright warfare on Haaland's knee, a stomach-turning incident which gets no easier upon repeat viewing.
Keane marched off the pitch without even waiting for the red card. His work was done.
He would later write in his autobiography: "I'd waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don't ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries. Even in the dressing room afterwards, I had no remorse. My attitude was, f*** him. What goes around, comes around. He got his just rewards. He f**** me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye."
The reason this sending-off makes the list is that, given his apparent mea culpa, it is ridiculous that Keane did not end up in prison. Haaland never played another full match, and had to retire in 2003.