10 Most Unfair Football Red Cards in Recent Memory

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentFebruary 9, 2012

10 Most Unfair Football Red Cards in Recent Memory

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    Generally a good referee goes unnoticed throughout the game because neither side have any qualms with his or her decisions. 

    A wrong red card could be the deciding factor in a club progressing to the UEFA Champions League final or lead to a club getting relegated. 

    We're talking about players and managers potentially losing their jobs over one bad decision. 

    Here are the 10 most unfair football red cards in recent memory. 

    This list isn't exhaustive, so feel free to comment below with examples of other unfair red cards. 

David Beckham

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    Referee Kim Milton Nielsen could possibly be the last referee ever to escape being scapegoated by the English. 

    Not only did he rule out a legitimate Sol Campbell goal but he softly sent off David Beckham

    Beckham tapped Diego Simeone with the heel of his boot, yet the Argentine not only appealed to referee Nielsen but collapsed to the group to emphasise how hurt he was. 

    Yet, it wasn't referee Nielsen who was scapegoated but Beckham. 

    Three years later, he redeemed himself by sending England into the 2002 FIFA World Cup with a last-minute free kick against Greece. 


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    Shades of Rivaldo surfaced when Abdul Kader Keïta clutched his face "in agony" after Kaká merely palmed the Ivorian in the chest. 

Thiago Motta

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    People often fail to mention that Thiago Motta was a serial diver at Barcelona.

    In fact, that's the only thing I can remember him doing at Barça. 

    So in a way, it's karma that he ended up getting sent off after an Oscar-worthy performance by Sergio Busquets. 


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    Joey Barton had created a reputation as a hard man, so the idea that the Englishman would feign an injury didn't even enter referee Peter Walton's thought process. 

    The irony of the situation was Barton was irate with Gervinho's dive, yet proceeded to dive himself to get the Ivorian sent off. 

Laurent Blanc

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    Years later and the French people haven't forgotten Slaven Bilić's dive which led to Laurent Blanc missing the 1998 FIFA World Cup final. 

    Bilić explained what happened: 

    As on all corners, I was marking Laurent Blanc. Nothing had happened between us during the whole game. Then, out of nowhere, he hit me. It wasn’t like Mike Tyson, but I was struck.

    I panicked and collapsed. Why did I panic? Because only one thing mattered—not to get a yellow card because I would have been suspended since taking a booking against Romania in the previous round.

Hakan Ünsal

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    It's a shame that Rivaldo's 2002 FIFA World Cup will forever be tarnished by his acting workshop—something Sergio Busquets later studied day and night at La Masia. 


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    This incident has so many similarities to the Pedro Monzón red card during the 1990 FIFA World Cup. 

    Jürgen Klinsmann, perhaps the greatest diver ever, hurdled over Monzón's dangerous tackle and then proceeded to feign injury. 

    If Dani Alves had allowed Pepe to clatter him, the Brazilian could have his leg broken, so in that split moment, he reacted by diving. 

    It was a perfect synchronised dive because watching it live, it looked like a clear-cut red card, but slow-motion replay indicted that Pepe made no contact whatsoever. 

    Like Alves, Klinsmann risked injury if he had allowed Monzón to clean him up. 

    Both Alves and Klinsmann decided to not only dive to avoid injury but also to get the opposing player sent off. 

    Now this is the gray area in diving. 

    What if the diver is only diving to avoid an injury from a reckless tackle? 


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    Referee Roberto Silvera dished out four red cards during this Copa Libertadores game between Santos and Colo-Colo. 

    Neymar's red card was just bizarre but to a put a positive spin on it—millions witnessed his outrageous goal. 

Éric Abidal

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    When disgruntled Chelsea supporters and Barcelona haters point to this game as a clear example of "UEFAlona"—they conveniently leave out the injustice that was dealt to Éric Abidal. 

    Referee Tom Henning Øvrebø was not bribed by Barcelona, because if he was, he wouldn't have sent off Abidal. 

    What were the chances of Nicolas Anelka tripping over himself with Abidal right next to him? 

    It's so sad that Abidal missed the UEFA Champions League final because of this unfair red card. 

    Guus Hiddink showed his class by reacting civilly whereas Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack went bonkers

Gianfranco Zola

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    This was so heartbreaking because this incident happened on Gianfranco Zola's birthday. 

    I suspect Arrigo Sacchi gave Zola a cameo appearance as a birthday present, considering the then-Parma midfielder hadn't even played a single minute. 

    What did Zola do? 

    It was a shameless act from Augustine Eguavoen and a ridiculous red card by referee Arturo Brizio Carter. 

    Of all the players referee Carter could impose his will on, he had to do it to the nicest guy on the field on his birthday for a nonexistent foul. 

    This was Zola's first and last FIFA World Cup game. 

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