Eric Cantona's Kung Fu Kick and 5 Other Wild Moments
Monday marks 21 years since Eric Cantona's infamous kung fu incident, and with that anniversary in mind, we decided to compile a list of the brilliant Frenchman's maddest moments.
Sure, leaping into the stands to kick a fan makes the list. But what else?
Click through the slides to see our list, then be sure to add your favorite Cantona memories in the comments section.
Ready? Let's go.
The Kung Fu Kick
By now, 21 years after the fact, the incident has become a part of football lore. Every fan knows about it, and yet it's still difficult to believe.
On the night of Jan. 25, 1995, Cantona's Manchester United were playing an away match against Crystal Palace in the Premier League. Cantona drew a red card for kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw, and then the situation took a turn for the worse at Selhurst Park.
A fan, later identified as Matthew Simmons, ran down the stairs and started shouting at Cantona. Never one to back down, Cantona leapt into the stands with a kung fu-style kick and proceeded to punch the fan.
Writing about the incident for the Guardian, David Lacey called Cantona "nitro-glycerine in human form." Cantona received a lengthy ban and faced criminal charges, but as we'll see in the next slide, that wasn't the last we'd hear from him on the matter.
Seagulls and Sardines
Cantona was originally sentenced to a two-week prison sentence for the incident at Selhurst Park. He later won an appeal and, upon hearing the news, Manchester United called a press conference.
It wasn't a particularly long press conference. In fact, the following is the entirety of what Cantona said, per Simon Midgley at the Independent: "When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."
What did it mean? Who were the seagulls and the sardines? Was he the trawler?
It didn't really matter, though. Cantona was just being Cantona, and we mere mortals weren't meant to fully comprehend.
The Night at Galatasaray
Manchester United drew Galatasaray in the second round of the 1993-94 UEFA Champions League. After a 3-3 draw in the first leg at Old Trafford, the return leg in Istanbul was, in a word, hell.
Here's where we should mention that if ever there were mitigating circumstances for Cantona's actions, it might have been this night, Nov. 3, 1993. At the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, the home fans created an insane, intense atmosphere under which United cracked.
Near the end of a scoreless draw that saw the English side eliminated, Cantona drew a red card after telling referee Kurt Rothlisberger what he thought about the latter's performance. With the red card aloft, Cantona punched the ball into the air with incredible strength, per Rob Smyth at the Guardian.
It wasn't the Frenchman's first moment of madness on the night. In the 77th minute, he kicked the ball away from Gala's reserve goalkeeper and pushed his opponent down with an arm to the chest.
A scuffle ensued with a policeman at full time, prompting United's Paul Parker to say later: "I am never going back to Turkey. Never," according to Smyth.
Cantona made 45 appearances for France between 1987 and 1995, scoring 20 goals. He made his international debut under manager Henri Michel against West Germany in August of 1987, but trouble followed about a year later.
After being benched for a match, Cantona spoke out on French television. Obviously, Cantona wasn't going to hold anything back, and he called Michel a "bag of s--t" on national television, as noted by Goal.
Cantona drew a lengthy ban, but Michel was sacked the following year, paving the way for Cantona's return under Michel Platini.
With Manchester United set to play Juventus in 1996, Cantona took the opportunity to lash out at former France teammate Didier Deschamps.
Deschamps would later captain France to World Cup glory in 1998 (and the European championship two years later), but Cantona didn't think much of his compatriot.
Calling Deschamps a "water carrier," Cantona said (h/t the Sun): "You can find players like him on every street corner. At present Didier likes to act like a monk and a moralist but he'll end up wallowing in every kind of vice. The only two decent French players in Italy are Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane and the rest are nothing special."
Who needs friends in football, anyway?
Since his retirement from professional football just before his 31st birthday in 1997, Cantona has been a busy man. Of his many ventures since quitting the sport, the most notable might be acting.
In 2013, the Frenchman appeared in a film titled You and the Night, a picture that has been widely described as soft-core pornography. Cantona's role in the film is as "L'Etalon," (English: The Stallion), and he wears a prosthetic, erm, member throughout his appearance.
"Porn? No, it's not porn. It's a piece of art. It's just a piece of art," Cantona said, per Ben Rumsby at the Daily Telegraph. "But you can see it like this. It's beautiful. You should see it. Unfortunately, porn is not so aesthetic and so beautiful. But love is sex also, you know?"