Over the years, as technology advances and we become more concerned about sports related injuries, various reports have been published about the damage done to brain cells by heading too many footballs for a major part of your life. Unfortunately for footballers, they have no option. Being paid annually what most people would aspire for in a lifetime, we expect them to make such small sacrifices. Fortunately for them, it would seem that they weren’t the brightest lot to begin with. Sure, you have the likes of Juan Mata, who has achieved a degree in journalism and Lilian Thuram, who has taken a stand on many political issues in addition to being a UNICEF spokesperson. However, global media tends to focus a lot more on the Joey Bartons and Mario Balotellis of the world who are more controversial and frankly, a lot more entertaining. Here are some of the stupidest things professional footballers have ever said or done:
- “I couldn’t settle in Italy – it was like living in a foreign country.” – Ian Rush on his short stint with Juventus. Imagine him as a diplomat, would you?
- On his recent move to Manchester City, striker Wilfried Bony claimed to have dreamed about playing for City for the last 15 years. Which would imply that an 11 year old boy from the Ivory Coast dreamed about playing for a team languishing in the 3rd Division of English football at the time. Not an ambitious chap, is he?
- Imagine that you have just scored your first ever goal for Arsenal which clinches your team victory in the League Cup final in 1993. You’d be ecstatic right? Not if you were Steve Morrow, who having achieved this remarkable feat, was lifted up by an exuberant Tony Adams in his wild celebration and then dropped unceremoniously, breaking his collarbone in the process. Inspiring captain, that Tony Adams.
- What do you do when your team is fighting against relegation on the final day of the season and have miraculously taken the lead against the to-be champions in their own backyard? Certainly not what Joey Barton did in QPR’s eventual 3-2 loss to Manchester City, as he got sent off after elbowing Carlos Tevez, kicking Sergio Aguero and attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany. Smooth, Joey.
- When you mention Branislav Ivanovic, the adjectives “strong”, “brave” and “intimidating” come to mind. Certainly not “tasty” and “edible”, which Luis Suarez failed to take note of as he took a bite out of the Serb’s forearm with the world watching. Actually maybe it’s good for Suarez that the world was watching. I shudder to think of what Ivanovic would do if the cameras weren’t rolling.
- David Beckham is a great footballer, an apparently nice guy and the reason that thousands of middle school girls chose to play football over basketball. However, he’s not the best with his words. A few of his classics include “My parents have always been there for me, ever since I was about 7” and “Alex Ferguson is the best manager I’ve ever had at this level. Well, he’s the only manager I’ve actually had at this level. But he’s the best manager I’ve ever had.” Not to mention, when asked by an interviewer if he considered himself a volatile player, he mistook it for versatile and replied with “Well, I can play in the centre, on the right and occasionally on the left side.”
- For those who haven’t witnessed it, the local rivalry between Turkish clubs Fenerbahce and Galatasaray is one of the most bitter and violent rivalries in the world, with both sets of supporters clashing regularly. Now the Scottish have always had a penchant for being a bit thick skinned about other cultures but surely a Scotsman off to manage Galatasaray would be aware of the tension involved? Not Graeme Souness, who decided it would be a good idea to plant a Galatasaray flag in the middle of the Fenerbahce pitch after winning in the 1996 Turkish Cup final. The away fans went berserk and Souness was rushed away from the scene before he could be harmed. Well done, Graeme, you almost single-handedly caused a riot.
- Zinedine Zidane is considered as one of the greatest players of all time. The stage was set for him in the 2006 World Cup, where he had the opportunity to lead France to victory in what would be his final match. Despite scoring early on, the match shall forever be a blemish on his illustrious career as he got sent off in extra time for a headbutt on Italy’s Marco Materazzi in what can only be described as the ultimate moment of madness. France went on to lose on penalties and you can be sure that had Zidane stayed on the field, he would have taken, and in all probability scored one of France’s spot kicks. Damn it Zizou, half of us were supporting the French just for you!
- Diego Maradona in 1994 was considered well past his prime, but managed to get himself in shape for the World Cup, to the wonder of many. In a group match against Greece, he rounded off a spectacular team goal in style, prompting a bizarre celebration in which he ran to the camera screaming as loudly as he could, eyes wild and looking possessed. At the time, drug testing at the end of each game was a common procedure. It was supposed to be at random, but it is a safe bet that a drug tester would select the player doing their best demonic impression. Sure enough, Maradona tested positive for ephedrine, a performance enhancing drug, and was banned and disgraced. Should have just quietly let your mates clap you on your back, Diego.
- I remember my grandmother, after attempting to understand how football works (and failing miserably), decided to ponder more on the logistics of the game and asked me what players do when they need to use the bathroom in the middle of the game. I replied that they need to relieve themselves either before the game or at half time. USA international Damarcus Beasley was a glorious exception to this, as he decided to take a leak on the touchline while warming up as a substitute during the USA’s match with Mexico. Oh, and did I mention that this was a round of 16 match in the 2002 World Cup with hundreds of cameras at the venue and millions of people watching worldwide? Maybe Beasley’s gran should have had a similar conversation with him.
- Roberto Carlos will go down in history as arguably the greatest left-back ever to grace the game. Unfortunately, it was also his blunder that caused Brazil to be knocked out of the 2006 World Cup at the hands of the French. France won a free kick which mastermind Zinedine Zidane put in. Thierry Henry, at his lethal best, rushed in unmarked to volley home for the only goal of the game. The question of why Henry was allowed in unmarked was answered by TV replays – that captured Roberto Carlos, who was supposed to be marking Henry, deciding that an indirect free kick was the right time to pause and tie his shoelaces. Rumour has it that several boxes of Velcro strap studs reached Carlos after the game, no doubt from the gleeful French.
- There was only going to be one winner to an article like this, wasn’t there? To be honest, Mario Balotelli deserves his own article. It’s impossible to choose a single funniest moment from all his misdemeanours. Whether it is throwing darts at a youth team player, unable to put on a training jersey without help from the kit man, wearing the jersey of his club’s cross-town rivals, becoming the fire safety ambassador after burning down his house with fireworks or claiming to being allergic to grass (a serious problem for a professional footballer) – he is the player we love to hate. If he wasn’t a global star, he’d simply be known as the local madman, but fortunately for us (or unfortunately, depending on your sense of humour and which club you support), his antics make worldwide news.
- Although not a player, referee Graham Poll deserves an honorary mention. Poll has been cited many times as the greatest referee England has produced in modern times. With great power, comes great responsibility, a responsibility that Poll squandered when he booked Croatia’s Josip Simunic THREE times before sending him off in their 2006 World Cup clash against Australia. Unsurprisingly, Poll retired shortly afterwards.
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