When Football goes a little bit too far

Bill Shankly once quipped that football is more important than life and death. Whilst most would agree this is not literally true, someone might want to try telling that to the following victims and perpetrators…

Sol Campbell moves to Arsenal, July 2001

One sunny, summer morning in July, Tottenham fans woke up to the news that nobody would ever have believed plausible. Their club captain Sol Campbell had signed for arch rivals Arsenal…

Effigies were strung up outside the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust head office, with lynch mobs waiting for Sol outside the gates at White Hart Lane upon Campbell’s return that season. Tottenham supporters have booed, jeered Campbell, ever since. Even Ledley King’s designated chant ‘we’ve got Ledley at the back’ begins with a nice round of ‘you can stick your Sol Campbell up your bum’ (only a little less politely).

However, when Sol left North London for Portsmouth, you’d have thought that would be it. However, for some Tottenham fans, Sol’s departure is their Vietnam-it’ll never be over. Eleven Tottenham fans were eventually charged with indecent chanting in a match between Portsmouth and Tottenham in the 2008/09 season at Fratton Park. Whilst four suspects pleaded guilty and received fines and three year bans from football, an adult and boy pleaded not guilty, in what became the first case of indecent chanting to be brought to the courts. Both defendants were found guilty of homophobic chanting, and were fined and banned from football also.

In January, Campbell (the fool!) committed the act of betrayal once again, signing for Arsenal on a free after being leaving Notts County by mutual consent. Whilst Tottenham fans will doubtlessly boo and jeer Campbell throughout, perhaps it’s time to tone down the remonstrations. Campbell’s been gone nearly ten years, and it’s time to move on. Football, after all, is not worth ending up in court over. Ultimately, the ongoing hatred and racist/homophobic chanting shown towards Campbell by a MINORITY of supporters, is simply a case of football going too far…

Beckham sent off, World Cup 1998


Right. When a national tabloid like the Daily Mirror is printing dartboards with your face on it, I think it’s safe to assume you’ve made a mistake…

England went crashing out of the World Cup in France ’98 after the nation once again bottled it on penalties. However, Beckham was blamed for the countries misery, foolishly flicking a boot out at that bastion of honesty Diego Simone, and getting himself sent off, leaving England to play with ten men in the last-16.

The next day, the media stirred the situation, with the Daily Mirror for example claiming there’d been “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy” on their back page. Actually, what would have been heroic was Diego Simeone staying on his feet, and England burying their penalties for once.

Back in England Beckham received police protection, with violence brewing amidst his return. An effigy of Beckham was strung up outside a pub in London, as England fans grieved their World Cup exit. Beckham even received death threats from some fans. I believe the word ‘scapegoat’ is appropriate here. Thank God the Daily Mirror was there to provide some perspective.

Algeria V Egypt 1989 – present

In November 2009, rivalry once again flared up between Algeria and Egypt before a crucial World Cup qualifying match in Cairo. The Algerian National team coach was stoned and attacked by Egyptians, as tensions ran high before the game. Algerian midfielder Khaled Lemmouchia was injured along with two of his teammates, and accused FIFA of forcing Algeria to play despite the team feeling ‘paralysed’after the attack, and showing favouritism towards Egypt. The Egyptian media actually accused Algerian players of smashing the windows themselves in a bid to get the match postponed.

The game ended 2-0 to Egypt, leaving the two nations with identical qualifying records and so it required a play-off to decide who would play at the World Cup in South Africa. Algeria won the play-off 1-0, but in a sense, both these nations were losers. The three qualifiers that took place throughout 2009 led to scores of confrontations, hospitalizations and riots. In Paris the armed forces were even called in to control the 12,000 Algerian fans who took to the streets to celebrate their qualification amidst reports of arson and looting.

Despite the North African nations being close geographically (only Libya separates the two) political and social history between Egypt and Algeria offers little indication as to why they share such mutual hatred.

The present day conflict can actually be attributed to the 1989 World Cup qualifier between Egypt and Algeria. The match would decide who would compete at Italia ’90. Egypt won the match, but the battle didn’t end at the final whistle. Algerian players mobbed the referee who they felt had been biased toward Egypt. Then, in the post match furore, the Egyptian team doctor was stabbed and blinded in one eye by an Algerian player wielding a broken bottle.

All over a little game of football…

Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga, 2 July 1994

Escobar played 50 times for Columbia, ironically enough scoring his only goal against England in a 1-1 draw at Wembley. However, Escobar’s today not for his career in football, but for what happened to him after the 1994 World Cup.

Escobar scored a now infamous own goal in the second match of Group A in the 1994 World Cup against the USA. USA won the match 2-1, with Columbia exiting the tournament before the knock-out stages.

On 2 July 1994, Escobar was at a bar called El Indio just outside Medellin. A gunman approached Escobar, and shot the player 12 times, shouting ‘Goal!’ for every shot. It is believed that the gunman, Humberto Muñoz Castro had gambled a significant sum of money on the match, and blamed Escobar for the defeat. The USA were considered to be a weak side in 1994, and so it is not unthinkable that the game was seen as a banker by Columbian fans.

Muñoz was found guilty of Escobar’s murder in June 1995 and sentenced to 43 years in prison.

Escobar was just 27 years old, but was ultimately murdered over a game of football.

However, Hansen didn’t want to dwell on the matter, and to keep spirits up, attempted to find the funny side.

After a piece of bad defending in Argentina’s match with Romania, Hansen quipped,

“The Argentine defender wants shooting for a mistake like that.”

Seriously Alan?

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