7 of football’s most-shocking moments 25 years on from Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick


Saturday marks 25 years since Eric Cantona’s astonishing kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter at Selhurst Park.

The Manchester United star launched at Palace fan Matthew Simmons moments after he was given his marching orders as he made his way from the pitch.

Simmons was alleged to have said “F*** off back to France, you French b******”.

Cantona was handed a lengthly ban and also faced a criminal assault charge, and received 12 hours community service for his actions.

Here, we takes a look at seven other shocking incidents to have taken place on a football pitch in the past 30 years.

Eric Cantona launches a kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons

Luis Suarez bites Giorgio Chiellini (June 2014)

Perhaps we should not have been surprised. Uruguay striker Suarez had form, having already served lengthy bans for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal while at Ajax and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool.

But even so, the sight of him plunging his teeth into the shoulder of Italy’s Chiellini while playing for his country on the world’s biggest stage was one of those moments that nobody watching will ever forget.

The footballing world was outraged, and Suarez’s claim that it was accidental hardly helped.

He eventually apologised, but only after being hit with a four-month ban from all football, and at the behest of Barcelona, who were in the process of signing him from Liverpool.

Luis Suarez bites Giorgio Chiellini

Zinedine Zidane headbutts Marco Materazzi (July 2006)

The 2006 World Cup final gave one of the game’s greatest players, Zidane, the opportunity to write a storybook ending to his career by guiding France to glory against Italy.

Instead, he ended the evening in disgrace after launching a stunning headbutt into the chest of Materazzi, which lifted the Italy defender off his feet.

It was later claimed that Materazzi had insulted Zidane’s sister to provoke the attack, but whatever the explanation, the final image of Zidane was of him trudging off the pitch and into retirement – so much so that the headbutt was commemorated in a statue by Algerian-born French artist Adel Abdessemed.

Zinedine Zidane pushes his head into Marco Materazzi

Paolo Di Canio pushes referee Paul Alcock (September 1998)

Long before his apparently short-lived managerial career and controversy over his reported political views, Di Canio had a habit of attracting the spotlight on the pitch.

Sometimes it was for moments of stunning skill (see his volley against Wimbledon for West Ham in 2000), or amazing gestures (like the time he passed up a clear scoring opportunity because he saw Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was injured), but the most famous will always be his shove on referee Alcock during Sheffield Wednesday’s match against Arsenal.

Alcock had just dismissed the Italian for his role in a mass brawl, and Di Canio reacted by shoving the official.

Perhaps if Alcock’s stumble and fall had not been so comical, seemingly occurring in slow motion, the incident would not be so well remembered, but either way Di Canio was banned for 11 matches.

Paolo Di Canio pushes referee Paul Alcock

Lee Bowyer fights Kieron Dyer (April 2005)

The sight of team-mates fighting is hardly unprecedented, and we had even see two England internationals go at it before when Graeme Le Saux and David Batty fought while playing for Blackburn against Spartak Moscow in 1995.

But the fight between Bowyer and Dyer during Newcastle‘s 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa is the most memorable.

The midfielders squared up off the ball and it took several moments for the other players and officials to realise what was going on.

By the time they were separated, Bowyer had landed a punch or two and was hauled away by another England colleague, Gareth Barry, still raging and with his shirt split down the front.

He and Dyer were sent off, leaving Newcastle with only eight men after the earlier dismissal of Stephen Taylor.

Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer come to blows

Frank Rijkaard spits at Rudi Voller (June 1990)

Anything that happens at the World Cup comes with an extra ‘shock’ factor with the eyes of the world watching.

But the squabble between Rijkaard and Voller when Holland faced West Germany in 1990 was just bizarre. It started when Rijkaard fouled Voller and, having been booked, spat in the German’s hair as he waited for the free-kick – unseen by the officials.

When the ball was played in, Voller tumbled to the floor again, sparking outrage amongst the Dutch who thought he was trying to win a penalty.

Rijkaard confronted him, grabbing his ear and stomping on his foot. Both men were sent off, and Rijkaard spat in Voller’s hair once again as they walked off the pitch.

Frank Rijkaard spits at Germany’s Rudi Volle

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Roy Keane exacts revenge on Alf-Inge Haaland (April 2001)

Keane and Haaland had been on bad terms since 1997, when Keane injured his anterior cruciate ligament trying to challenge the Norwegian in a match between Manchester United and Leeds.

Four years later, in the heat of a Manchester derby, Keane launched a horror tackle on City’s midfielder, after which he was never the same player again.

Keane was initially red-carded and banned for three matches, but the following year he was given an additional five-match ban and £150,000 fine after saying the tackle was deliberate in his autobiography.

Roy Keane’s X-rated challenge on Alfie Haaland

Ben Thatcher elbows Pedro Mendes (August 2006)

Thatcher’s ‘challenge’ on Mendes was technically an elbow, but that does not really do it justice. 

As the pair were racing after a loose ball, Manchester City defender Thatcher slammed his arm into the back of Mendes’ head, sending the Portsmouth midfielder sprawling towards the advertising hoarding. 

Mendes was knocked unconscious and needed oxygen at the side of the pitch. 

Thatcher was only booked for the incident, but the Football Association ignored its own rules regarding incidents already dealt with by the referee and claimed an “exceptional case” as Thatcher was banned for eight matches, with a further 15 suspended.





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