A FIFA World Cup witnesses the birth of heroes, the emergence of legends and the entry of immortals into football’s biggest folklore. However, every story that involves heroes also has villains.
Over the past three decades, we have witnessed quite a few players, teams and nations bringing the beautiful game into disrepute through their unnecessary antics, foul behaviour and rash play.
Here is a list of ten players, or teams, that have written themselves forever into World Cup history for the wrong reasons:-
10. PRINCE FAHID – Walk-in if you are rich..
The number one task for the president of a country’s football association (FA) is to protect the nation’s image in front of the world, especially in the world’s biggest competition. But the Kuwaiti FA president, Prince Fahid, did exactly the opposite.
In Espana’82, Kuwait’s defenders stood still, literally, as France danced through to score their fourth goal in a group stage match. The Kuwaitis mistook a whistle from the crowd to be the referees whistle, and stopped playing. They protested to the referee without success.
However, Prince Fahid entered the field of play from the stands, disrupted the game after the goal, threatened to call off his team, and gave the referee a ‘piece of his mind’. The referee, under pressure from the powerful man, overturned his decision much to the bemusement of the French.
France did eventually score a fourth to win comfortably 4-1. The referee, Miroslav Stupar, was never seen on the international stage again, and Kuwait’s only World Cup appearance was remembered for the wrong reasons.
9. HERALD SCHUMACHER – Don’t try this at home!
Espana’82 is the scene of the crime, yet again. West Germany beat France on penalties in the semi-final, after playing out an entertaining 3-3 draw. But amidst all the entertainment, there was a horror moment.
When French defender, Patrick Battiston, was sent through on goal, he got to the ball well before the charging West German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, and flicked it past him. The West German goalkeeper did not stop and knocked out the Frenchman with, what can only be called, a blatant ‘assault’. The referee gave a goal-kick, instead of a red card and a penalty.
Battiston was left unconscious after the challenge, losing two teeth and suffering damage to his vertebrae. Till date, Schumacher says that he was ‘going for the ball’. And of course, we believe him!
8. ROY KEANE – Said it too loud, Roy!
With fiery and outspoken personalities in his squad, any manager risks an unexpected explosion. Just ask Mick McCarthy. The Republic of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup party was spoiled before it began.
When it comes to football personalities, there aren’t many in the world stronger than Roy Keane. The Irish midfielder, fed up with the facilities and methods of Ireland’s pre-World Cup preparation, launched a scathing attack on the authorities.
Roy Keane was sent home one week before the World Cup for “disrespecting” the manager. He had “not an ounce of regret” for damaging his nation’s campaign. His return was a possibility, before the rest of the squad released a statement saying they were better off without him.
The Irish were knocked out in the round of 16. An Ireland with Roy Keane could have been a whole different proposition…
7. CRISTIANO RONALDO – The wink that didn’t impress England!
There is a lesson to be learnt from this – ‘Country comes first’. England’s Wayne Rooney and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo may have been team-mates and friends at Manchester United, but one couldn’t have guessed it by Ronaldo’s antics.
In the 2006 World Cup semi-final against England, Wayne Rooney allegedly stomped on Ricardo Carvalho. If the referee hadn’t made up his mind, Ronaldo’s protests certainly did make it up for him. Ronaldo rushed to the scene, showing concern for Carvalho and disgust at the challenge. Two minutes later, he gave a cheeky wink to the bench – ‘mission accomplished’ it meant.
England lost on penalties and Ronaldo was even ‘booed’ in the next game versus France, on German soil. He was, well and truly, a World Cup villain.
6. DAVID BECKHAM – Becks sees red…
France’98 saw the rise and fall of David Beckham. After scoring a wonderful free-kick against Colombia, David Beckham’s retaliation to Diego Simeone’s challenge resulted in a red card against Argentina.
The sending off, which came early in the second half, meant that England’s chances of beating Argentina diminished. They hung on to take the game into a penalty shootout, where they again missed Beckham’s dead ball skills.
The 23-year old was labeled an ‘idiot’, a ‘stupid boy’ and a ‘villain’ in the British media. His rashness cost England the 1998 world cup.
5. RIVALDO – shot by a Turk, he survived!
A worldwide audience was guaranteed to witness Brazil’s first match of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Therefore, the occasion Rivaldo chose to display his theatrical skills could hardly be grander than this.
Brazil were leading 2-1, when Rivaldo went to take a corner and waited for the ball to be delivered to him. Turkey’s Hakan Unsal, in slight frustration, kicked the ball towards him. The ball hit Rivaldo near the knees at a speed which would not have hurt a newly-born, but the Brazilian chose to go down clutching his face as if he had been sniped from the crowd. Unfortunately, it was successful in conning the referee and Unsal was sent off.
It was one of the most ridiculous acts of play-acting ever seen, and a heart-break for all those who admired the great man.
4. GERMAN TEAM 1982 – Ten-minute game
We choose to believe eye-witnesses. We choose to believe the furious Algerians. However, the Germans have kept quiet about the incident and still claim their innocence.
In the final group stage match, a West German win by a one or two-goal margin would have ensured both West Germany and Austria’s passage to the knock-out stage, at the expense of Algeria. What followed was a match in which Germany took the lead in the opening ten minutes and the two teams, with an unspoken agreement between them, strolled through to the final whistle without making any serious attempts to score.
The crowd demanded both teams be thrown out of the World Cup. Commentators, in disgust, refused to comment on the game. Algeria unsuccessfully cried for justice.
Since that match, all final group stage matches of any tournament are played simultaneously.
3. ZINEDINE ZIDANE – One last header..
No player has bid farewell as dramatically as Zinedine Zidane did in the final of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The scores were level, when Zizou head-butted Italy’s Marco Materazzi, who made the most of it.
The result was that Zidane was deservedly red-carded. After scoring the penalty which gave France the lead, Zizou abandoned his team-mates when his team needed him the most. The French skipper was not only their best player, but also their best penalty kicker. France eventually lost the cup on penalties.
Whatever Materazzi said should not have mattered as a nation’s interest supersedes everything else. It was Zidane’s final game as a professional footballer.
2. DIEGO MARADONA – Fall from grace..
When greats fall, they fall with a real bang. And so did Diego Maradona – arguably, the greatest ever footballer. Already famous for scoring World Cup’s greatest ever goal and infamous for his ‘hand of god’ goal, the little Argentine was expected to lighten up USA’94.
However, after two games, Maradona was sent home as a result of failing a drug test. His claims of innocence consists of stories of his trainer’s mishap, and stories of a secret agreement with FIFA to allow him to shape-up for the big occasion, in order to save the prestige of the World Cup.
Either way, a role model to millions of fans, Diego Maradona exited the world stage as a World Cup villain.
1. LUCIANO GAUCCI – Sore loser..
Our number one World Cup villain wasn’t exactly part of the mega event. However, his victim was. Ahn Jung Hwan was South Korea’s World Cup hero as he headed the ‘golden goal’ that sent Italy crashing out of Korea-Japan’02.
The South Korean was under contract at Italian club Perugia during the time. But, after a controversial match that angered Italians all over the world, his contract at the Italian club was terminated. His crime, you may ask? To score his country’s most famous goal on his home turf.
After the game, Perugia’s president Luciano Gaucci said “That gentleman will never set foot in Perugia again”. Gaucci claimed to be an ‘Italian nationalist’ and, apparently, did this for his country.
Italians have a reputation of being pathetic losers, but this childish act took it to a whole new level. To use his position of power against a helpless footballer, in order to exact revenge for his heroics, was our number one act of crime against the beautiful game.