Almost everyone has had a ‘moment’. This refers to an incident that occurred briefly in your life which is usually not forgotten. It could have been good, bad, entertaining, regrettable, controversial, groundbreaking, life changing or just downright embarrassing. What is common in all these scenarios is that this particular incident defines how you are perceived from then onwards. People who witnessed it will always remember you for it and probably won’t ever let you forget it. For us normal folks, it’s usually just a handful of people who are privy to such an incident. This could be a huge relief if it’s the shameful kind.
Athletes however, don’t have the luxury of keeping theirs private. In this digital age, people have unrestricted access to footage of games thus nothing is likely to escape them. Therefore players are usually well remembered for particular antics despite their other achievements or failures. For some this came about after a moment of pure brilliance which they continue to be lauded for and are emulated by their droves of admirers. Others simply wanted to send out a message and make a point. It was a day to be forgotten for others as things just didn’t seem to go their way resulting in heartbreak and misery. There’s the occasional petulance in order to swing things in one’s favor or a moment of pure joy commemorated in a unique way. Others are attributed to impetuousness leading to what can best be described as moments of utter madness. What’s for certain is that they all made for good entertainment irregardless of the infamy of some which is actually the main aim of sports after all. These are the incidents that are most likely to pop up in your head whenever these footballers are mentioned.
10. Mario Balotelli “Why Always Me”
He had been making headlines for all the wrong reasons ever since he arrived on the English football scene.Whether it was his car getting confiscated over 25 times or him struggling to put on a bib, there was always something to talk about. Therefore, the press had a field day when his house was set on fire as his friends were letting off fireworks in the bathroom. It was after all just a day before the Manchester derby. The buzz had expectedly not died down by the time the two sides met at Old Trafford. After scoring for City, he stood still and calmly lifted his shirt to reveal the message “Why Always Me?” printed on his undershirt. This got him a booking but hopefully he got the message across to whomever it was directed towards.
9. Ricardo Infante – Rabona
Most people will have no idea who he is if asked about him. However, this Argentinian is known for the ‘rabona’ as he was the first person reported to perform it. The rabona is when a football is kicked by crossing one’s legs so that the kicking leg is wrapped around the back of the standing leg. While playing for Estudiantes de la Plata, he scored a goal against Rosario Central by kicking it in this manner.
As a pun on his name, one football magazine’s cover showed him dressed as a pupil with the caption “Infante plays hooky” (in Spanish infante means infant and rabona means to play hooky). The name stuck after that.
8. Zinedine Zidane Headbutt
He had announced his retirement prior to the 2006 World Cup and put in a good performance to take France to the final against Italy. He was expected to go out with a bang as France were the favourites. Italy got an equalizer after he had earlier converted a penalty and extra time it was. Most people were oblivious to the situation when towards the end of extra time, the camera panned to a livid Zidane staring at Italy’s Marco Materazzi who was on the ground. Replays showed Zidane headbutting Materazzi in the chest and he was given his marching orders. Italy claimed the trophy after winning the penalty shootout. Go out with a bang he did that’s for sure.
7. Luis Suarez Chiellini bite
It’s common knowledge that Suarez likes to occasionally ‘have a bite’ during matches, his snack of choice being an opposing. He bit PSV’s Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax, got suspended, joined Liverpool, then again bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and earned himself another suspension. His most widely documented bite was in a group stage match between Uruguay and Italy at the 2014 World Cup.
After a clash with Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, he bit him then threw himself on the ground allegedly having hurt his face. He got lengthy bans on both club and international levels though that didn’t stop Barcelona from snapping him up. This also led to numerous nicknames from the public with some referring to him as Dracula. Word of advice to his future opponents, try to keep the peace or he’ll be after your blood.
6. Antonin Panenka – Panenka Penalty
He is best known for the eponymous ‘panenka penalty’. The final of the 1976 European Championship between Czechoslovakia and West Germany went to the penalty shootout. He took the fifth penalty whereby he pretended to shoot to the side of goal then gently kicked the ball into the middle of the net after the German keeper dove the wrong way.
It was lauded for the casual manner with which it was executed and became popular by virtue of being the winning kick. It has been replicated by a number of players including Zinedine Zidane’s penalty at the 2006 World Cup final.
5. Diego Maradona – Hand of God
Maradona’s “Hand of God ” is perhaps one of the most controversial incidents in football history. In a 1986 World Cup quarter final match, he scored two famous goals in a 2-1 win over England. The second goal is considered one of the best in the world but it was with the first one that he gained notoriety.
As he jumped up for the ball, he struck it with his hand and into the net it went. The goal stood despite protests from the English players and Argentina went on to win the tournament. When asked about the goal, he described it as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God ” hence its name.
4. Roberto Baggio – Penalty Miss
Baggio was considered Italy’s best player at the 1994 World Cup. He certainly lived up to his tag by scoring five goals which led Italy to the final against Brazil. After toiling away through both regulation and extra time, the score was still 0-0. This led to one of the most memorable penalty shootouts and certainly a day to forget for Baggio.
Tasked with taking the last penalty for Italy, he stepped up and sent the ball over the crossbar sealing the victory for Brazil. The sight of a despondent Baggio against the background of celebrating Brazilian players will always serve as a reminder to one of the most shocking incidents in World Cup history.
3. Diego Simeone – Beckham Red Card
His team has recently been causing problems for the two La Liga giants but they aren’t the only ones he has crossed. Before Atletico, he was known for the dramatic way he fell down after being kicked by David Beckham during England and Argentina’s match at the 1998 World Cup. The kick was in retaliation to having been fouled earlier by Simeone and Beckham was sent off.
Simeone later revealed he had exaggerated the situation in order to get Beckham sent off. In the 2002 World Cup , Argentina were eliminated in the group stage. One of their losses was a 1-0 defeat to England where Beckham converted the penalty. He who laughs last…
2. Roger Milla – Goal Celebration
While most players are either retired or considering retirement at 38, Milla was busy helping Cameroon reach the quarter finals at the 1990 World Cup. They were the first African team to reach that far. His four goals made him one of the tournament’s best players and also one of the first African players to be recognized internationally.
It was how he celebrated those goals that made him even more popular as he usually ran to the corner flag and performed a dance. His antics are what inspired other players to come up with their own crazy versions of goal celebration.
1. Eric Cantona – Kung Fu Kick
He was one of Manchester United’s best players also known for his poor disciplinary record. At an away match against Crystal Palace, he was sent off for a kick on a Palace defender. As he was walking towards the tunnel, a Palace fan ran down the stairs towards him and proceeded to hurl abuse at him. Cantona launched a magnificent ‘kung fu’ style kick in retaliation. Some United fans expectedly found it amusing but not everyone was of the same opinion as he received an eight month ban. He later said the kick was a great feeling and a memory he is happy for fans to treasure but also admitted that it was a mistake. What’s for sure is that this incident isn’t likely to be forgotten anytime soon.
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