In sports, like in anything else in the world, players and games are watched over and disciplined by powerful governing bodies, who make important decisions regarding what consequences need be suffered when a player goes out of line. Perhaps that celebration was too disrespectful, or illegal drugs were consumed, or perhaps emotions ran so high that a player kicked a fan in the head. Oh yes, that has actually happened.
The point is, if these governing bodies were not there to discipline and apply strict rules, then professional soccer leagues would resemble chaotic and out of control beer leagues where men are allowed to get together and cause havoc on the pitch under no one's supervision. These bodies are important - they protect a sense of professionalism in the sport and respect towards one another as athletes, and failing to play by those standards will get you a hefty suspension.
Over the years, there have been hundreds of bans handed out to hundreds of different players. Here are the ones that stick out.
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15 Vinnie Jones
Ever seen the movie She’s The Man? It stars Amanda Bynes, and is about a girl who was passionate about soccer pretending to be a college boy in order to play on the men’s team. Chances are you’ll remember the coach of that team, played by none other than Vinnie Jones. That’s right, the British actor was actually a professional footballer as well, playing for teams such as Chelsea, Leeds United, and Queens Park Rangers.
His suspension is peculiar, considering he was suspended for something he said in a video. The video, entitled Soccer’s hard Men, inspired football violence and dirty tricks on the pitch. Because Vinnie Jones was a presenter in the video with a prominent role, he was handed out a very long suspension.
14 Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio can boast a great footballing career, but even legends have dark moments. In a match against Arsenal, after having been showed a red card from the referee as the game was ending, Di Canio turned, gesticulated to the referee, before pushing him hard in the chest. His altercation with referee Paul Alcock earned him one of the Premier League’s worst bans, a total of 11 games.
It was the final minute of a home match against Arsenal, and tensions flared in the last minute of the match, leading to a melee in which Di Canio was indeed heavily involved. Of course, Di Canio would later be very apologetic and come to regret his actions profoundly.
13 Zinedine Zidane
The setting was the World Cup Final; the game was France and Italy. After 90 minutes saw both teams locked in a 1-1 draw, the stage was set for Zinedine Zidane, the player that had inspired a generation of aspiring footballers, to win it for France in most dramatic fashion. Instead, what happened next will be etched into the memories off all football fans for years to come.
In the 110th minute, as the game was winding down, Zidane received the most significant red card in World Cup history, after blatantly head-butting Marco Materazzi. This was perhaps the darkest moment in Zidane’s career, considering his one lapse of focus came in the biggest of moments.
12 Giorgos Katidis
It was hard to imagine what a player would need to do to be banned for life from ever playing for his national team again. No amount of failed drug tests, illegal tackles, or missed practices can ever do that to a player. But scoring the game-winning goal and celebrating with a Nazi salute will definitely do the trick.
What’s worst is that the young Greek claimed he did not even know what the sign meant, and was merely pointing to a teammate in the crowd. However, claiming that he didn’t know he was imitating perhaps one of the most symbolically racist and internationally renowned hand gestures of all time is far-fetched at best. His AEK coach did believe him, saying “he is a young kid who does not have any political ideas.”
11 Kolo Toure
Kolo Toure served his time in the suspension books – six months actually – for testing positive on an illegal substance. With Manchester City at the time, Toure did admit to consuming some water dietary pills he got from his wife, although he insisted that he did not know he was ingesting anything illegal.
The thing is Kolo, when you play in the most prominent football league in the world, consuming an unknown substance with absolutely no idea what the consequences might be is a bad idea. Toure also had to be subject to “target testing” for the following two years as part of his ban.
10 Mark Bosnich
Mark Bosnich bounced around a few Premier League clubs before getting picked by Chelsea after failing to make much of an impact with Manchester United. It was with Chelsea that he received one of the longest bans in Premier League history – nine months - for failing a drug test and testing positive for cocaine use. Needless to say, Chelsea terminated his contract immediately. Apparently, Bosnich's cocaine addiction cost the keeper about $5,000 a week, consuming over 10 grams a day.
9 Joey Barton
Joey Barton received his 12-match ban against Manchester City, in the final game of the season and what turned out to be perhaps the most dramatic ending to a Premier League season. The score was 1-1 at this point, Manchester city desperately needing three points, when Joey Barton decided to let all hell loose on his former club. He would start by elbowing Carlos Tevez and kicking at Sergio Aguero, before being dragged out of the pitch in what was one of the captain’s less classy moments.
He would go on to receive a red card and a 12-match ban. QPR would have the lead in that game until the 90th minute, when City would go on to score two goals in injury time to steal the Championship from a stunned Manchester United.
A most recent ban came in this year’s Copa America. It was an electric tournament in which the home country Chile came away with all the spoils after defeating Messi and the Argentines in the final. Brazil’s tournament was cut even shorter after a disappointing quarterfinal loss to Paraguay, but some say the tournament was really lost when Neymar was handed a four-match suspension in the second group game of the tournament, a ban that would see him miss the rest of the tournament even if Brazi were to make it in the final.
The ban came after Neymar kicked Colombia’s Pablo Armero in the last few seconds of a draw with Colombia. He also appeared to head butt another player. The incident came after the Brazilian came off his best season yet for Barcelona, helping the team earn a treble.
7 Luis Suarez
Here begins the first tome of the trilogy that is Luis Suarez’s bans. Suarez has been around the suspension block, being suspended for an assortment of odd reasons. This particular ban, which lasted eight games, was given to Suarez for racially abusing former Manchester United player Patrice Evra, something the Uruguayan still denies to this day. Evra told reporters after the match that Suarez had made racist remarks against him, prompting a very long investigation by the FA that led to his eight-match ban.
This long ban is the first of three concerning Suarez on this list, and also the first of three that would litter his career for the next few years.
6 Rio Ferdinand
Dubbed by Manchester United as a “particularly savage” ban, Ferdinand’s suspension was not for drug abuse, but for simply missing a drug test. Of course, they are part of the game, and missing a test is obviously seen as suspicious by the governing body.
In his defense, Rio Ferdinand did provide a clean urine sample two days later, but that did not stop the FA, who suspended the defender for eight months.
5 Luis Suarez
Suarez strikes for a second time, this time against Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in a classic Liverpool – Chelsea showdown. And of course, this is just the first of the Uruguayans infamous bites that make the list. The suspension meant Suarez was to miss the last three games of the season and the seven first of the next season.
The suspension and how long it would last was taken so seriously by fans that even United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron urged the FA to take a hard line on Suarez, which is most probably why he received more than the usual three-match ban.
4 Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona had his already short career further shortened when he came up with one of the best player-fan altercations of all time. In a match with Crystal Palace, the Frenchman was walking off the pitch after being handed a red card. Blinded by his anger, Cantona ran to Matthew Simmons, a fan who had ran down 11 rows to shout abuse at Cantona as we was walking off, Cantona ran and served Simmons with a kung-fu style kick that would land him a nine-month suspension.
3 Diego Maradona
Maradona reached the peak of his career with Napoli. Although the club did officially retire his jersey, Maradona also left the club in disgrace after serving a 15-month ban for drug use. This came at a time when Maradona’s personal problems were increasing significantly, what with the scandal of the Argentine having an illegitimate son and what not.
The ban did not seem to have done him much good, as he signed with Sevilla right after. Looking overweight and out of shape, Maradona would be play a half hour in his first game as a sub and would leave the game angry, throwing his captains arm band on the floor. His real chance at redemption would come on the big stage in the 1994 World Cup…. and that’s where his career would perhaps take its biggest hit.
2 Luis Suarez
This particular ban closes out the trifecta of Suarez bans that make up the list. It was most important because it lasted four months, keeping him out of action for his first Barcelona season. On top of that, he was suspended during the World Cup after his team beat Italy the game he was suspended.
Why was he suspended? For biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 80th minute of their round of 16 match. This is Suarez’s third recorded bite, earning him a particularly long suspension, and perhaps the most significant one of his career.
1 Diego Maradona – Argentina – 15 months
Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest football player to ever play football, also had an incredible drug problem. After his first 15-month ban (see previous slide), the Argentine came into the 1994 World Cup, hoping to regain his form of old and lead the Argentine team to victory. But that dream was cut short early, after a drug test found five different variants of ephedrine in his body, a stimulant that is banned by FIFA.
The FIFA body that made the decision said that Maradona must have made a “cocktail” of drugs, because these five variants are not found in one single pill. The ban crushed the hopes of an entire nation.
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