Top 15 Most Significant Suspensions in Soccer History

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

11 Kolo Toure

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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.

10 Mark Bosnich


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.

8 Neymar

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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.

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.

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.

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.

4 Eric Cantona


3 Diego Maradona

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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.

2 Luis Suarez

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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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Top 15 Most Significant Suspensions in Soccer History