Football is all about passion. You get players who are happy to be living their dream every time they are on the pitch and fans who would do just about anything to be able to watch their team live in action. Some lucky players get to play for their favorite teams, thus the games have more resonance to them. However, it doesn’t really matter where one comes from or who they play for, the fact is that players have to give their all for the team. The problem with passion is that it’s solely hinged on emotion, which causes people to act in a way they normally wouldn’t. This leads to a lot of regret in retrospect. The competitive nature of sport puts players under a lot of pressure and most of them are usually on a short fuse during matches. A slight provocation could start a fracas among rivals. Some teams have such intense rivalry that there’s always an undercurrent of animosity everytime they meet. However, it’s not always the rivals who clash and you’ll occasionally find teammates having a go at it.
No one is safe, for if you mess up, it’s not only the fans who’ll be mad but your teammates too. Some of these feuds are usually petty and could take place anywhere, including off the pitch. They are commonly referred to as ‘handbags’ and are not to be taken seriously. The ones that do take place on the pitch are bound to be distressing to the team’s fans but highly entertaining to opposing ones. This is because some players single-handedly sabotage their team’s prospects when they gang up against each other. It’s not always a laughing matter though, because some players take things a little too far and have even gotten themselves in trouble with the law. Having said that, it can’t be denied that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the show. Here are the teammates who decided to forego the opposition and duke it out among themselves.
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15 Emmanuel Adebayor vs. Nicklas Bendtner - Arsenal
What do you do when you’re trailing 4-1 in a League Cup semi-final that also happens to be a derby? Fight of course. In 2008, Adebayor headbutted Bendtner while playing away to Tottenham after the latter allegedly showed him the finger. However, the main reason for their feud was Bendtner’s refusal to take off his shoes in the Arsenal dressing room, which was a requirement for everyone.
Adebayor was lucky to escape punishment from the FA as the video evidence was deemed inconclusive. Arsenal lost the match 5-1 and both players were disliked by fans from then on. This led to Adebayor’s departure to Manchester City the following year.
14 Arjen Robben vs Franck Ribery - Bayern Munich
Ribery certainly stole the show during a Champions League semi-final match against Real Madrid in 2012. The argument was over who should take a free-kick towards the end of the first half. When they reached the dressing room at half-time, Ribery apparently punched Robben after a round of insults and their teammates had to intervene. They both had to answer to the bosses the following day with Ribery taking most of the blame for the incident. The club refused to comment on the matter. Luckily Bayern went on to win the match.
13 Jens Lehmann vs. Marcio Amoroso - Borussia Dortmund
Another derby, another altercation. In 2003, Lehmann had another of his trademark ‘Mad Jens’ moments during a match against Schalke. After Dortmund conceded a goal, he felt that Amoroso was to blame and sprinted half the length of the field to confront him. He proceeded to shove his teammate around and duly received his marching orders, thus becoming the first Bundesliga goalkeeper to be sent off four times in his career. The funny part is the goal ended up being disallowed for offside and the match ended in a draw. He just wanted an early shower perhaps?
12 Jamie Carragher vs. Alvaro Arbeloa - Liverpool
The two defenders were spotted shoving each other during a match against West Brom in 2009. Carragher blamed Arbeloa for leaving an opposition player unmarked at the far post. After the match, Carragher explained that the row was due to the team’s determination not to concede a goal. This was in order to ensure that goalkeeper Pepe Reina won the Golden Glove award for the keeper with the highest number of clean sheets for the fourth time running. Even though Liverpool did keep a clean sheet for that match, the award ended up going to Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United.
11 Ricardo Fuller vs. Andy Griffin - Stoke City
Poor defending from Stoke captain Griffin allowed West Ham to get an equalizer during a match in 2008. Fuller wasn’t pleased and decided to show this in the most dramatic way. Stoke were about to restart the match when Fuller walked all the way from the centre circle to Griffin’s right back position and slapped him round the face. Fuller was sent off and later got a three-match ban and a £20,000 fine from his club. Fuller later gave an interview claiming Griffin had provoked him by being rude and disrespectful. What a way to apologize.
10 Steve McManaman vs. Bruce Grobbelaar - Liverpool
Derbies are known for their ability to often bring about conflicts. In this situation, the clash was between two teammates instead of rival players. In 1993, McManaman’s weak clearance resulted in Everton taking the lead. Grobbelaar, who was never afraid to berate his teammates if they gave away opportunities to the opposition, decided to vent his frustration in McManaman’s face. McManaman talked right back at him, prompting the goalkeeper to grab him around the throat. After some pushing, McManaman walked away from the scene effectively ending the fight. Liverpool went on to lose the game 2-0.
9 Graeme Le Saux vs. David Batty - Blackburn
In 1995, Blackburn were in the midst of their first ever Champions League campaign after having won the Premier League. They were however struggling in both competitions. The two clashed just four minutes into their Champions League match against Spartak Moscow. Batty gave Le Saux an earful for miscuing a pass and conceding a throw-in. Le Saux punched Batty prompting their captain to intervene in the dispute. Amazingly, they weren’t sent off but Blackburn lost the match 3-0 and finished at the bottom of their group. The situation was even worse for Le Saux who realized he had broken his hand after the punch.
8 Craig Bellamy vs. John Arne Riise - Liverpool
In 2007, Rafael Benitez took his team to Portugal on a bonding trip ahead of their Champions League clash with Barcelona. After days of training, the players were given a night off resulting in a drunken karaoke session. Riise refused to sing and squared up to Bellamy who was trying to goad him into it. Having felt as though he’d lost face in front of his teammates, Bellamy confronted Riise with a golf club and allegedly swung it at him while he was in bed. Bellamy made light of the incident when he celebrated his goal against Barcelona by swinging an imaginary golf club. Incidentally, Riise scored the second goal in their 2-1 win.
7 Joey Barton vs. Ousmane Dabo - Manchester City
The name Joey Barton is synonymous with thuggery. His temperamental nature has gotten him a couple of convictions mainly for assault. In 2007, Barton punched Dabo several times after they argued during a training session. Dabo had to be hospitalized after sustaining a detached retina and proceeded to press charges against Barton. Barton received a four-month suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay compensation.
City suspended him and later sold him to Newcastle. He was quite unapologetic when he later gave his side of the story. He proclaimed that where he came from, there was no rule and you had to fight until it’s over.
6 Eyal Berkovic vs. John Hartson - West Ham
In 1998, Hartson gained the distinction of being the first player to be charged with misconduct for a training ground incident after his antics were caught on camera. During the training session, a strong tackle from Hartson left Berkovic on the ground. When Hartson attempted to help him to his feet, Berkovic punched him in the leg. Hartson swiftly responded with a powerful kick to the head knocking him back down while leaving him unable to eat for two days.
Hartson was suspended for three games and fined £20,000. Berkovic said that had his head been a ball, he would’ve been in the top corner of the net. Never have there been truer words. They did later pose for photos to show they had reconciled.
5 Freddie Ljungberg vs. Olof Mellberg - Sweden
The media were treated to a pre-tournament show when they gathered at Sweden’s training base ahead of the 2002 World Cup. After Mellberg’s late sliding tackle, Ljungberg quickly got back up and grabbed him by the throat. They wrestled each other to the ground and ended up taking a teammate down with them. They were eventually pulled apart by teammates and coaches. The fight became an instant hit on youtube. Sweden went ahead to top their group but were eliminated in the Round of 16. No matter, they’d already delivered on the entertainment front.
4 Oguchi Onyewu vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - AC Milan
Zlatan is known for speaking his mind and has never been afraid of confrontation. In his autobiography, he claimed to have told a teammate that trouble lay ahead after having issues with Onyewu. In 2010, practice ended early for the Milan players after the two threw punches at the training ground. According to Zlatan, he headbutted Onyewu and they flew at each other before teammates separated them. Zlatan revealed that they wanted to destroy each other and claimed the fight was like life and death. Dangerous talk considering he’s the one who ended up with a broken rib after the altercation.
3 Kevin Mirallas vs. Leighton Baines - Everton
The incident occurred earlier this year during a match against West Brom. When Everton were awarded a penalty minutes before half-time, Mirallas decided to take it himself ignoring protests from regular penalty taker Leighton Baines and some of his teammates. This was despite the fact that Baines had scored all but one of his penalties in the Premier League. Mirallas missed the penalty, costing his team the win as the match ended in a 0-0 draw. He was replaced at half-time with the manager explaining that it was due to injury. It’s probably his ego that he had to nurse.
2 Fernando Ricksen vs. Vladislav Radimov - Zenit St Petersburg
Ricksen had a number of disciplinary problems and had already fought captain Radimov just a month after joining Zenit. During a pre-season friendly against Malaga in 2007, the pair clashed seven minutes before the end of the match. The dispute was over who should take a corner. It didn’t end after their sending off as Ricksen who was more eager for a fight, went after Radimov on the bench. Their manager, Dick Advocaat, was forced to step in and put things in order. Both players apologized for the incident and claimed to have settled their differences.
1 Craig Levein vs. Graeme Hogg - Hearts
Tensions ran high during a pre-season friendly against Raith Rovers in August 1994. Raith were leading 1-0 and almost scored an equalizer just before half-time. The two centre-backs argued over who should have been marking the Raith player who also happened to have scored the first goal. Fists flew and Levein landed a clean punch that broke Hogg’s nose.
They were both dismissed with Hogg shown his red card while being stretchered off. Hogg got a 10-game ban while Levein was suspended for 12 and stripped of his captaincy. If this was just a friendly, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened in an actual league match.
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