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Top 10 Most Unsportsmanlike Moments in Football

VO: Adrian Sousa

Script written by Adrian Sousa

Considering it’s known as "The Beautiful Game," it’s certainly seen a ton of ugly moments. From unsporting goals, to sucker punches, to spitting, these moments are pretty cringe worthy, and certainly unsportsmanlike. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Most Unsportsmanlike Moments in Football.

Special thanks to our user drew13sixers for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Yet+Another+Top+10+Unsportsmanlike+Moments+in+Pro+Sports.


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Script written by Adrian Sousa

Top 10 Most Unsportsmanlike Moments in Football

Considering it’s known as "The Beautiful Game," it’s certainly seen a ton of ugly moments. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 most unsportsmanlike moments in football.

For this list, we’ll be combing through the lowest moments from the highest levels of football. These events have to have occurred on the pitch (in essence, no tunnel bust-ups) and can be any matter of violent conduct, cheating or blatant conning of the referee.

#10: Luiz Adriano’s Unsporting Goal

FC Shakhtar Donetsk vs FC Nordsjælland (2012)

We kick things off with a great lesson in how to not conduct yourself regarding the unwritten rules of fair play. Shakhtar Donetsk were facing FC Nordsjælland in the 2012-2013 Champions League season, and after a Nordsjælland player went down due to a head injury, the referee was forced to stop play. As part of the standard fair play practice, Shakhtar’s Willian booted the ball down field to give possession back to Nordsjælland, but Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano was a little goal crazy on the day. As the Nordsjælland defenders stood and watched the ball roll back to their goalkeeper to resume play, the, uh, “opportunistic” Luiz Adriano collected the ball himself, rounded the keeper, and scored. The goal stood, but Adriano was subsequently given a one-match ban for “violation of the principles of conduct”.

#9: Navarro’s Sucker Punch on Burdisso

Valencia CF vs Inter Milan (2007)

Well, the Champions League seems to bring out the worst in some players. After Valencia and Inter Milan played to a 0 - 0 draw at Estadio Mestalla, a bit of a brawl broke out with Inter’s Nicolas Burdisso and Valencia’s Carlos Marchena at the centre of it. While most surrounding the two tried to pull them apart, Valencia substitute David Navarro - no, not that Dave Navarro - decided to leave his imprint on the fracas by throwing a sucker punch at Burdisso’s nose. What followed was a scene that was just dying for the Benny Hill theme song, as three Inter Milan players chased after Navarro, all trying to trip him up to exact revenge on him. Navarro was given a 7 month ban, but it was reduced to 6 months a few weeks later.

#8: Rijkaard Spits on Völler

Holland vs Germany (1990 World Cup)

Spitting on or at your opponent is considered to be the ultimate sign of disrespect. Keep that in mind during this tale of Holland’s Frank Rijkaard and Germany’s Rudi Völler. Here’s the cliff notes version of how it went down: Völler was setting up for a free kick, when Rijkaard spat in his curly mop. Völler runs to the referee complaining, and gets a yellow card for his efforts. Later, when challenging the Dutch keeper for a ball, Völler jumps to get out of the way, but the Dutch see it as a dive. Rijkaard rushes over, shoves Völler, grabs his ear, stamps on his foot, and the referee sends both players off. On the way to the dressing room, Rijkaard spits on Völler once more for good measure.

#7: Pepe’s Bad Day(s)

Real Madrid CF vs Getafe CF (2009)

Anyone who has watched football for the last decade or so will know that Pepe has a habit of taking his tough and gritty defending just a tad too far. While there are many moments we could choose from, we’ll stick to one particularly bad night for the Brazilian-born Portuguese international while he was still with Real Madrid. In an important La Liga match against Getafe, Pepe not only blatantly and viciously kicked the legs out from Getafe captain Javi Casquero, but while Casquero was down, he stepped on him, kicked him again, and then aimed a punch at one of his teammates. Madrid’s keeper Iker Casillas had to step in to escort his teammate off of the pitch. Yikes.

#6: Dyer and Bowyer’s Brawl Newcastle United F.C. vs Aston Villa F.C. (2005)

Now, football isn’t totally bereft of a tussle now and then, but a fight between teammates? You barely ever get that in hockey! Such was the case however in April 2005, as Newcastle found themselves down 3 - 0 at home to Aston Villa, when Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer got into a fight on the pitch, and both were subsequently shown a red card. According to Dyer, the fight occurred due to Dyer’s refusal to pass to Lee Bowyer due to his, shall we say, lack of talent. Bowyer exploded and came at Dyer with punches in front of 50,000 fans.

#5: Zidane Sees Red

France vs Italy (2006 World Cup)

Zinedine Zidane has proven on two occasions now that he likes to go out with a Bang. In May of 2018, it was his bombshell Real Madrid resignation. But his real magnum opus was the final match of his playing career, when Italian defender Marco Materazzi got on the Frenchman’s nerves. In an interview in 2010, Zidane said that he would never apologize to Materazzi, though he regrets his reaction. The reason for this violent reaction? The Italians constantly insulting Zidane’s mother, whom unbeknownst to them, was sick in the hospital at the time. So, when Materazzi starting mouthing off, enough was enough. History made.

#4: Thatcher Hospitalizes Mendes

Portsmouth FC vs Manchester City FC (2005)

n August of 2006, Portsmouth was playing away to Manchester City. Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes beat Thatcher in a race for a ball. Noticing this, Thatcher jumped elbow first into Mendes jaw and instantly knocked him out. Mendes flew into the ad boards, and was taken straight to hospital - but would recover in a couple of days. Manchester City suspended Thatcher for 6 matches, while the Football Association gave him another 8 matches.

#3: Henry’s Hand Ball

France vs Republic of Ireland (2010 World Cup Qualifying)

When Arsenal signed Thierry Henry in 1999, there’s no way that even Arsène Wenger could have known just how good he would become, and the legendary status he would go on to create for himself within the English Premier League. However, he lost the respect of many Republic of Ireland fans in the second leg of their 2010 World Cup qualification play-off match. Tied 1 - 1 on aggregate, the match went to extra time. In the 103rd minute, Thierry Henry used his hand to control the ball, then square it to William Gallas for what would be the winning goal. The referee didn’t see the hand ball, the goal stood, and Ireland didn’t make it to the World Cup in South Africa, despite a petition to have the match replayed.

#2: The Hand of God

Argentina vs England (1986 World Cup)

Now, if Thierry Henry’s hand ball was bad, then here comes Diego Maradona to do one better. In the 1986 World Cup semi-final match between Argentina and England, the game was level early in the second half. English defender Steve Hodge’s mishit clearance looped toward Maradona in the box, and with Maradona being about 8 inches shorter than English ‘keeper Peter Shilton, he jumped and punched the ball over Shilton and into the goal. The referees missed it, and the goal counted. Argentina went on to win 2 - 1, and after the game, Maradona joked that the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and the hand of God.”

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions!

“The Battle of Nuremberg”
Portugal vs Holland (2006 World Cup)

Shearer Kicks Lennon in the Head
Leicester City FC vs Newcastle United FC

Schumacher Knocks-Out Battiston
France vs West Germany (1982 World Cup)

#1: Suárez’s Hand Ball Against Ghana

Uruguay vs Ghana (2010 World Cup)

While we could have talked about the time that Luis Suárez bit PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal, or the time that he bit Branislav Ivanovic or Giorgio Chiellini, those moments - while violent and unsavoury - just weren’t as “cheater-y” enough for us. In steps Suárez’s incident against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup quarter finals. Tied in extra time, Ghana’s Stephen Appiah looked to have sent Ghana to a historic World Cup semi-final. But before the ball crossed the line, Suárez reached out and blocked it. He was given a red card, Ghana was given a penalty, and Asamoah Gyan hit it off of the cross bar. To add insult to injury, Uruguay won in the shootout, and Suárez said he would cheat again if he found himself in that situation.


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