Off the ball
Robin Hackett
October 9, 2012
t Facebook t Twitter

After Robin van Persie and Robert Huth were involved in off-the-ball incidents at the weekend, we pick out a selection of some of the most memorable from history.

Ricardo Zamora (SPAIN 2-0 Italy, 1920 Olympic Games)

At the 1920 Olympics in Belgium, Spain goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora would earn recognition as the world's finest goalkeeper for the first time at the age of just 19.

However, there was another side to him. He had excelled in a dead rubber match against Italy in which Spain had been reduced to ten men from the 35th minute due to injury, but on 79 minutes he was sent off: reacting to a strong challenge, he punched his opponent. Spain, forced to play midfielder Silverio Izaguirre for the remainder of the game, clung on for a 2-0 victory and ended the tournament with a silver medal.

Zamora prompted further controversy when leaving the tournament - he was arrested at the Belgian border for trying to smuggle a case of cigars.

Carlos Bilardo (ESTUDIANTES, 1965-70)

In the late 1960s, Argentinean side Estudiantes were perhaps the most feared in the football world. Their violent exploits against Manchester United and AC Milan - covered in Hardmen and Brawl games - led to global outrage and, eventually, prison sentences for some of the men involved.

One of their more subtle offenders was Bilardo, who earned a reputation for carrying needles in his socks and sticking them in opponents at opportune moments. "Bilardo was sneaky," former Boca Juniors captain Antonio Rattin said. "He was always up to something."

Bilardo, a qualified gynaecologist, recently took part in an advertising campaign to promote diabetes awareness based on his reputation for pricking opponents. "Few people are both a player and a doctor. I could not do both at the same time so I went onto the pitch to work as a doctor," he joked in the advert. "Sometimes, when someone was distracted - bim-ba! - I stuck them. And afterwards everything was resolved. 'It's sugar, sugar - I'm taking care of you, you fool. I am a doctor, sir'."

Dino Panzanato (NAPOLI 2-0 Leeds, 1968-69 Fairs Cup)

Don Revie's Leeds are regarded as one of the most uncompromising sides English football has seen, but even they were horrified by the treatment they received in the second leg of their Fairs Cup second-round tie with Napoli. Having won the first leg 2-0 at home, they travelled to Naples to be met by a hostile crowd.

Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake was hit by a bottle from the stands in the opening minutes, which left him needing five stitches in his hand. Billy Bremner, having already been subjected to a horrendous tackle from Mario Zurlini, was then subjected to a second horrendous tackle from Panzanato. When he got to his feet, Panzanato punched him in the face.

Only four players were booked on the night: Zurlini, Stelio Nardin (who had, it later emerged, actually been booked twice), Mick Jones (booked in the first minute but, apparently, unaware of it) and Mike O'Grady. O'Grady explained his booking in Revie: Revered and Reviled: "After passing the ball, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Naively, I turned around and was then head-butted. Straight away, he threw himself to the floor and the referee booked me - even though I had blood dripping down my face."

With the aggregate scores level, Leeds were awarded the victory after extra-time by virtue of a coin toss.

Byron Stevenson (Turkey 1-0 WALES, 1980 European Championship qualifier)

Leeds full-back Stevenson received a four-and-a-half-year ban from all European competition - for club and country - after he was accused of punching Turkey winger Buyuk Mustafa in the 69th minute of Wales' defeat in a Euro 1980 qualifier in Izmir. The pair had been involved in a running feud throughout the game, and after the incident Mustafa had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital, where he required an operation on his cheekbone.

However, the incident took place some 50 yards from the action, and it appears nobody but the protagonists actually witnessed it. The referee consulted his linesman before making the decision, but the Wales manager, Mike Smith, was adamant that none of the officials could possibly have seen it, and no members of the press had noticed it. Stevenson was adamant that he had not even made contact with the player, and he was cleared of wrongdoing after an internal inquiry by the Welsh national team, but the ban stood.

Leeds manager Jimmy Adamson was less than impressed with UEFA's decision. "It is a very severe punishment for something which the player has consistently denied," he said. "He is banned from all UEFA competitions, which includes playing for Leeds should we get into Europe. It is a very harsh punishment on the club."

Vinnie Jones (WIMBLEDON 0-0 Newcastle, 1987-88 First Division)

The image of Wimbledon bruiser Jones grabbing the 18-year-old Newcastle midfielder Paul Gascoigne by the testicles is one of the most memorable in English football.

After the pictures were splashed across the newspapers, Jones was heavily criticised for his actions, but Wimbledon boss Bobby Gould felt that was unfair. "Please don't make Jones out to be a villain. Don't tarnish him because I'll defend him to the hilt," he said. "Everyone is aware of young Gascoigne's ability. Vinnie was only following instructions. His instructions were not to let him play."

Gascoigne, who would become "great friends" with Jones, later told FourFourTwo that Gould's instructions had worked perfectly. "When it happened I thought I'd lost my family allowance! Oh, it really hurt and he scared me," he said. "I was just a little 18-year-old and he was this huge bloke with muscles all over his body. But he actually made me realise how much skill I had because of the lengths he had to go to to stop me. Vinnie's tactics worked that day because I didn't play well, but I learned to deal with that sort of treatment."

Paul Davis (ARSENAL 2-2 Southampton, 1988-89 First Division)

When Southampton's Glenn Cockerill trod on Paul Davis, leaving him with stud marks, the Arsenal midfielder retaliated by punching him in the face. Cockerill was left with a double-fractured jaw that needed to be wired and plated.

The referee had missed both incidents, but the FA - relying on footage supplied by the ITN cameras - banned Davis for a record nine matches and fined him £3,000. Gunners boss George Graham reacted to the suspension by banning both ITN and BBC News from filming any of his side's games home or away.

Mauro Tassotti (ITALY 2-1 Spain, 1994 World Cup)

In the dying moments of their quarter-final against Italy, Spain won a corner. Italy had gone 2-1 ahead through Roberto Baggio, and Spain were in desperate need of salvation. As the ball arrived in the area, Tassotti's elbow met Luis Enrique's...
Next >

t Facebook t Twitter
Back to Top
ESPN Mobile Web Home
En Español
Change Timezone
Help & Feedback
Terms of Use