The fundamental rule of soccer is that no one but the goalie can touch the ball. And while that rule works 99% of the time, there are other moments where the players decide to use their hands on each other. We’re talking about the good old fashion brawl. These are some of the most heated soccer fights on the pitch to date.
Lee Bowyer vs. Kieron Dyer, 2005
Lee Bowyer started it. With Newcastle down 3-0 to Aston Villa in a 2005 Premier League match, the English midfielder confronted teammate and England international Kieron Dyer for not passing him the ball. The result? Dyer ripped Bowyer’s shirt in half before they were both red carded and kicked out of the match. The Football Associated charged Bowyer with violent conduct.
Jose Mourinho and Tito Vilanova / Barcelona vs. Real Madrid 2011
When one of the biggest rivalries face each other, things are bound to get heated. During an El Clasico match between football giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, player’s and coach’s emotions started to boil after Marcelo threw in a harsh tackle of Cesc Fabregas. While some of the players had to be contained, Mourinho poked the eye of Barcelona assistant manager Tito Vilanova who promptly responded with a push. It took Mourinho a year to accept the violent behavior and make a formal apology.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Fulham, 2004-05
Games can turn nasty quick. In a Premier League match between West Bromwich and Fulham in the 2014-15, an astonishing two players were sent off for punching other players. In the first case, Fulham’s Papa Bouba Diop smacked West Brom defender Darren Purse. Later, Andy Cole attacked defender Neil Clement for deliberately fouling his teammate on an open breakaway. Clement and Cole were both kicked out of the match. The game ended 1-1 with more red cards given than goals scored.
Paolo Di Canio and the referee, 1998
In a feisty match between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday, it appeared that Patrick Vieira and Paolo Di Canio were trading words and fouls against each other. But the roughhousing seemed to have got the best of Di Canio’s patience. He poked Martin Keown’s eye and then after being red-carded, pushed the referee to the ground. Di Canio received a £10k fine and an 11 game match ban.
David Batty vs. Graeme Le Saux, 1995
In another instance of teammates fighting teammates, David Batty of Blackburn Rovers decided to punish Graeme Le Saux for lackluster play which allowed Spartak Moscow to win back the ball. Both Batty and Le Saux shared punches before they were broken up by another team member and the ref. A war of words followed suit.
Roy Keane and Alan Shearer, 2001
In a 2001 Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle at Upton Park, the ever-fiery Roy Keane threw the ball at the back of Alan Shearer’s head after Shearer tried to impede a quick throw-in. The two then got into a scuffle with Roy Keane deploying an errant punch that missed Shearer. Keane received an instant red card. The two hate each other to this day.
Eden Hazard and Swansea ball boy
Known for his composure, the Chelsea forward Eden Hazard nonetheless got testy against a ball boy who had collapsed and smothered a ball with fifteen minutes remaining in a League Cup semi-final match still tied 0-0. Hazard kicked the ball from the kid’s hands while also nicking the boy’s ribs, with the Swansea defenseman Ashley Williams coming to the ball boy’s defense. The ball boy put on an Academy Award performance and won the day: Hazard got red-carded, and the boy sold his jacket from the incident on eBay for nearly £30k.
Joey Barton vs. Man City, 2012
In a Premier League match between Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers in 2012, Joey Barton reacted to a Carlos Tevez punch in the back by elbowing Tevez in the face. After getting red-carded, Barton then proceeded to knock down Aguero on his way out off the field. In the game’s last five minutes, Aguero scored the goal in the waning minutes to win the Premier League over Manchester United.
Zidane vs Marco Materazzi, 2006 World Cup
Tied 1-1 in extra time in the 2006 World Cup, goal scorers Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi got into a heated verbal exchange before Zidane turned around, aimed, and headbutted Materazzi to the ground. In all regards, it was the perfect headbutt with all the strength and force a martial arts teacher could ask for. Italy won the World Cup on penalties.
Eric Cantona vs. Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons, 1995
In a Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace, the legendary United forward Eric Cantona received a red card, and kung-fu kicked a fan upon exiting the game. The Frenchman was banned the rest of the season. Twenty years after the incident, Cantona still refers to it as one of the top moments in his career: ‘When I did the kung fu kick on the hooligan, because these kind of people don’t have to be at the game.’
Alan Pardew and David Meyler, 2014
In a Premier League match between Hull City and Newcastle, coach Alan Pardew took it upon himself to headbutt Hull midfielder David Meyler after a ball went out of play. What was a rare incident, from a coach no less, showed the ignominious side of football yet again.