​Close Encounters

By: Alfonso Duro

Copa América has already given us enough headlines to write a whole book.

From Vidal’s Ferrari, to Neymar’s channeling of Zidane against Materazzi, it seems like every day something new and exciting has been happening in Chile since the tournament started, even if it didn’t always take place on the soccer pitch.

But nothing beats the episode between Gonzalo Jara and Edinson Cavani. Both got “acquainted” during their quarterfinals match when the Chilean defender stuck a finger up the Uruguayan striker’s rear while allegedly whispering into his ear that his dad would spend 20 years in prison for a recent DUI accident, and then threw himself to the floor pretending that Cavani had slapped him, which in turn caused the referee to send the Uruguayan off for his second yellow card.

CONMEBOL gave Jara a $7,500 fine and banned him for the next three international games , effectively ending his participation in Copa América. And while the Jara-Cavani incident was pure meme gold to those who were not fuming, it certainly wasn’t the first time two players have gotten too close in the heat of the soccer battle.

Michel and Valderrama: Colombian Flare

Carlos Valderrama was a sensation all over the world in the early 90s. His characteristic blonde afro became his calling card, but it was really his skills that raised eyebrows and dropped jaws whenever he stepped onto a pitch.

His arrival in Spain, to Valladolid alongside Maturana, Higuita and Leonel Álvarez, caused a sensation. The Valderrama wig was by far the most requested costume during Carnival, but above all, there was curiosity. During a 1991 game at Bernabéu stadium, Michel had no issues trying to find out what the Colombian was hiding in his underwear. Surprisingly though, Valderrama didn’t react violently, and actually let the Merengue midfield have his way with him and enjoy.

When you are from Santa Marta, in the heart of the Caribbean coast of Colombian, I guess you learn to be laid back and take these things as they come, instead of making a big drama out of it. Anyone else would have probably handled Michel quite differently after this.

Vinnie Jones and Paul Gascoigne: Tough Guys

Welsh midfielder Vinnie Jones is one of the toughest men to have played the sport, and after retirement, his fame has helped him find a niche in Hollywood as a hit man.

But before breaking bones on screen, he was liable for breaking them on the pitch, and when English midfielder Paul Gazza Gascoigne was just a punk teenager starting his career in Newcastle, Jones showed him was he was all about.

The 1988 encounter between the two players became one of the most iconic photographs in football history, and while Valderrama seemed surprised yet ultimately amused by Michel’s actions, Gascoigne’s face says everything except the fact that he was liking what good ‘ol Vinnie was doing to him.

Gallardo and Reyes: Brotherly love

It was around the turn of the century when Sevilla had returned to the top flight of La Liga boasting a squad of young guns that seemed ready to take on the world. Amongst them, Jose Antonio Reyes was the crown jewel, but others like Antoñito or Gallardo, became great supporting role actors in what was to become on the best teams of the next decade.

The city was exploding thanks to an exciting team that quickly became the pride of Sevilla, even topping historically cross-town favorite Real Betis. And then in one 2001 game between Sevilla and Valladolid, all those emotions, all that excitement, came pouring out and were embodied by midfielder Paco Gallardo.

Following a late game-winning goal from Reyes, Gallardo found his way between a melee of players to Reyes’ crotch, and saw no better way to express his feelings of happiness than to bite La Perla’s baby-making machine.

Even in Spain, a pretty progressive and free thinking society when it comes these things, the celebration was seen as something atrocious, and Gallardo’s career would forever be marked by his action. He never got much further as a professional footballer after that, and surely he wishes his 15 seconds of fame were for something other than fellatio simulacrum.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.