Welcome to the Jungle

By: Alfonso Duro

Rugby is known as the gentleman’s sport, and although there’s heaps of physicality involved, sportsmanship and honorable situations are never out of style. With soccer, well, the story is a bit different. The universal image of the soccer player is quite different: a footballer is (apparently) always looking to cheat, to take advantage of any situation for his own advantage, and, ultimately, to fool the referee whenever possible.

With these dishonorable actions comes frustration, and eventually violent reactions. In the last few weeks in Spain, we have seen Ronaldo get sent out for literally brutalizing Cordoba’s Edimar, and perhaps even at a more surreal level, Arda Turan throw his boot at a linesman.

But these two incidents fall quite short from some of the most shameful battles we’ve seen on a football pitch throughout history.


Who: Diego Armando Maradona

When: 1984

What: The Argentine was obviously quite ready to get revenge against Athletic Bilbao and, more precisely, Andoni Goikoetxea. The Basque defender injured Maradona a year earlier in one of the most violent fouls remembered to date, and so the Argentine wanted to set the record straight. Tension was quite high, one thing led to another, and all of the sudden both Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona were immersed in an all out kung fu fight, with flying kicks and karate chops, everywhere. In fact, it was a little bit frightening.


Who: Carlos Diogo and Luís Fabiano

When: 2010

What: Fighting for unknown reasons, what’s clear is that both players seemed to be ready to settle the old-age rivalry between their two South American nations. It all started with Zaragoza defender, Carlos Diogo, reminding Sevilla’s Luís Fabiano about something the Brazilian obviously didn’t like. The Uruguayan however, took it a step further and tried to knock out the Brazilian with a straight uppercut to the jaw. Luis Fabiano’s lights were a bit knocked out of him, because what came next would have been the worst ever display of punches landed in the history of a boxing fight. Both players were ruled out for over 10 games each, but the World Boxing Association actually banned them for life from ever trying to become boxers.


Who: Képler Lima Ferreira, aka Pepe

When: 2008

What: Unless Pepe scores a header in the final of the 2018 Russian World Cup to give Portugal its first world title, Real Madrid’s defender will likely be remembered long after he retires for this almost-last-minute play against Getafe’s midfielder Casquero. Real Madrid was hoping to remain in the battle for La Liga in 2008. With 2-2 on the scoreboard, the defender committed a clear penalty kick on Casquero, and after hearing the ref’s whistle, something went off in his head, inspiring him to: kick Getafe’s player repeatedly and to punch him in the face when he finally got up. Pepe, who thought his team’s run for La Liga was over right then and there, was banned for 12 games. Most ironically, Getafe missed the penalty and actually lost the game after Real Madrid took advantage of the last play of the match to score and win 3-2. Talk about jumping the gun for the Portuguese defender, who will have that one single action haunt him forever.


Who: David Navarro

When: 2007

What: Valencia had beaten Inter Milan en route to the 2006/2007 Champions League quarterfinals, but Carlos Marchena decided to kick Argentine Nicolás Burdisso as the final coup de grâce. As it usually happens, a quick brawl ensued, but in this case things escalated in physical roughness in a matter of seconds. David Navarro, who would years later steal headlines for also elbowing Ronaldo, came out of the bench and punched Burdisso in the nose without giving the Argentine the slightest chance of seeing him coming. After his treacherous punch, Navarro proceeded to run away as a mob of Inter Milan players chased him down the field, in one of the silliest scenes to ever happen in soccer. At least, when Mourinho treacherously stuck his finger in Tito Vilanova’s eye, he didn’t run away from the situation. Navarro, on the other hand, lost tons of credibility as both a player and a person.


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.