Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Martial Arts in football

Posted on 5 November 2017 by José Bourbon

After last Thursday’s Europa League fixtures, nobody was talking about football and how good or bad the matches were. The topic that took football fans and the media’s attention was Patrice Evra and his kick to the head of a Marseille fan before Marseille’s game against Vitória de Guimarães in Portugal.

Consequently, UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the former Juventus and Manchester United player. The day following the match, Marseille announced Evra’s suspension until further decision is made about which sanction to apply. How strict Marseille‘s ruling will be is unknown: in the meanwhile, Sports Gazette takes a look at the moments in history when football looked more like martial arts than anything else. 

Eric Cantona ‘Kung Fu’ Kick

It is in all likelihood the most famous moment of the Premier League in regard to Kung Fu kicks. It happened more than 20 years ago (25 January 1995) but Evra‘s uncontrolled outburst Thursday probably made Premier League fans rewind to that day when Cantona completely lost his head. 

However, the circumstances were very different from the Evra incident: the French left back kicked a fan before the match had even started while Cantona kicked an opposing fan just after receiving a red card just after kicking Richard Shaw. Thus, Cantona has the edge over his compatriot Evra in that he kicked more than just a fan that day. 

The final result of 1-1 and United centre-back David May‘s debut are often forgotten facts that, even soon after the match, were clearly less deserving of the spotlight than Cantona’s kick. 

2010 World Cup final: De Jong knocks Xabi Alonso out

This Kung fu tackle happened in the World Cup 2010 final, in South Africa, between the Netherlands and Spain. Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong was the culprit this time around. In the 28th minute, in a desperate attempt to achieve the ball, De Jong made a horrible tackle which made Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso look like a stuntman in a Jackie Chan movie. 

Despite Spanish requests for a red card,the referee only gave him a yellow.  Ultimately Spain won after Andres Iniesta scored in the extra time. 

Goalkeeper Frode Olsen tackles fan invader

Frode Olsen had a far better intention than Cantona, although his method may not have been the safest, when he made a tackle to stop a fan who invaded the field. In a play-off match against Spain that finished 3-0 for the Spanish visitors, the Norwegian goalkeeper showed his defenders how to do their work with an amazing tackle that stopped the fan from continuing running around the pitch. On this occasion, the referee decided to not react to the “foul” and the goalkeeper was allowed to continue playing. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Saint-Etienne

The Swede may be the perfect reincarnation of French striker Eric Cantona as his personality and attitude on and off the field have demonstrated a number of times. 

This kicking altercation happened when French clubs Paris Saint-Germaine and Saint Etienne faced off in the 2012/13 season. PSG was losing 0-1 in the Parc des Princes with the 68th minute ticking along. Ibrahimovic was chasing a long ball as fast as he could to reach it before the Saint Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.  Ibahimovic had only one way to get to the ball first and that was to stretch his leg out. Unfortunately for the keeper, Ibrahimovic kicked him in the belly and had him lying on the grass. The Swedish striker also went down but pretended to be injured so the referee would be lenient with him. But it was obvious for the referee what decision he had to make. Ibrahimovic was sent off right away. 

Featured Image: creative commons