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Off the ball

Robin Hackett
October 13, 2012
Robin van Persie was accused of elbowing Yohan Cabaye © Getty Images

After Robin van Persie and Robert Huth were involved in separate off-the-ball incidents last 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 earned recognition as the world's finest goalkeeper for the first time at the age of 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' reputation preceeded him © PA Photos

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 became "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 face as he moved into position and broke his nose. The referee missed the incident, and Spain, appealing in vain for a penalty, were out of the World Cup. "It was not a voluntary foul," Tassotti said. "We were pushing each other to control a high ball. I did not realise I had hit him on the nose. I tried to apologise on the field, but he was furious." FIFA thought otherwise. After reviewing video evidence, Tassotti was fined £10,000 and banned for eight games, bringing an end to the 34-year-old's Azzurri career. Italy were outraged by the decision, and they found an unlikely supporter. "The punishment for Tassotti seems to be excessive," Enrique said. "I didn't think it would be that severe, although committing a foul this bad you are taking a risk. Anyway, I accept his apology."

Dennis Bergkamp (NETHERLANDS 2-1 Yugoslavia, 1998 World Cup)
Sinisa Mihajlovic shows referee Jose Manuel Garcia-Aranda the marks left by Dennis Bergkamp's studs. For all his artistry, Bergkamp was also prone to occasional shows of violence. In the second round of the 1998 World Cup, the Arsenal striker had given Netherlands the lead late in the first half but, after Yugoslavia had equalised and missed a penalty, he lost his temper. On 52 minutes, he fouled Mihajlovic and then stamped on him. "Maybe it could have been a red card, but there was a lot of provocation," Bergkamp shrugged after his side had progressed with a 2-1 win. His captain, Frank de Boer, was less convinced. "It was a foolish thing to do right in front of a linesman. We were lucky to be drawing 1-1 at the time because Yugoslavia had just missed a penalty, so we were even luckier not to finish the game with ten men over something stupid." Bergkamp escaped a ban, and memorably scored the winner against Argentina in the following round with one of the goals of the tournament; FIFA president Sepp Blatter said afterwards that he would have "a very serious word" with the disciplinary committee. Surprisingly, Bergkamp later referenced Mihajlovic as one of his favourite opponents. "I always loved to play against players like Mihajlovic or [Marco] Materazzi - players with a big mouth who make dirty tackles, step on your toes and give you an elbow off the ball when no one was watching," he told FourFourTwo. "That got me going."

David Beckham (Argentina 2-2 ENGLAND, 1998 World Cup)
"I have nightmares about France '98," Beckham said in 2002. "It will always be with me and people will always talk about it." Beckham turned from hero to villain in the 47th minute of a World Cup second-round clash with Argentina when, with the score at 2-2, he was shown the red card. Beckham had reacted to a Diego Simeone challenge by flicking a petulant boot in his direction while lying on the floor. "Let's just say the referee fell into the trap," Simeone said the following year. "It was also a difficult one for him to have avoided because I went down well and in moments like that there's a lot of tension. You could say that my falling transformed a yellow card into a red card but, in fact, the most appropriate punishment was a yellow one. Obviously, I was being clever." With Argentina having gone on to win the match on penalties, a significant number of England fans directed their anger squarely at Beckham. The Manchester United midfielder was subjected to a hate campaign that saw him subjected to regular abuse from fans around the country - including death threats - while an effigy was famously hung outside a London pub.

Marco Materazzi hits the deck after being headbutted by Zinedine Zidane © PA Photos

Zinedine Zidane (Italy 1-1 FRANCE, 2006 World Cup)
Zidane, making the final appearance of a glorious career, was on course to bow out in the most glorious fashion. He had come out of international retirement to captain an ailing France side to the World Cup final, and had already been awarded the Golden Ball as the finest performer in that year's tournament. In the final, against Italy, he had put France ahead with an audaciously chipped seventh-minute penalty. However, Marco Materazzi levelled in the 19th minute, and the match went into extra-time. In the 110th minute, Zidane became embroiled in an argument with Materazzi that led the Frenchman to direct his head into the Italian's chest. He was sent off, and Italy went on to win the match on penalties. The exact content of their discussion remains unclear. Zidane would appear to have reacted to Materazzi holding onto his shirt by joking that he would give him his jersey after the full-time whistle; Materazzi, who strongly denied insulting the midfielder's mother, later told TV Sorrisi e Canzoni he had replied: "I would prefer the whore that is your sister." That does not seem to tally with later comments from Zidane, who told El Pais that his mother had been insulted "more than once" during the game. "My mother was sick," he added. "She was in hospital." A statue of the incident was recently erected outside Paris' Centre Pompidou modern art museum. "It is an ode to defeat," exhibition organiser Alain Michaud told Agence France Presse.

John Terry (Barcelona 2-2 CHELSEA, 2011-12 Champions League)
Even after a 1-0 first-leg victory at Stamford Bridge, few expected Chelsea to progress from their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. When their captain was sent off in the minutes after Sergio Busquets had equalised the aggregate scores, their hopes were all but extinguished. In the event, despite Andres Iniesta almost immediately making it 2-0 on the night, Chelsea battled back to a 2-2 draw to progress to the final. For Terry, though, there were still serious questions to answer. He had directed his knee into Alexis Sanchez for no apparent gain and left his side with ten men in one of the most fearsome arenas in world football. His explanation shed little light. "I've raised my knee, which I shouldn't have done in hindsight, but hopefully the people out there that know me as a player and a person know I'm not like that," he said. "At the time, I was bewildered because I was trying to protect myself a little bit but, looking at it on the replay, I've no complaints."

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