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Fists, Brawls and Spat

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Is there anything better than seeing a fight on a football pitch? The answer, obviously, is no. Sometimes tempers flare, and while commentators are obliged to say “we don’t want to see that in football”, we really, really do. Just ask the internet that went ablaze after Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte got ready to throw hands in the middle of Stamford Bridge!

The abiding memory of the 2010 World Cup final is not Andres Iniesta’s winner, it’s Nigel de Jong’s kung-fu kick. Fans remember 2006 final for Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt, not his first-half Panenka.

While the players try to ensure that the game is played and portrayed as clean as possible, tensions are so high at times that players from opposite teams, or even the same teams, tend to clash with each other.

Also read: Footballers who were charged with criminal cases

On the same note, FootTheBall ranks the greatest on-field fights in the sport.

Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer

When a fight breaks out in the field it is never pleasant. When 22 men fight each other instead of playing the game, it is disappointing as a fan of the game. However, sometimes, two men can do the work of 22. In one of the most puzzling fights in football history, Lee Bowyer, and Kieron Dyer, both players of the same team, Newcastle United, started fighting in the middle of the pitch.

Back in 2005, during a Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa, the strangest of things occurred when two Newcastle players, Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer, started to brawl against each other. Dyer intentionally did not pass the ball to Bowyer during the match, as both got into a scuffle. Both the men were red-carded by the referee as Newcastle lost 0-3.

 

Manchester United and Arsenal

The Premier League is said to be the best league in the world because of how competitive football can be over there, but sometimes that competitive spirit can manifest itself in the wrong way. The 2003/04 game between Arsenal and Manchester United at Old Trafford is a good example of this.

Two of England’s best teams had been jostling for league supremacy for a good six years at that stage. United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was involved in an incident that saw Gunners midfielder Patrick Vieira being given his marching orders for a second bookable offence when the Frenchman kicked out at him.

In the final minute of the game, Diego Forlan won a penalty for the Red Devils. Van Nistelrooy stepped up but miss the spot-kick and was mobbed by celebrating Arsenal players, which led to a massive melee as the final whistle went to end the game 0-0. The penalty miss would prove decisive as the north London side would go the entire season unbeaten.

 

Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi

Undoubtedly, the most controversial and ugliest fight in football history was when France’s Zinedine Zidane lost his cool and head-butted Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final. Materazzi, reportedly, had abused Zidane by mentioning the latter’s sister. Consequently, Zidane was immediately red-carded following the head-butt, as Italy went on to win the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out.

 

Diego Maradona and Atletico Madrid

In a sequence that seems more like it is from a Karate kid movie, Diego Maradona kicked each Athletico player that came at him. With jumping high kicks, and low kicks, it looked more like a display of karate than a brawl. After he was knocked down during his run, he seemed to turn into Bruce Lee and dealt with his opponents in the same manner.

 

Real Madrid and Barcelona

When Real Madrid and Barcelona meet, there is no such thing as a friendly game. With all the players doing their best to overcome their dreaded rivals, rash tackles are frequent. What is worse, however, is the aftermath of the tackle.

Such was the case in the Super Copa de Espana in 2011. When Marcelo hit a fierce and ill-timed stoppage time tackle, he was immediately sent off with a red card. The tension of the game and stoppage time itself though got the better of most of the players. With the usually stoic Mesut Ozil out for blood, and the reserve goalkeeper of Barcelona Jose Manuel Pinto trying to kill people. Ozil got a red card for his troubles.

In a cheeky moment, Jose Mourinho had his little fun hitting the late Tito Vilanova from behind and turning away fast hoping that no one saw him. This was one of the worst brawls of all time with the players having lost all of their senses in the heat of the moment.

 

Chile and Italy

The Battle of Santiago. Labelled “stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful” by BBC commentator David Coleman, required four interventions from Chilean police. Two players were sent off and numerous punches were thrown in an astonishing exhibition of violence.

Chilean sentiment towards Italy had reached an all-time low following a series of inflammatory articles written by two Italian journalists about the host nation. Forget two points, the Chileans wanted blood, and blood they got. The Battle of Santiago, as the game became known, was one of the most nonsensical, violent matches in the history of the World Cup and sparked off a decade of high-tempered games between European and South American sides.

 

Colombia and Brazil

During 2015 Copa America, Brazilian superstar Neymar was involved in a clash after he threw the ball at a Colombian defender from close range, following the end of the match. As it resulted in a brawl, he also went for a head-butt at Colombian goal-scorer Jeison Murillo, which prompted fellow Colombian Carlos Bacca to brutally clash against Neymar. Both the men were eventually red-carded.

 

Joey Barton and Manchester City

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 of 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.

 

Inter vs Valencia 2006/07

The Champions League tie between Inter and Valencia lives in infamy for the brawl which took place after the final whistle. The second-leg of the last-16 tie ended 0-0 which ensured Los Che progressed on away goals, but David Navarro started a full-pitch melee after he broke Nicolas Burdisso’s nose.

Inter players chased Navarro down the tunnel at the San Siro, as punches and kicks were thrown by others on the pitch. A number of players were charged with gross unsporting conduct, with UEFA launching an immediate investigation.

There was some history between these two teams beforehand, with Adriano sensationally firing a two-handed punch into the face of Valencia’s Marco Caneira during a group stage match in 2004/05.

 

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Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham’s Premier League title challenge came to an end with a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in the 2015/16 campaign, a result which officially confirmed Leicester City as Premier League winners, however, the match is remembered for the discord which took place on the pitch in London.

Famously known as the Battle at the Bridge, Spurs took exception to Chelsea players giving interviews beforehand suggesting they would gladly take the title out of Spurs’ reach, and they entered the match in a very aggressive mood.

Spurs then surrendered a 2-0 lead before losing their heads completely. Danny Rose’s late challenge on Willian sparked a mass brawl which saw Mousa Dembele and Diego Costa collide. Half-time came after that, only for the violence to continue in the second-half, although rather surprisingly not a single red card was shown.

The London rivals have continued this trend, after the recent touchline spat between Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel, with this game also ending 2-2.

Arnold Lewis
A hardcore Chelsea fan, who is often found playing football on the weekends. He has an exceptional voice and his rendition of old Hindi classic songs will make your heart melt. He is the man with the funky hair.

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