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A brief history of cheating: 29 of football's dirtiest tricks ever

Diego Maradona, Napoli

Things could have been much worse Southampton, who faced a string of suspect occurrences before their crucial relegation showdown against Swansea this week. FourFourTwo recalls the beautiful game’s dastardly deeds...

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1. Manager-to-man marking

Leganes manager Enrique Martin lived La Vida Loca one legendary evening in 1999. His side led Segunda Division rivals Badajoz 1-0, but their advantage looked in peril when their opponents broke forward late in the game. The quick-thinking gaffer just couldn’t help himself. As Badajoz forward Sabino Santos hurtled down the touchline, Martin nicked the ball nonchalantly off his toe. Badajoz went bananas; Martin got a 10-game ban.    

2. The original cheaters

This early case of foul play in football occurred more than 20 years before the Laws of the Game were properly drawn up, and is arguably the first ever instance of cheating in the game. It was Christmas Day 1841, and brilliantly named Lancashire pub teams The Body Guards and The Fearnoughts were playing a 12-a-side match by their own rules for a cash prize and barrel of gin. During a goalless struggle, a tired Body Guards player ushered a spectator onto the field to take a kick for him. The umpire decided this was “foul play according to the rules agreed by each party” and awarded the match – and the gin – to the Fearnoughts.

3. Die Roten turn rotten

Coach Zlatko Cajkovski therefore told his players to throw their penultimate game, against Ulm

Bayern Munich haven’t always been a European superpower, and in 1964 were battling merely to enter the pan-regional play-offs for promotion to the Bundesliga. Finishing top of the southern regional league would see Bayern face a highly regarded Aachen side from the west, a fate they were keen to avoid.

Coach Zlatko Cajkovski therefore told his players to throw their penultimate game, against Ulm. To be on the safe side he also fielded five reserves, although they weren’t in on his scheme – which is why, after 70 minutes, Bayern were leading 4-3, the reserves having scored all four. Cajkovski promptly yelled some unmistakable instructions from the sidelines, and although Bayern subsequently lost 6-4 and finished second, they still failed to win promotion.

4. Champions of violence

Racing Club’s 1-0 victory over Celtic in the 1967 Intercontinental Cup play-off remains the mother of all pitched battles

With six red cards, 51 fouls and two interventions by Montevideo’s riot police, Racing Club’s 1-0 victory over Celtic in the 1967 Intercontinental Cup play-off remains the mother of all pitched battles. In chronological order, these players were dismissed: Argentine defender Alfio Basile (after fighting with John Clark and spitting at Bobby Lennox), Lennox himself (a case of mistaken identity), Jimmy Johnstone (for finally retaliating after many brutal challenges and one rugby tackle), John Hughes (for kicking Racing keeper Agustín Cejas, who had earlier kicked the writhing Johnstone “as hard as I could” for getting Basile sent off), Juan Carlos Rulli (for punching Clark) and Bertie Auld (for brawling).

The latter refused to leave the pitch, insisting: “I know nothing about it”, so the Paraguayan referee let him play on. It wasn’t just the violence: at half-time Johnstone’s hair was so wet with spit, he had to wash it. French paper Miroir du Football headlined its report: ‘Racing: Champions of violence, treachery and theatrics’ – but the scandal prompted the British government to remove Jock Stein, the first British coach to win the European Cup, from the 1968 New Year’s Honours list, depriving him of a knighthood.

5. Meier, Meier, pants on fire

Alan Pardew and Nigel Pearson probably have a picture of Norbert Meier on their bedroom walls: he really raised the bar for touchline spats, then dived under it, backwards. In December 2005 the Duisburg manager took umbrage with Cologne midfielder Albert Streit, gently nutted him, then collapsed as if shot. Streit looked understandably bewildered but regained his composure in time to deliberately go down as well – and received a red card for his troubles. The ludicrous Meier was sacked three days later (presumably throwing himself to the ground in response), but you can’t keep a bouncy man down: last year he took Arminia Bielefeld to the third division title and a German Cup semi-final against Wolfsburg.

6. Barbados vs Grenada vs Rules

Grenada quickly twigged that a goal at either end would take them through, so Barbados spent the remaining moments of the match defending both goals

With three minutes left of his team’s 1994 Caribbean Cup qualifier against Grenada, Barbados defender ‘Sealy’ hatched a scheme. Barbados led 2-1, but needed a two-goal win to progress at Grenada’s expense. With time running out, Sealy recalled a strange rule was in effect: goals netted in extra-time counted double. He booted in an intentional own goal to level the tie, giving them more time to score at the right end.

Grenada quickly twigged that a goal at either end would take them through, so Barbados spent the remaining moments of the match defending both goals in order to take the game to extra-time. They held on, and in the additional period found the third goal which confusingly gave them a 4-2 win. Job done. “I feel cheated,” grumbled Grenada coach James Clarkson, not unreasonably.

7. The masseur’s magic touch

Cue the Benny Hill music. It’s two apiece near the end of a Brazilian Serie D play-off in 2013 when Tupi’s forward Ademilson rounds the keeper and looks to have scored the decisive goal – only for Aparecidense’s suspiciously placed masseur, Romildo da Silva, to run on and clear it. Twice. He then sets off down the tunnel pursued by most of the Tupi team and umpteen riot police. The result actually stood, but Aparecidense were then expelled from the league altogether. Romildo was later to be found running around a park pursued by players, police, six scantily-clad nurses and a tiny bald man.

8. Attack of the drones

This may be hard to believe, but a military-style drone once targeted professional footballers without a banner attached debating the merits of Brendan Rodgers. France’s preparations for their opening World Cup 2014 match were disrupted when an unmanned aircraft buzzed around their training pitch, said to be on a spying mission for their opponents, Honduras. Olivier Giroud & Co. failed to bring down the airborne interloper with volleys (quiet at the back), and FIFA half-heartedly investigated. At the previous tournament, les Bleus were so offensive that Honduras could have launched a full-scale ground assault and nobody would have objected.

9. Burnley's crooked keeper

He was suspended again in 1907, one of 17 Manchester City players punished by the FA for receiving payments in excess of the footballers’ £4 a week minimum wage

‘Happy’ Jack Hillman was the most crooked keeper to represent England. In April 1898, Stoke and Burnley played out a 0-0 draw in a play-off group to secure their top-flight status. The fix was hardly subtle: strikers shot at corner flags and passes were aimed at opponents as both teams ignored enraged cries of “Goal nets were invented for a reason” from the crowd. Suspicion fell on Burnley keeper Hillman. Early in his career, Dundee had fined him for “not trying”, and two years after the travesty at Stoke, with Burnley facing another relegation six-pointer (or four-pointer as it then was), he offered Nottingham Forest players £2 each – around £150 in today’s money – to “take it easy”, allegedly upping the offer to £5 at half-time.

Forest refused, won 4-0 and grassed him up to the FA. Hillman’s “I was only joking” defence didn’t convince and he was banned for a season. He was suspended again in 1907, one of 17 Manchester City players punished by the FA for receiving payments in excess of the footballers’ £4 a week minimum wage. After an elbow injury forced him to hang up his gloves, Hillman ran a sweet shop in Burnley.

10. Big Phil’s little helpers

Luiz Felipe Scolari, future World Cup-winning manager and England nemesis, made his name at Gremio with some impressively underhand tactics. Underarm tactics, in fact: his ball-boys were instructed to lob extra matchballs onto the pitch to disrupt opposition attacks, and his players were even accused of tapping up the local police to give visiting players a sly wallop in the event of a melée. By 2007 he was Portugal manager, and took matters into his own hands by marching on to punch Serbian defender Ivica Dragutinovic. If you can’t cheat them, chin 'em.