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Football’s most shocking moments – 25 years after Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick

Saturday marks 25 years since Eric Cantona’s astonishing kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter at Selhurst Park.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at seven other shocking incidents to have taken place on a football pitch in the past 30 years.

Luis Suarez bites Giorgio Chiellini (World Cup, June 2014)

Soccer – FIFA World Cup 2014 – Group D – Uruguay v England – Estadio Do Sao Paulo

Luis Suarez sunk his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder (Mike Egerton/PA)

Perhaps we should not have been surprised. Uruguay striker Suarez had form, having already served lengthy bans for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal while at Ajax and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool. But even so, the sight of him plunging his teeth into the shoulder of Italy’s Chiellini while playing for his country on the world’s biggest stage was one of those moments that nobody watching will ever forget. The footballing world was outraged, and Suarez’s claim that it was accidental hardly helped. He eventually apologised, but only after being hit with a four-month ban from all football, and at the behest of Barcelona, who were in the process of signing him from Liverpool.

Zinedine Zidane headbutts Marco Materazzi (World Cup, July 2006)

Soccer – 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany – Final – Italy v France – Olympiastadion – Berlin

Italy’s Marco Materazzi lies on the ground after being headbutted by Zinedine Zidane (Martin Rickett/PA)

The 2006 World Cup final gave one of the game’s greatest players, Zidane, the opportunity to write a storybook ending to his career by guiding France to glory against Italy. Instead, he ended the evening in disgrace after launching a stunning headbutt into the chest of Materazzi, which lifted the Italy defender off his feet. It was later claimed that Materazzi had insulted Zidane’s sister to provoke the attack, but whatever the explanation, the final image of Zidane was of him trudging off the pitch and into retirement – so much so that the headbutt was commemorated in a statue by Algerian-born French artist Adel Abdessemed.

Paolo Di Canio pushes referee Paul Alcock (Premier League, September 1998)

Soccer/Shef Wed v Arsenal 3

Paolo Di Canio reacted to a red card by pushing referee Paul Alcock (Paul Barker/PA)

Long before his apparently short-lived managerial career and controversy over his reported political views, Di Canio had a habit of attracting the spotlight on the pitch. Sometimes it was for moments of stunning skill (see his volley against Wimbledon for West Ham in 2000), or amazing gestures (like the time he passed up a clear scoring opportunity because he saw Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was injured), but the most famous will always be his shove on referee Alcock during Sheffield Wednesday’s match against Arsenal. Alcock had just dismissed the Italian for his role in a mass brawl, and Di Canio reacted by shoving the official. Perhaps if Alcock’s stumble and fall had not been so comical, seemingly occurring in slow motion, the incident would not be so well remembered, but either way Di Canio was banned for 11 matches.

Lee Bowyer fights Kieron Dyer (Premier League, April 2005)

Soccer – FA Barclays Premiership – Newcastle United Press Conference – Longbenton

Newcastle pair Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer kissed and made up after being sent off for fighting each other (Alex Alevroyiannis/PA)

The sight of team-mates fighting is hardly unprecedented, and we had even see two England internationals go at it before when Graeme Le Saux and David Batty fought while playing for Blackburn against Spartak Moscow in 1995. But the fight between Bowyer and Dyer during Newcastle’s 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa is the most memorable. The midfielders squared up off the ball and it took several moments for the other players and officials to realise what was going on. By the time they were separated, Bowyer had landed a punch or two and was hauled away by another England colleague, Gareth Barry, still raging and with his shirt split down the front. He and Dyer were sent off, leaving Newcastle with only eight men after the earlier dismissal of Stephen Taylor.

Frank Rijkaard spits at Rudi Voller (World Cup, June 1990)

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Anything that happens at the World Cup comes with an extra ‘shock’ factor with the eyes of the world watching. But the squabble between Rijkaard and Voller when Holland faced West Germany in 1990 was just bizarre. It started when Rijkaard fouled Voller and, having been booked, spat in the German’s hair as he waited for the free-kick – unseen by the officials. When the ball was played in, Voller tumbled to the floor again, sparking outrage amongst the Dutch who thought he was trying to win a penalty. Rijkaard confronted him, grabbing his ear and stomping on his foot. Both men were sent off, and Rijkaard spat in Voller’s hair once again as they walked off the pitch.

Ben Thatcher elbows Pedro Mendes (Premier League, August 2006)

Ben Thatcher received an eight-game ban for his assault on Pedro Mendes (PA)

Ben Thatcher received an eight-game ban for his assault on Pedro Mendes (PA)

Thatcher’s ‘challenge’ on Mendes was technically an elbow, but that does not really do it justice. As the pair were racing after a loose ball, Manchester City defender Thatcher slammed his arm into the back of Mendes’ head, sending the Portsmouth midfielder sprawling towards the advertising hoarding. Mendes was knocked unconscious and needed oxygen at the side of the pitch. Thatcher was only booked for the incident, but the Football Association ignored its own rules regarding incidents already dealt with by the referee and claimed an “exceptional case” as Thatcher was banned for eight matches, with a further 15 suspended.

Roy Keane exacts revenge on Alf-Inge Haaland (Premier League, April 2001)

Soccer – FA Carling Premiership – Manchester United v Manchester City

Roy Keane admitted his horror tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland was deliberate (Phil Noble/PA)

Keane and Haaland had been on bad terms since 1997, when Keane injured his anterior cruciate ligament trying to challenge the Norwegian in a match between Manchester United and Leeds. Four years later, in the heat of a Manchester derby, Keane launched a horror tackle on City’s midfielder, after which he was never the same player again. Keane was initially red-carded and banned for three matches, but the following year he was given an additional five-match ban and £150,000 fine after saying the tackle was deliberate in his autobiography.

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