12 footballers who scored (or threatened) deliberate own goals – and why

It’s the ultimate act of betrayal, but a small number of players have done the unthinkable and put the ball into their own net on purpose

1. Steve McMahon (England)

Liverpool’s McMahon was instructed to collect the ball from kick-off, dribble the wrong way up the pitch and score in his own net

England warmed up for Italia 90 with a friendly in Sardinia against a local XI which featured a young Gianfranco Zola. The purpose of the game was twofold: get Bobby Robson’s squad some match practice before the tournament, and build bridges with the local community on the island where England would be based for the duration of the group stage.

At the time, English fans were feared across Europe and tensions were high, so the FA made clear to travelling supporters that acts of hooliganism could hurt the Three Lions' prospects. With that in mind, Liverpool’s McMahon was instructed to collect the ball from kick-off, dribble the wrong way up the pitch and score in his own net.

The journalists present had been given a press release explaining the stunt, which stressed that "hooliganism was an own goal". But as Pete Davies explains in All Played Out, his seminal book on the tournament, the message was completely lost on the watching fans who wondered: "Had the heat got to McMahon here, or what?"

Steve McMahon

McMahon took one for the team before the World Cup in Italy

2. William Gallas (Chelsea)

He went on to threaten that if he was forced to play, or if he was disciplined and financially punished for his breach of the rules, that he could score an own goal

- Chelsea statement

Chelsea defender Gallas forced through an acrimonious move to Arsenal on transfer deadline day in 2006. The Blues hadn’t wanted to sell, and took the unusual step of issuing a statement to claim their hand was forced by the player himself. The key paragraph read: "He went on to threaten that if he was forced to play, or if he was disciplined and financially punished for his breach of the rules, that he could score an own goal or get himself sent off, or make deliberate mistakes."

Gallas admitted wanting to leave, but denies going as far as threatening to score against the Blues. For neutrals at least, it's a shame it never came to that.

William Gallas

Gallas threatened to score in the wrong net if he wasn't sold to Arsenal

3. Ernst Happel (Austria)

Austria were winning 15-0 in a warm-up game before the 1954 World Cup when Happel unleashed a 25-yard drive into his own net

He was the first man to win the European Cup with two different clubs as a manager, and collected a host of domestic honours in his native Austria, but Happel could be a nightmare to play with. According to the Guardian, the centre-back would deliberately unleash attempts at his own goal when his Rapid Vienna side were dominating games, telling close friend and keeper Walter Zeman: "Lucky for you I didn’t hit you in the head or else you’d be dead."

He repeated the feat at international level, too: Austria were winning 15-0 in a warm-up game before the 1954 World Cup when Happel unleashed a 25-yard drive into his own net. The defender wanted, he explained after the game, “to show the opposition how to score”. Charming.

Ernst Happel

Happel (left) was happy to give his opponents a helping hand

4. Mursyid Effendi (Indonesia)

With a low-intensity game on a horrifying pitch deadlocked at 2-2, Effendi rolled the ball into his own net

Like a US draft-dodger, Indonesia defender Effendi went to extraordinary lengths to avoid Vietnam. In the 1998 Tiger Cup, the winners of a group game between Indonesia and Thailand were set to play hosts Vietnam in the next round, while the losers would face unfancied Singapore.

With a low-intensity game on a horrifying pitch deadlocked at 2-2, Effendi rolled the ball into his own net while the Thailand players tried in vain to stop him. He was banned from international football for life, and Indonesia went on to lose to Singapore anyway. Justice.

Own goal at 0:57