Top 10 friendly foul-ups: Barton the peacekeeper, kidnaps and hotdog arson
1) North-east neighbours get naughty
Joey Barton may have ended the 2011/12 season by booting Sergio Aguero up the arse, but he began it as unlikely peacemaker for Newcastle in a game that proved there’s no such thing as a friendly derby. In bizarre scenes at the Darlington Arena, 300 members of the Toon Army flooded onto the pitch after Sammy Ameobi put Newcastle 2-0 up, leading to violent clashes with their Darlo counterparts as Barton pleaded in vain for calm. Proof that Geordies and sunshine don’t mix.
2) Friendly fire, Victorian-style
In the 19th century, football was described as “a gentleman’s game played by ruffians”, but there was nothing gentlemanly about some fans. The first recorded instance of hooliganism in English football actually took place after a pre-season friendly. In 1885, after Preston North End had thumped Aston Villa 5-0, both teams were pelted with stones, attacked with sticks, punched, kicked and spat at by supporters described as “howling roughs” by press reports. Oof.
3) Making an impression
Joining a new club is rarely easy – at the start you have to settle in, impress and earn your stripes. New Bayer Leverkusen man Ryu Seung-Woo, a summer signing from Jeju United, thought he'd done just that by netting the equaliser against second-tier Aachen with 10 minutes left of his side's pre-season 1-1 draw. Three minutes later, however, he saw red – quite literally, after being sent off for headbutting an opposition player. The DFB didn't take too kindly to the incident, banning him from Bayer's three remaining pre-season tussles. Naughty.
4) No fun in the sun
We all love the Mediterranean. The sun, the sand... the squabbling. Things got particularly heated over one close-season weekend in 2010, when two inter-island games turned into wars on the shores. First, the match between Sardinians Cagliari and northern neighbours Bastia of Corsica was abandoned after 75 minutes following a succession of fouls and scuffles. Then 48 hours later, it was the turn of the Sicilians and Cretans. Catania vs Iraklis was halted after yet more fisticuffs, this time with just 70 minutes on the clock. We thought the Med diet was supposed to calm you.
5) ‘The blond arrow’ vs the gunmen
Nothing gets in the way of a good pre-season like having your star player kidnapped – just ask Real Madrid. Alfredo Di Stefano was nabbed at gunpoint from the European champions’ Caracas hotel on their ‘friendly’ tour of South America in 1963. “At first I thought they were going to kill me,” said the Argentine, but he was released unharmed two days later and reunited with the main perpetrator, Paul del Rio, 42 years later for the launch of a film that recounted the incident. Bygones and all that.