Worst XI Soccer Injuries

The Best XI section is an attempt to connect similar football events across different locations and share them with you. Best XI will seek to be about topics you are interested about and want explored. Send in your topics for the month of December to editor@goaldentimes.org and we will incorporate that.


FIFA Law 12 Serious foul play says:

“A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of serious foul play when the ball is next out of play.

A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off and play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick (if the offence occurred inside the offender’s penalty area).”

So one may defend his/ her superhero saying football is a body-contact game and that the player in question was not showing malicious intent. The crux of the fact remains that the one at the receiving end has been robbed of his living, his career and may be, his dream.

This edition, Best XI brings the darker side of football. The worst XI tackles ever seen on a football pitch

 1. Roy Keane on Alf Inge Haaland

Roy Keane missed most of the 1997–98 season because of a cruciate ligament injury, caused by an attempt to tackle Leeds United player, Alf-Inge Haaland in the ninth Premier League game of the season. As Keane lay prone on the ground, Haaland stood over Keane, accusing the injured United captain of having tried to hurt him and of feigning injury to escape punishment; an allegation which would lead to an infamous dispute between the two players four years later. They made headlines again in the 2001 Manchester derby, a game in which Alf-Inge Haaland played.

Five minutes from the final whistle, Keane was sent off for a blatant knee-high foul on the Norwegian in what was seen by many as an act of revenge. He initially received a three game suspension and a £5,000 fine from the FA, but further punishment was to follow after the release of Keane’s autobiography in August 2002, in which he stated that he intended “to hurt” Haaland. Keane’s account of the incident was as follows:

“I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c**t. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

An admission that the tackle was in fact a premeditated assault, it left the FA with no choice but to charge Keane with bringing the game into disrepute. He was banned for a further five matches and fined £150,000 in the ensuing investigation. Despite widespread condemnation, he later mentioned in his autobiography that he had no regrets about the incident, “My attitude was, f**k him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He f**ked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.”


2. Martin Taylor on Eduardo

On 23 February 2008, in the third minute of Birmingham’s home match against Arsenal, Taylor committed a foul on Croatian international striker Eduardo da Silva as a result of which Eduardo suffered a compound fracture to his left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle. He received treatment on the field for seven minutes before undergoing surgery at a local hospital, and was transferred to a London hospital the following day. The injury was so disturbing that Sky Sports, who were broadcasting the game live, decided not to show replays of the incident. Taylor was sent off for the offence.

In his post-match interview, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger called for a life ban for Taylor, but retracted his remarks later that day, admitting they had been excessive and made in the heat of the moment. Shortly after the match, Birmingham City issued a statement asserting Taylor’s lack of malicious intent and his distress at the injury, and sending their best wishes to Eduardo.

At president Sepp Blatter’s personal request, FIFA’s disciplinary chairman reviewed the matter, suggesting that the Football Association increase Taylor’s punishment from the standard three-match ban; they refused to do so as there was no suggestion of intent.


3. Abou Diaby on John Terry

On 25 February 2007, while participating in the 2007 Football League Cup Final against Chelsea, Diaby, while attempting to clear the ball out of the Arsenal defence, accidentally kicked rival defender John Terry in the face. Unconscious, Terry was stretchered off and hospitalized, but recovered to return to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the trophy presentation following Chelsea’s 2–1 win. Though Arsenal lost, Diaby was credited with an assist on the team’s only goal of the match, which was converted by Theo Walcott.

It is still open to debate whether Diaby in fact committed a tackle, or in the circumstances the boot was high enough to be deemed dangerous play. To be fair to Diaby, he was trying to clear the ball from a natural position and there was no way he could have anticipated the consequence. But John Terry would have taken it with a pinch of salt.


4. Michael Brown on Ryan Giggs

On 2006-07 season, Michael Brown came under criticism from the media for a two footed lunge on Manchester United player Ryan Giggs, however as Brown was booked for the incident no further action could be taken. Brown had also been involved in media controversy later for some of his tackling, most notably tackles on Ashley Cole and Sean Davis.


5. Denis Irwin on David Busst

David Busst’s short lived playing career came to an end on 8 April 1996, whilst playing for Coventry against Manchester United. Two minutes into the match, having ventured forward after his team won a corner, Busst collided with United players Denis Irwin and Brian McClair, resulting in extensive compound fractures to both the tibia and fibula of his right leg. The match had to be delayed for 12 minutes while blood was cleaned off the grass. It is reputed that Manchester United’s goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel vomited on the pitch upon seeing the injury and had to undergo counseling afterwards, along with a number of other players. The injury is often cited as one of the worst in the history of football.

Busst’s injuries were so bad that at one point he ran the risk of having his leg amputated. While in hospital, Busst contracted MRSA, which caused further damage to the tissue and muscle in the injured part of his leg. Despite having 26 operations, Busst remained a member of the official Coventry squad for a further seven months, but never played again and retired from the game following advice from his doctors on 6 November 1996 at the age of 29. It was however, not the break that ended his career, but the infections he suffered afterwards.

His testimonial match, played on 16 May 1997 against Manchester United, was a sell-out.


6. Harald Schumacher on Patrick Battiston

Harald Schumacher, of then West Germany, is best remembered for a highly controversial incident in the 1982 FIFA World Cup semi-final against France when he collided with and seriously injured French defender Patrick Battiston. Battiston had just Schumacher to beat after a through ball from Michel Platini, but shot wide of the goal. Instead of trying to defend the shot, Schumacher appeared to jump directly at Battiston, and collided with him in mid-air. Battiston was knocked unconscious, and later slipped into a coma. He also lost his two front teeth and had a damaged vertebra. He received oxygen on the pitch. Michel Platini later said that he thought that Battiston had died, because “he had no pulse and looked pale”. The Dutch referee Charles Corver did not award a free kick for the incident. Schumacher then proceeded to take the goal-kick and play resumed. Germany would eventually go on to win the game on penalty kicks after the match was tied at 3–3.

After winning the game, the goalkeeper caused more controversy when he was told that Battiston had lost three teeth, and replied: “If that’s all that’s wrong with him, I’ll pay him the crowns.” Schumacher later apologised in person to Battiston, and the apology was accepted by Battiston.

A French newspaper poll asked who was the least popular man in France, and Schumacher beat Adolf Hitler into second.

When West Germany and France met again in World Cup 1986, Battiston said that the incident was “forgiven and forgotten”. However, he said that he was wary of getting “close to Schumacher” and said that he would hold a distance of at least 40 meters from the German goalkeeper. Schumacher would mostly refrain from commenting on the incident.

In his autobiography, Anpfiff, published in 1987, Schumacher said the reason he did not go over to check on Battiston’s condition was because a number of French players were standing around Battiston and making threatening gestures in his direction.


7. Felix Muamba-Musasa on Buti Ngulube

This comes with a caution: Not for the faint hearted.

In a ghastly incident from South African Premier Soccer League game on 24 May  2009 between the Mpumalanga Black Aces FC and the Carara Kicks, Buti Ngulube had his leg broken into half causing a “tranverse break” of a tackle by Felix Muamba-Musasa.

Both were chasing a 50-50 ball down the sideline, Ngulube had the first touch but caught Musasa’s trailing boot. Musasa was given a red card immediately. Federation inflicted further an eight game suspension on charges of misconduct relating to unsportsmanlike behaviour and assault.


8. Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes

Thatcher gained notoriety on 23 August 2006, in a game between Manchester City and Portsmouth. Whilst challenging with Pedro Mendes for a loose ball, Thatcher viciously and intentionally led with his elbow, knocking Mendes into the advertising hoardings rendering him unconscious. In the immediate aftermath, Thatcher is seen to be indignant and visibly irate with his now prostrate, motionless opponent. Mendes required oxygen at pitchside and suffered a seizure while being transferred to hospital, where he spent the night. Mendes was discharged from hospital the next day, but remained under medical supervision. Thatcher, who issued a written apology to Mendes, was investigated by the FA as a result of the challenge. He was disciplined and his barrister, Rupert Bowers, read a written apology following the hearing. Greater Manchester Police noted receipt of many “statements of complaint” and also chose to investigate the matter. On August 30, Manchester City announced that Thatcher would be banned for six matches, two of which would be suspended and fined six weeks’ wages for the challenge. This punishment is separate from the sanctions made by the FA, who suspended Thatcher for eight matches, with a further fifteen game suspended ban for two years.

The incident was the second time in less than three weeks that a Thatcher elbow had hospitalised an opponent, following an incident on August 4 in a pre-season tour of China, when his challenge caused a career-threatening collapsed lung for Yang Chungang, a 20-year-old midfielder from Shanghai Shenhua. Thatcher also faced possible action from Lancashire Police over a clash with ex-Blackburn Rovers player Ralph Welch; during a reserve game at Ewood Park in February 2006.


9. Commins Menapi on Riki Van Steeden

In the 2006-2007 season, Commins Menapi became the first player to be sent off in a New Zealand Football Championship Grand Final with a nasty studs up kick on Auckland City defender Riki van Steeden. Van Steeden’s leg was broken in the incident and Waitakere United lost the final 3-2. However, he would not be suspended for the OFC Champions League final against Ba F.C. because of the OFC and New Zealand Football being two separate organizations.


10. Rachid Bouaouzan on Niels Kokmeijer

In his second season, while playing in the Eerste Divisie, Bouaouzan reached the Dutch news headlines due to a heavy foul on Niels Kokmeijer, his opponent playing for Go Ahead Eagles on December 17, 2004. Kokmeijer’s leg was broken badly and he was subsequently forced to retire from professional football. Sparta Rotterdam suspended Bouaouzan for the rest of the season, which was more than the 10 match ban the KNVB awarded him. Besides that he was taken to court by the Dutch government for battery, a unique moment in Dutch football history. Bouaouzan was sentenced to a conditional six months in jail. In April 2008 the highest Dutch court confirmed this.

At the end of the season Sparta Rotterdam qualified for the play-offs where Bouaouzan returned on the pitch. In the last and final play-off match, Bouaouzan scored Sparta’s winning goal over Helmond Sport, thus securing them a spot in the Eredivisie for 2005–06.


11. Boris Johnson on Maurizio Gaudino

Let us end this grave article on a jovial note.

Maurizio Gaudino is a retired German football midfielder. He was capped five times for Germany in 1993 and 1994, and was in their squad for the 1994 World Cup. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British journalist and Conservative Party politician, who has been the elected Mayor of London since 2008.

So the remotest of chances they would ever meet on football pitch was to be in a charity match.

In 2006, in a charity football match between England and Germany, consisting of celebrities and former players, Boris Johnson came on as a substitute for England in the 85th minute, and infamously rugby tackled former German international Maurizio Gaudino, in a vain attempt to win the ball with his head.