The passion of football league matches has produced numerous instances over the years where incidents have occurred that have been quite extraordinary. The minute coverage of these games by the media has resulted in these events being covered and shown around the world.

One of the saddest events to have occurred was 43 minutes into an FA cup tie Bolton and Tottenham when the Bolton midfielder midfield player Fabrice Muamba collapsed onto the floor and simply stopped breathing. It soon became apparent to players, officials and supporters the seriousness of the incident. The game was immediately abandoned and the ground was cleared. Muamba’s heart stopped beating for 78 minutes, but luckily due to the work of the paramedics at the ground, plus the presence in the crowd of Dr Andrew Deaner a consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital, his heart restarted after 15 defibrillation shocks.

Paolo Di Canio leaves the pitch with the referee on the floor

One of the strangest moments involving a referee was when Sheffield Wednesday’s Paolo Di Canio pushed referee Paul Alcock in the chest resulting in the official to falling dramatically to the floor. Di Canio had become involved with an altercation Arsenal’s Martin Keown, and when Alcock showed the Italian the red card he reacted with the infamous push.

The result of his actions cost him a fine of 10 thousand pounds plus an 11 game ban. Although his actions cannot be condoned, the fall of the referee was due more to the shock of having been pushed. as opposed to the power of the action knocking him over. Paolo Di Canio was also involved in an incident that displayed great sportsmanship on his part. Playing in 2000 for West Ham against Everton the scores were level as the game went into injury time. In a goal mouth incident the Everton goalkeeper became injured and when the ball was crossed to Di Canio who had the simple opportunity of kicking the ball into the empty net and giving his side a victory.

However, when the ball reached him he caught the ball and pointed to Paul Gerard writhing on the ground in agony. This act went some way, particularly in the eyes of Everton fans, to atone for his previous incidents.

Another overseas player who got himself into big trouble after being sent off, was the Frenchman Eric Cantona after seeing red in a game for Manchester United against Crystal Palace on January 25th 1995. Playing at the tightly enclosed Selhurst Park ground in South London Cantona was subjected to a verbal assault from a Palace supporter. His reaction was to launch a “kung-fu style kick” at his assailant. It resulted in the Frenchman being banned from playing for Manchester United for the rest of the season and he was also stripped of the captaincy for his country.

The kick that got Eric Cantona into a lot of trouble

He was also given 120 hours community service which he served coaching youngsters at the Manchester United training ground. At a later press conference regarding the incident he issued his famous quote: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea, thank you” and promptly left the meeting.

With the coverage of modern day football being so intense there can be a general assumption that players who played in previous generations did so with little incident. This of course not true and many players in previous years were guilty of the same misdemeanors that modern players are charged with today.

In the 1975 Charity Cup game at Wembley both Kevin Keegan of Liverpool and Billy Bremner of Leeds were sent off for actually having a fight. As they left the field the both ripped off their shirts throwing them to the floor in disgust at the decision.

This resulted in a charge of “bringing the game into disrepute” and both players were banned for eleven games. Many people felt the severity of the punishment was mainly as a result of the game being played at Wembley, and the lack of respect they showed to the venue. Football has been full of controversial incidents.