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5 biggest controversies in football history

In football, it is the controversies that unraveled from time to time. Here are some of the biggest controversies in football history.

Last updated: 04.04.2019
5 biggest controversies in football history | Sports Social Blog

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‘Jogo Bonito’ is a phrase popularised by Brazilian legend Pele. Also called ‘the beautiful game, the phrase is synonymous with football. Pele named his autobiography ‘My Life and the Beautiful Game’ and its dedication read “I dedicate this book to all the people who have made this great game the Beautiful Game.”

But every beautiful thing has some thorns in it which spoils its attractiveness. In football, it is the controversies that unraveled from time to time. There have been many embarrassing incidents in football history ranging from match-fixing to drugs, and many footballers coming to spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Here are some of the biggest controversies in football history.


1) Ronaldo and the 1998 World Cup final:

Ronaldo was the poster boy for Brazil in the 1998 world cup in France. The 21-year-old had scored four goals in the build-up to the final and was expected to be the difference maker to the France showdown.

However, what was meant to be a glory-defining day for the young striker came to be known as the ‘Ronaldo scare’ in popular culture. When the initial team sheet was released, Ronaldo was unexpectedly omitted from the starting line-up. This had left fans and commentators stunned alike.

Interestingly, later Brazil sent a revised team sheet with ‘O Fenômeno’ back in the squad. Despite his inclusion, Ronaldo, to everyone’s surprise, was subdued as France went on to win the match 3-0.

It was later revealed that Ronaldo had suffered a ‘convulsion’ ahead of the match. The reason for convulsion is still a matter of discussion.

2) Diego Maradona and the Hand of God:

Whenever there are mentions about controversies in football history, Diego Maradona’s 1986 ‘Hand of God’ is everyone’s favorite. In the 1986 World Cup quarter-final Argentina was playing against England. It was the second half of the quarter-final in Mexico city which had left the world perplexed at what they saw.

The Argentinian forward had punched the ball into the net when jumping up against England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Maradona had later accepted that it was a hand but also claimed that he was aided with the ‘Hand of God’.

Interestingly, just four minutes later, he then pulled another rabbit out of his hat, this time it was the ‘Goal of the Century’. Argentina defeated England 2-1 and later went on to the win the world cup.

3) Geoff Hurst’s ‘Phantom Goal’ against West Germany:

Was it a goal or not? Maybe if there was a goal-line technology in 1966, this question could have been answered. It is important because it is this goal that made the difference for England winning the 1966 world cup against West Germany at Wembley.

With the scored tied at 2-2 and eight minutes into extra time, Geoff Hurst blasted a shot which crashed off the underside of the West Germany crossbar and bounced and cleared. Now whether it was on the line or over is the question of debate.

However, on that day the Swiss referee Got fired Dienst after consulting with the linesman Tofik Bakhramov had wagged his fingers indicating it to be a goal.

Interestingly, with improved technology when the goal was reviewed, it came out that it was not a goal as the ball did not cross that line.

4) Graham Poll gives three yellow cards to the same player:

This incident is one of the perfect examples to justify that ‘Humans are not perfect’. In 2006, English referee Graham poll famously booked Croatian player, Josip Simunic three times in a group stage match against Australia.

Simunic was first booked for a foul on Harry Kewell in the 61st minute. Later he was booked in the 90th minute but surprisingly Poll did not send him off. Simunic was again booked in the 93rd minute and this time it was bye-bye for the Croatian player.

5) South Korea’s alleged series of match-fixing:

It is arguably the most infamous moment in football history. South Korea who was hosting the 2002 world cup along with Japan had benefited immensely from several decisions that turned the tournament upside down.

In the round of 16 South Korea were against Italy. The host from the initial minutes of the game had opted for a rough tactic going hammer and tongs against the Calcios. The match referee Byron Moreno of Ecuador shockingly had ignored most of the fouls committed by the Koreans. But two of his most controversial decisions were disallowance of a goal by Italy and the Francesco Totti’s sent off for diving. South Korea won 2-1.

In the quarter final against Spain, South Korea against opted for the same tactic and this time the referee was Gamal Al-Ghandour. He disallowed two legal Spanish goals. Furthermore, the Spanish forwards were judged offside constantly by the linesman. The hosts won 5-3 on penalties.

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