Greatest World Cup Controversies

The celestial home of the beautiful game shall host the greatest sporting extravaganza on Earth in no more than a month. As we speculate the outcome on the grandest contest of them all, the infinite thoughts of witnessing the beautiful game at its purest form cloud our mind currently.

While the preparations for the World Cup and the excitement preceding it seem happy for the football fans around the globe, the situation at Brazil isn’t something they would like to learn about.

The public outcry has been rampant and the countrymen have been despising the World Cup ever since Brazil accepted the bid. Their economy might see a potential downfall that the natives have feared for long.

While such a controversy has risen even before the World Cup, let’s take a look at those that have sprouted during the World Cup and endured for bad:

Harald Schumacher and Patrick Banniston

Patrick Banniston goes into coma after collision

Patrick Banniston being stretchered off after collision with Harald Schumacher

In the 1982 World Cup held at Spain, the first semifinal was played between Germany and France. As the game progressed towards the second half, Patrick Banniston, who had come off the bench ten minutes earlier took advantage of a pass by Platini and was through on goal ahead of the German defense.

With only the goalkeeper to beat, Banniston took out Harald Schumacher as the goalkeeper was nearing him. As the ball crossed Schumacher, he launched himself onto Banniston and they collided in mid-air as Schumacher’s hip hit Banniston’s face.

The intensity of the foul by Schumacher was such that Banniston had to receive Oxygen on the pitch and he was taken out having gone into coma, which was later confirmed. While everyone expected Schumacher to be punished severely, the referee, Charles Cover chose to overlook the incident and continue with the match.

Thereby, conclusively determining that Schumacher had committed no mistake while it seemed so even to the most insane mind. Charles Cover, to his credit still is the moderator of one of the greatest World Cup controversies. While any kind of action would have not sufficed for such a foul, the fact that he just let it go is baffling.

Although Banniston recovered and was back to football, this remains one of the most controversial and dirty incidents in the World Cup.

Andres Escobar’s Own goal and eventual Murder

Esobar's own goal led to his murder

Andres Escobar lying on the ground after committing the own goal

When you look back at this memory, the inherent beauty of football comes into question. For every great event, there turns out to be one demarking it.

The great memories of football are shattered by such ill-fated encounters which undermine the very essence of life. Andres Escobar’s tragic murder, just two weeks after his country’s elimination from the World Cup is perhaps the greatest incident to have cast a shadow of doubt over the credibility of football.

Commonly attributed to the fact that he scored an own goal which led to the team’s elimination, the Colombian defender had to suffer the ill-tempered mind of some fiendish person. Although there have been denials over the claim of the reason for his death, the timing is more than just a co-incidence.

While we may never know the truth behind what happened and why it happened, we shall know that this was one of the greatest controversies of all time that marked the World Cup. To our efforts, we hope to this that Andres Escobar rests in peace.

Luis Suarez decides to play keep away with the spirit of sport

Suarez handled the ball to prevent Uruguay defeat

Luis Suarez handling the ball to save Uruguay against Ghana in 2010

A short look at the career trajectory of Luis Suarez would tell you that he is no stranger to controversies and has a certain rapport with it. No matter where he is, trouble seems to find him.

And the 2010 World Cup was no escapee from the list. As Uruguay put on one of their best performances in recent times, Luis Suarez decided to become a hero in his country by sacrificing his place in the match.

Playing in the quarterfinal against Ghana, Uruguay had dominated the match but failed to score. With no team breaking the deadlock, it seemed certain we were going to have a shootout.

As the match was nearing full time, Suarez blocked an ongoing ball with his hand standing over the goal line. Receiving a red card for this, Luis Suarez committed what is regarded as two polar opposites in two different regions.

While his countrymen consider this the ultimate sacrifice, The Ghanaians saw this as a desperate attempt of deceit and an act of cowardice against the spirit of football. While the fact that Ghana missed the subsequent penalty and lost the shootout remains the primary reason for their anger, Luis Suarez shouldn’t be made the scapegoat either.

As a footballer, it is natural for anyone to make their best efforts to win the game. The sad part that the effort was outside the spirit of the game stands but that doesn’t minimize his effort either. Although we would never reach a conclusion as to whether he was right or not, we could agree that this incident attracted a whole lot of opinion and was highly controversial.

Hand of God

Maradona Hand of God

Maradona fisting the ball into the net

Perhaps, no bigger decision influenced a World Cup such as this. Arguably one of the worst refereeing decisions of all time, the ‘Hand of God’ still stands out today as one of the dirtiest attempts at deceit by a footballer.

The sad part is that the footballer who did this was the greatest player of all time. Riding off a high, Diego Maradona had been at his best that tournament and the match against England was no less. He had thrived but the English had defied him for nearly an hour and Maradona would wait no more.

As the defender miscued a clearance, Maradona took full advantage and jumped over the English keeper, Peter Shilton to handle the ball into the net. Easily visible to the naked eye, the referee Ali Bin Nasser failed to spot the infraction and awarded the goal to Argentina.

Four minutes later, Maradona would go on to score the Goal of the Century. While that may have been testament to his quality, this was a blatant display of the fact that he would do anything to attain the ultimate prize.

Snidely commenting on this in his post-match interview, Maradona called it “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God” thereby leading to the goal being rechristened the ‘Hand of God’.

Although Maradona managed to pull off some great feats, none match the sheer amount of criticism and hatred he received for this one.

Geoff Hurst’s Ghost Goal

Geoff Hurst's ghost goal

Geoff Hurst’s ghost goal which won England their first World Cup

The English football team has just one major trophy in their century long footballing history. And the one, was marked by a final which witnessed one of the most controversial moments in the history of FIFA World Cups.

Their 4-2 win over Germany in the 1966 FIFA World Cup final shall forever be remembered for two reasons. First, it was the only time England fans got to sing ‘We are Champions’ while the second, it was the day Geoff Hurst scored the hat trick that never was.

Going into extra time with scores at 2-2, Geoff Hurst met a cross from Alan Ball that hit the underside of the bar and bounced back on the line and was subsequently cleared. The above events in order would suggest a goal wasn’t scored but that’s not what the referee. Hearing to the wails of the English players, the referee awarded England the goal while the ball had never wholly crossed the line.

Although deciding it from naked view was near impossible, the referee chose to give the goal and the English would go on to win 4-2 in the final with Geoff Hurst completing a hat trick in the final minute of extra time.

As they celebrated their greatest accomplishment, they had just initiated what would go on to become on the greatest controversies in the history of football. To this day, people are back and forth on this never conclusively deciding what happened.

Battle of Santiago

Battle of Santiago

Referee Ken Aston sends off Italian Mario David, while an injured Chilean lies on the ground, during ‘the Battle of Santiago’.

The footballing legacies of any country would be such that an infamous event always would be present. Italy and Chile were no exception to that tradition as they both were part of something that is still despised in football.

Officially, the two teams took part in what is described as,” the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.” Or to the more well-known, Battle of Santiago.

Pre-match disturbances had been high in this group stage match as two journalists had markedly derogated Chile in their description of Santiago. Certainly, the players were concentrating on how to destroy their opposition. This was evident in the fact that the first foul occurred a mere 12 seconds after kick-off.

Just 12 minutes into the match, the referee was forced to send off an Italian player, who refused to leave and invited the aid of police personnel for his removal. Fast forward few more minutes and another Italian was sent off the pitch for a kick to the opponent’s head.

In the scuffle that ensued, Chilean Sanchez broke Italian Humberto Maschio’s nose and the infraction was ignored by the referee. This wasn’t it as the violence restarted time and again making the Police intervene thrice. As Chile won the match 2-0, the viewers gave a sigh to what was a disgrace to football.

While the match is still regarded as the worst match ever, the fact that no effort was taken post-match to impose some discipline still baffles everyone and remains a controversial decision on FIFA’s part.



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