Sport is an emotional affair but sometimes it’s taken to extreme levels. What is scientifically known as a loss of control, in today’s media landscape can become a volcanic eruption, as seen by Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo’s strop.
For some sports stars, their short fuses burn all too quickly in the heat of battle and the result is sporting infamy. These athletes not only became champions, but legends for their outbursts.
- Mike Tyson
- Oliver Kahn
- Eric Cantona
- Zinedine Zidane
- John McEnroe
Mike Tyson – “Another One Bites the Dust“
Tyson’s rematch for the world championship crown against Evander Holyfield in 1997 will go down in history and not just in the sports books. In the third round Tyson was behind on points and decided on a new tactic by biting off a piece of his opponent’s right ear.
Whether Tyson wanted to provoke a disqualification or acted out of frustration we still don’t know, but his reputation suffered a sucker punch from which it never recovered. Despite a further comeback attempt, his career as a boxer never really got back up from the canvas.
Oliver Kahn - “You smell so good”
Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was as much a hothead as he was a world-class shotstopper. In April 1999 Bayern Munich were on course for the Bundesliga title against Champions League-chasing Borussia Dortmund. The Bavarians were trailing 2-0 when Kahn and Dortmund striker Heiko Herrlich were involved in a collision.
The keeper reacted with a mixture of wild sniffing and a mock chomp of the teeth. Afterwards Herrlich remarked he was surprised when Kahn pressed his nose against his neck but described it as more of a nibble than a bite. In spite of his temperament, Kahn remains a German football legend.
Eric Cantona - “Everybody was kung fu fighting”
Cantona, actor and former professional football player, always liked to make headlines and was never far from controversy over the course of his playing career. In 1995 his most infamous scandal occurred in a game against Crystal Palace.
The Manchester United talisman had been sent off when he lunged into the crowd kung fu style at a spectator who had allegedly insulted him. Cantona barely escaped a two-week jail sentence and was banned from playing worldwide for eight months.
Zinédine Zidane - “Head Over Heels”
The Frenchman is one of the all-time legends of football, and among other things, was a three time FIFA World Player of the Year, World and European champion, and a Champions League winner.
In the final game of the 2006 World Cup, the midfield maestro was red carded after 109 minutes of his last ever game in the national team jersey. The reason was a headbutt into the chest of Italy’s Marco Materazzi. By insulting Zidane’s sister, Materazzi had provoked his opponent as he later admitted on Italian television. The match itself went to penalties and Italy triumphed to become World Cup winners.
John McEnroe - “Madness”
Perhaps the phrase: “There’s a thin line between genius and madness” applies to no other sportsman than more John McEnroe. The American dominated the sport of tennis for much of the 1980s collecting seven Grand Slam titles.
In addition to the emotional side of his game and his unusual left-handed technique, his verbal outbursts became legendary. No one was safe from McEnroe’s tirades, not referees, ball boys or the audience.