First XI

Time out

April 25, 2013
By Robin Hackett
(Archive)

With Luis Suarez handed a ten-match ban after his attack on Branislav Ivanovic, we pick out a selection of players to have been hit with long suspensions.

NB Due to the plethora of options, players serving drug bans have not been included.

Frank Barson (1928)

Frank Barson
PA PhotosFrank Barson became notorious for his tough tackling

Watford defender Barson, a once-capped England international and one of the most feared players of his day, was issued with a seven-month ban after he was dismissed for kicking out at Jimmy Temple in a 6-2 home defeat to Fulham.

The Watford chairman, John Kilby, considered it "most unjust" given that another player had been banned for only three months for striking a referee, while the Mayor of Watford, insisting Barson's leg had been held and that he was merely trying to free himself, collected a petition with over 5,000 signatures to deliver to the Football Association.

However, the mayor agreed to burn the petition when the FA secretary highlighted the fact that no new evidence had emerged. A subsequent nationwide petition, organised by the Watford Football Supporters' Club, also had no impact, and Barson - suspended for the rest of the season - was released from his contract.

Willie Woodburn (1954)

Scotland international Woodburn's career came to an unfortunate end as he was handed a lifetime ban.

The Rangers defender had first been banned for 14 days in 1947 after a "violent exchange" with Motherwell's Dave Mathie. In 1953, he was banned for 21 days for taking a swing at Clyde's Billy McPhail. The following year, against Stirling Albion, he head-butted an opponent after having apparently been punched, and was banned for six weeks.

In Rangers' next meeting with Stirling Albion, opposition forward Alex Paterson - having seemed to deliberately target Woodburn's injured knee - was knocked to the ground. Woodburn, who was as well known for his cultured play as his hair-trigger temper, was banned sine die. Two-and-a-half years later, the SFA permitted Woodburn to play again but, as he was then 37 years old, he neglected to return.

Doval (1967)

Argentina forward Doval, known for his later success in Brazil with Flamengo and Fluminense, was banned for a year after apparently "handling" an air stewardess, prompting an outcry against the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

During his time with first club San Lorenzo, Doval - nicknamed "El Loco" - had been on a flight with his team-mates when an attendant's bottom was grasped, apparently by a married member of the side. The unmarried ladies' man Doval took the blame, and was arrested when he stepped off the plane.

The AFA, under pressure from the military dictator Juan Carlos Ongania, banned Doval for a year. "Do you know why? Because I decided to defend myself, with the help of a journalist, and the case grew in the press," the player explained to Placar in 1973. "Someone at the AFA began to call me brat, in public, and I said on television that he was gay."

In addition to his year-long ban, he was also hit with two defamation charges. "I always say what I feel, and have no regrets, but how could I prove this guy is gay?" he added.

He was free to return to action in 1969, and soon afterwards headed off to Brazil.

Alberto Poletti (1969)

Nestor Combin
PA PhotosPoletti left Milan's Nestor Combin with severe injuries

Estudiantes goalkeeper Poletti was banned for life by the AFA after an Intercontinental Cup clash with AC Milan in Buenos Aires that led the country's president, Juan Carlos Ongania, to order the imprisonment of three of the home side's players.

Poletti had punched Gianni Rivera and kicked Nestor Combin in the face as he lay on the ground, as well as brawling with Milan fans, leading Ongania to express "shock and dismay" at the situation, adding: "The Estudiantes players violated the most elementary standards of sporting ethics."

The 23-year-old 'keeper was told he would never play again and spent 30 days in prison. The two other players to be remanded in custody, Ramon Aguirre Suarez and Eduardo Manero, were also given lengthy domestic and international bans.

As it transpired, Poletti would serve only seven months of his life ban before receiving a pardon when President Ongania's regime was brought to an end by a military junta, but the goalkeeper told the AS newspaper in 2005 that he felt he had "paid for what I did", adding: "Football was violent at that time."

Hristo Stoichkov (1985)

Stoichkov was one of five players to be hit with a lifetime ban after an extraordinarily bad-tempered Bulgarian Cup final between Eternal Derby rivals Levski Sofia and CSKA Sofia. Both clubs were also temporarily disbanded.

CSKA won the match 2-1, aided by their 26th-minute opener, which Georgi Slavkov scored with the assistance of a handball. Three players were sent off during the match, four others booked, while a mass brawl broke out in the tunnel, and the referee was intimidated.

CSKA teenager Stoichkov was given a permanent ban, along with Levski quartet Borislav Mikhailov, Plamen Nikolev, Emil Velev and Emil Spassov. Three players were banned for a year, another for three months, while the managers of both teams were banned from training, and the chairmen were each handed unspecified "personal punishments". The two clubs were also disbanded on government orders.

The life bans were reversed a year later, but the clubs were unable to reclaim their names until 1989.

Uli Stein (1987)

Uli Stein reacts to Bayern's late winner by punching Jurgen Wegmann
GettyImagesUli Stein reacts to Bayern's late winner by punching Jurgen Wegmann

Stein was one of German football's more controversial characters. The goalkeeper was memorably sent home from the 1986 World Cup after apparently insulting West Germany coach Franz Beckenbauer, and in the same year showed Augsburg fans the "Stinkefinger" after being shown a red card.

However, his inclusion here comes as a result of a ban he received after the DFB-Supercup of 1987 against Bayern Munich. Jurgen Wegmann had scored an 87th-minute winner for Bayern and, while Stein would later insist he considered the trophy to be "meaningless", he reacted violently to the late goal.

"We sat facing each other," he told Der Spiegel in 2006. "It appeared he wanted to get up to celebrate. And then the blackout: I punched him in the face. But I can't remember anything, my mind went blank. Today, I cannot explain why I did it. I had no hatred for Wegmann, and he hadn't provoked me."

Stein was banned for ten weeks, and Hamburg released him from his contract.

Eric Cantona (1995)

Even before his most infamous moment, Cantona had been labelled Le Brat by the French press. He had announced his retirement from the game in 1991 when, during his time with Nimes, he received a month-long ban for kicking a ball into the crowd and throwing his shirt at a referee.

That affair had prompted his 1992 move to England with Leeds United, but they offloaded him to Manchester United because, manager Howard Wilkinson said, he was "not prepared to abide by the rules and conditions which operate for everybody else here".

Alex Ferguson was willing to offer the Frenchman an unusual degree of leeway at United and was duly rewarded on the field, but Cantona was unable to keep his temper in check. In January 1995, after he had been sent off in a match at Selhurst Park, he was goaded by Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Simmons, who raced to the front of the stands and was reported to have shouted: "You dirty French bastard. F**k off back to France." Cantona responded by attempting a kung-fu kick on Simmons.

The forward was suspended by United until the end of the season and fined £20,000, with the Football Association then extending his ban until October and fining him a further £10,000. He was also sentenced to two weeks in prison after pleading guilty to common assault, although that was reduced to 120 hours of community service on appeal.

Simmons, meanwhile, was charged with provoking the attack, and he did spend time behind bars. The 21-year-old was found guilty of contempt of court when, during his hearing, he attacked the lawyer who had just successfully prosecuted him, applying a headlock before being tackled by six police officers.

In 2009, Simmons told the Daily Star: "The incident has ruined my life."

Paolo Di Canio (1998)

Paolo Di Canio pushes referee Paul Alcock after receiving a red card
GettyImagesPaolo Di Canio pushes referee Paul Alcock after receiving a red card

Sheffield Wednesday forward Di Canio received an 11-match ban when he shoved referee Paul Alcock after being sent off during a home victory over Arsenal in September 1998.

"I acted badly, but it was just a slight push and he took two or three paces back and fell over, just like a player when he wants a free-kick," Di Canio explained in the wake of the incident. "It was a bit of play-acting. Every Saturday I get kicked around a lot and nobody is there to protect me. This isn't fair and it seems to me the treatment handed out to foreigners is harsher than what the others get. The problem is that the English are jealous of foreign players."

Incredibly, it was the third time Alcock had been attacked by a player. In 1991, Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair had, during a loan spell at West Brom, appeared to head-butt him after he awarded Exeter a late penalty. Sinclair was banned for nine games.

In 1995, Stoke forward Wayne Biggins also received a nine-match ban for an apparent shove on Alcock. He later backed Di Canio's view on the referee's apparent theatrics: "He did exactly the same with me as he did with Di Canio and said I assaulted him. I appealed for a penalty and when he did not give it I shook his arm and he went down on the floor."

Pascal Nouma (2003)

Such was his connection to Besiktas, France-born Nouma told the Hurriyet newspaper in 2010 that he felt Turkish "deep inside", yet seven years earlier he had badly misjudged the mores of his adopted land.

It was during the forward's second spell with Besiktas that, after netting the opener in a 2-0 home victory over arch-rivals Fenerbahce, he celebrated by removing his shirt and putting his hand down his shorts, sparking outrage across the country.

He was sacked by his club, and the Turkish Football Federation followed up with a seven-month ban, saying his celebration was "absolutely incompatible with sporting morals and gentlemanly behaviour".

"It was just a private sign of joy,'' Nouma said. "If it hurt Turkey, then I am sorry.''

David Navarro (2007)

Navarro, an unused Valencia substitute, was given the sternest penalty of all the players involved in his team's Champions League quarter-final success over Inter Milan.

At the end of the game, Valencia's Carlos Marchena had kicked Nicolas Burdisso, and Navarro ran from the bench to punch the Inter man, breaking his nose, before attempting to flee the scene as several opponents gave chase.

Navarro seemed baffled by own actions - "Nothing like this has happened before because I am not a violent person," he said - while team-mate Emiliano Moretti told Italian television: "Navarro is a perfectly normal person and I don't know what would cause him to do such a thing."

He was handed a seven-month ban by UEFA - which FIFA extended to all competitions - but it was ultimately cut down to six months on appeal.

Pepe (2009)

Javier Casquero is left on the ground following Pepe's attack
AssociatedJavier Casquero is left on the ground following Pepe's attack

When Pepe knocked over Javier Casquero to concede a late penalty in the derby with Getafe, the Real Madrid defender reacted by kicking and stamping on his opponent, frustrated that he had appeared to have caused significant damage to his team's title hopes.

He then punched Juan Albin and verbally abused the officials. "I lost control for a few minutes," he explained in Marca. "My only desire was that my team won and I found myself giving away a penalty. This action made me crazy and everything came after that."

Gonzalo Higuain ultimately rescued a 3-2 win for Madrid late in injury time, and Pepe's actions only served to lessen his team's title chances as he was handed a ten-match ban that ruled him out for the run-in.

"I've seen the incident repeated and I insist I don't recognise myself," Pepe added. "I'm human and everybody has a bad moment in their life, but I can assure you that this is not going to happen again."