Many players fall from grace, although some fall from a much greater height. Here, news.bwin.com/en/ looks at five cases where prominent footballers have felt the wrath of the public.
Hard to imagine, but David Beckham was once a figure of hate having played an instrumental part in England’s early exit from the 1998 World Cup in France. Going into the tournament as one of the favourites, things got off to a promising start. However, with the group stages successfully negotiated Glenn Hoddle’s side ran into Argentina. Michael Owen’s wonder-goal helped to ensure the half-time score was level at 2-2, and things were finely poised going into the final stages. But Beckham’s petulant flick at Diego Simeone earned him a red card soon after the interval and the match was tipped in favour of the Argentinians. England eventually lost the game on penalties and Beckham was abused at grounds up and down the country when he turned out for Manchester United the following season.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo caused uproar in England through his questionable reaction to the sending off of Wayne Rooney, his then club-mate at Manchester United, in his country’s quarter-final clash with England during the 2006 World Cup. Rooney was shown red for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho but only after Ronaldo had led the Portuguese players in haranguing the referee. With the red card duly flourished, Ronaldo showed little remorse and winked at his teammates, earning himself the nickname “little winker” in the process. Such was the outpouring of abuse there were doubts Ron would return to Manchester after the World Cup, although he ended up silencing the doubters with a superb season to help the Red Devils win the title.
Seemingly squeaky-clean Ryan Giggs was exposed as a Premier League villain at the end of last season with a series of revelations about his private life. Attempting to keep the rumours of his alleged infidelity under wraps, Giggs took out a super-injunction to prevent the details from being published by the media. However, this only fanned the flames and soon the whole country knew about the story, with supporters helpfully chanting Giggs’ name whenever the Welshman came to town. The end of the season saved the winger from further humiliation, although expect the abuse to re-start in August.
A villain seemingly without peers, FA chief executive Graham Kelly accused Eric Cantona of putting a “stain” on the game of football with his infamous kung-fu kick on Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Simmons in January 1995. Vilified by the press, handed an eight-month bad from the game and sentenced to 120 hours of community service, King Eric nevertheless returned to help Manchester United to the Premier League and FA Cup double in 1996.
Or all the players on the list, it is perhaps former Gunner Ashley Cole who has been subjected to public vilification for the longest period of time. Where most players have entered into disgrace on the back of a single incident, Cole has lurched from one unsavoury episode to the next. First there was his protracted move from Arsenal to London rivals Chelsea, then there were the taunts of “Cashley” when he revealed he was so incensed by one of Arsenal’s contract offers that he nearly crashed his car. Things didn’t get better when he was found to have cheated on his wife Cheryl, the nation’s sweetheart, and a high-profile error while playing for England didn’t help either. As a result, while the other players have largely managed to restore their reputations, Cole is still public enemy number one.