Andres Escobar: Tipped to lift the World Cup by Pele then assassinated by gangsters when he didn't...
The sad news that Bolton's Fabrice Muamba has had to retire following his heart attack last season has just hit the internet. And while we feel sorry for one of football's good guys, he can at least console himself he wasn't trampled to death by pigs...
As students of the Romance languages will tell you, much like here in the UK, the various regions of Italy have their own unique vernacular, a peculiar bastardised dialect that more often than not leaves outsiders completely and utterly betwattled. However, ask any Italian how to say “jammy **** ?” in their local tongue and all of them, from North to South, will offer the same two words: Pippo Inzaghi.
No discernable skill, little coordination and looks for all the world like he was drawn by Matt Groening – small wonder, then, that Pippo should go by a clown’s name. Yet despite having had the ball under control for less than 14 seconds of his 20-year-and-counting career, the Rossoneri’s Kermit-limbed goal-gimp has accidentally deflected more footballs past stranded keepers than decency should ever have allowed. In the process, amassing a collection of winner’s medals big enough to choke a sperm whale. While greedy tools like Inzaghi are coming back for seconds at life’s all-you-can-fluke Big Luck Buffet, others far more deserving are left without even half a slice of good fortune to share between them. Here are eleven of the games most unlucky players.
David Pleat’s repeated assertion that players earn their own luck is as offensive as it is medieval. For if luck really is issued like nectar points, some karmically accrued reward for honest graft, it surely follows that misfortune is fate’s malevolent payback for indolence and deceit. Well, Mr Pleat, try telling that to Luc Nilis, you monster.
At the start of the 2000-01 season, just three games into what many hoped would be a long and illustrious spell at Villa Park, the PSV-bought Belgian goal machine swung his leg at a loose ball in the Ipswich 6-yard box only to see his shin bone snap like pasta and wrap itself round advancing keeper Richard Wright’s boot. A freak accident but nonetheless, in a sickening fraction of a second, Luc’s career was over.
Having been tipped to lift the ‘94 World Cup by cock-flop remedy salesman Pele, the Colombian centre back really didn’t need crystal balls to know precisely what angle of embarrassing droop his team’s tilt for the title would achieve. A lesson in football from Georgi Hagi’s Romania in their opening game left Escobar and his team mates needing at least a draw against hosts USA to have any hope of staying in the competition beyond the group stage. They lost 2-1, flew home early and Escobar, having scored a calamitous own goal in the aforementioned game, was shot dead by gambling syndicate psychopaths for costing them money.
You know you’re injured when Peter Schmeichel screams, pukes down himself, and runs as far away from you as the Old Trafford pitch will allow.
Bereavement is no laughing matter. Unless, of course, you’re trampled to death by pigs, in which case that’s exactly what it is. Indonesian footballer Mistar was in training for a domestic cup tie – some stretching, a bit of cardio then onto the ball drills. All seemed fairly routine ‘til a herd of stampeding pigs appeared from nowhere. The facts to this day still remain unclear; to quote Nigel Tufnell, no-one knows who they were…or what they were doing. But rumours the pertinent swine were merely autograph-hunters caught up in an ill-fated display of hysterical hero-worship has yet to be disproved, and being the unquenchable romantic, that’s the truth I’m choosing to believe.
You know you’re injured when Peter Schmeichel screams, pukes down himself, and runs as far away from you as the Old Trafford pitch will allow. And let’s leave it there, shall we? Because if you aren’t already familiar with the details of Coventry City’s big Brummie defender’s last few moments as a professional footballer, you really should keep it that way.
If you’ve ever taken part in the Tony Allden memorial cup, you’ll have guessed this isn’t going to end on a happy note. Another centre back, Allden met his end playing for amateur side Highgate United of the Worcestershire Combination league in the 1967 FA amateur cup quarter-finals. Already lashing it down with rain, midway through the first half the skies turned angrier still. First came thunder then came lightening, a bolt of which left several players in a very bad way indeed. The good news is all bar one made a full recovery. Scant consolation for the Allden family.
Unless you’re a Hibs fan, you probably won’t have a clue who James Main is. Or rather was. Playing away at Partick Thistle, the Cabbage right back came unstuck on a treacherously frozen Firhill pitch on, of all days, Christmas Day 1909. Had the game been called off as requested by the players, Frank Boscombe, Main’s Partick opponent, would never have lost his footing in a 50-50, would never have clattered feet-first into Main’s stomach, and episodic medical incompetence coupled with a ruptured spleen would never have cost a man his life. A singularly avoidable tragedy that duly ensured ’the happiest day of the year’ would be nothing of the sort in the Main household for many years to come.
The sight of a seemingly fit and imposing professional athlete collapsing and dying on a football pitch from an undiagnosed heart condition is an all-too-frequent reminder of the profound fragility of human life (Benfica’s Miklos Feher, Motherwell’s Phil O’Donnell, Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta – the list is alarming as it is long). The Confederations Cup, FIFA’s BSE-ridden cash cow, on the other hand, is an all-too-frequent reminder of Sepp Blatter’s despicable gluttony. That the two should be inextricably linked by Foe’s untimely passing during Cameroon’s folly of a match against Colombia on 26 June, 2003, is further proof that nothing in life makes any sense and accepting the unrelenting bewilderment of it all is about the only thing we can do. Cheery.
It wasn’t ‘til I read Celtic keeper Thomson’s story that it became brutally clear just how fortunate Petr Cech was to talk again, never mind play. In a virtual carbon copy of the now infamous collision that left Chelsea’s colossal glovesmith with a depressed skull fracture, 22-year-old Thomson was caught by the knee of Rangers’ Sam English in a typically frantic Old firm game on 5th September, 1931.
Sadly, the similarity ended the moment Thomson left Ibrox on a stretcher. Where Cech was whisked off to a state-of-the-art medical facility, pre-war Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary was unable to cope with Thomson’s hideous injuries and he died that evening. Grim, but with mercy in short supply, at least, like Main, he was spared the horror of the WWII trenches.
A frightful mish-mash of upset organs that ultimately brought on a fatal heart attack.
I’m no physio but I’m fairly sure the whole point of a pre-match warm-up is to reduce the chance of injury. Not the case for native Transylvanian Biro. While his Nirajul Miercurea-Nir team-mates dicked about with practice balls before a match in 1999, keen to avoid a game-knacking groin strain, the ever-cautious 15-year-old took a moment to himself to run through a preparatory lunging regime in what he assumed to be the safety of a goalmouth. Unfortunately the goal had been erected with all the health and safety rigour of a Royston Vasey fun fair, and with nought but a whisper of wind testing its rustycouplings, the crossbar gave up the fight and collapsed on top of him. He never regained consciousness.
In the process of trying to find out exactly what happened to our second star-crossed Romanian youngster the only facts I could glean were that he died aged 18 while playing for Caraimanul Buşteni, a small club in a small village in the Prahova Valley, where he picked up a simple ligament sprain that was so ineptly handled by four different hospitals that he died from an horrendous infection. Still enough detail, however, to surmise that ‘criminal negligence’ doesn’t adequately portray the levels of feckless stupidity the poor lad had to suffer on his way to a truly awful end.
A word of warning: if like me you suffer excruciating sympathetic stomach cramps at the very mention of a blow to the balls, you may want to stop reading now. Still here? Then I shall continue…
Anyone in possession of the unholy trinity will know a man’s genitals are his own worst enemy. But the way our Frank’s tackle turned on him surely has to be testicular trauma’s event horizon. Playing for Sheffield United on New Year’s Day 1908, legend has it, he charged down an absolute exocet of a shot only for the ball catch him flush in the junk, forcing his bulbs up into his stomach and tearing his bowel – a frightful mish-mash of upset organs that ultimately brought on a fatal heart attack.
There is, I should add, some debate as to just how apocryphal this tale of flummoxed plums really is, but never let the truth get in the way of good story, and more importantly, lest we need reminding, never, ever let your goolies get in the way of a boomer.
And there you have it, eleven-fold proof that luck is a law unto itself – fickle, chaotic and utterly unreasonable. In short, it’s a filthy, vindictive swined. So, for those still happy to risk it all this weekend for a sniff of Sunday League glory, I wish you Godspeed. Though a word to the wise: if you haven’t already hit fortuity’s sweet trolley, you might want to do so sharpish – Pippo’s heading back for thirds and this time he’s got a side plate the size of John Bonham’s gong.
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