If you had to name just one sport that really gets a crowd worked up globally, it would have to be soccer. The most popular spectator sport in the world (where most countries call it “football”), soccer has incited riots and insane acts of brutality that beat anything football or basketball has to offer. In this feature, we’ll share ten tales of crazy soccer violence.
Referee Decapitated, Brazil (2013)
The job of referee is one of the most thankless in the world. No matter what you do, you’re going to piss somebody off. Otávio Jordan da Silva de Catanhede, a soccer ref in Brazil, learned this the hard way. During a game in the town of Pius XII, Otávio got embroiled in an argument with a player over a disputed call. The argument escalated to violence, with the referee pulling a knife and stabbing the player (who later died). His friends and family then rushed the field, tied up Jordan, stoned him to death, cut his body into quarters and then mounted his severed head on a pole midfield. Some arrests have already been made in this grisly murder (Fox News).
Kayseri Stadium Riot, Turkey (1967)
Soccer violence isn’t a modern invention – fans and players have been doling out the brutality for at least half a century. One of the most insane post-game riots of all time happened in Turkey, at Kayseri Ataturk Stadium. The first league match between Kayseri and Sivas brought 21,000 fans to the stadium, and as the game went on they grew increasingly upset, bombarding Sivas fans with rocks and bricks. The visiting team fans surged to flee the stadium, only to be repulsed by police. Forty people were crushed to death in the melee, with at least 300 more wounded. The game was cancelled, and Sivas supporters hit the streets of Kayseri and destroyed the city’s gym along with over 60 automobiles, burning every car that had a Sivas license plate.
Firecracker Thrown at Injured Player, Cyprus (2012)
This act of soccer violence isn’t as harmful as some of the other ones on this list, but it’s sure mean-spirited and insane so it makes it on that. In October 2012, Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Cyprus hosted a match between two local teams, Omonia Nicosia and Anorthosis Famagusta. When Famagusta forward Ricardo Lalonde was injured during play, medical staff quickly hit the field to evaluate his condition. That was delayed when an Omonia Nicosia fan pulled out an explosive device, lit it and threw it at Lalonde’s face. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
Post Game Riot, Egypt (2012)
The thing about soccer violence is that it’s equally as likely after a win as a loss. Emotions run high either way, after all. In February 2012, the city of Port Said saw one of the worst post-game riots of all time, and the home team won! Al-Masry, the underdog local team, squeaked out a win against Cairo-based Al-Ahly, one of the most popular teams in the country. Fans rushed the field with rocks and sticks, chasing the visiting team into the locker room. A staggering 74 people died in the resultant fracas, with hundreds more wounded.
World Cup Goalie Shot, Colombia (1994)
In 1994, the Colombian national soccer team, heavily funded by cocaine money, was thought to have a pretty solid shot at taking the World Cup. That is, until goalie Andres Escobar accidentally knocked the ball into his team’s own goal at the start of a qualifying match with the United States. Colombia lost the game – and their shot at the Cup – 2-1, and Escobar was to blame. Less than two days after he returned to Medellin in disgrace, two cars full of gunmen pulled up outside a restaurant and shot him a dozen times, shouting “Goal!” after each shot. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Estadio Nacional Disaster, Peru (1964)
Here’s another horrific soccer riot from the vaults of history. In May 1964, longtime rivals Peru and Argentina were competing for a spot in the Olympics in a match at Peru’s National Stadium. With only a few minutes left in the match, an apparent goal by the home team was disallowed by the referee, causing the partisan crowd to erupt in rage. Argentina went on to win the match, sparking an insane riot where disgruntled Peruvians broke every window in the stadium and set the seats on fire. Police shot tear gas into the crowd, which further inflamed the situation, and by the end of the day 318 people were dead.
Player Shot By Fan, Iraq (2009)
Fan involvement in soccer games has long been the cross the sport has to bear, with many clubs building complex systems of fencing and other protective measures to keep hooligans at bay. Unfortunately for an Iraqi striker playing a match in Hillah in 2009, his league didn’t go that far. When the player was lining up to take a shot that could have tied the game up 1-1 and put it into overtime, a single shot rang out from the bleachers. A supporter of the Sinjar team had, with perfect aim, put a bullet into his head right as he was about to kick on the goal. Needless to say, the game didn’t go on.
Danubio – Nacional Riot, Uruguay (2008)
Most governments tend to turn a blind eye to sporting violence, probably thinking that it lets undesirables blow off steam that might harm productive members of society elsewhere. But in 2008, after the first match between Uruguayan teams Danubio and Nacional, the powers that be decided that they’d had enough. After Danubio took the game 1-0, fans of both teams stormed onto the field and engaged in 15 minutes of hand-to-hand combat that resulted in the Uruguayan Football Association cancelling the entire season.
Player Throws Dog, Argentina (2013)
Stray animals love the soccer field. It’s just a huge expanse of grass, after all, perfect for peeing on. But when a dog wandered onto the pitch during a match between Argentinian teams San Juan and Bella Vista, a player for the latter team took matters into his own hands, with disastrous results. Forward Jose Jiminez rushed up to the poor canine, picked it up by the neck and tried to throw it into the stands, only for the animal to hit a fence and crash to the ground. The crowd immediately erupted in wild booing, and for his own safety the referee ejected him from the game. He was later also cut from the team.
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Heysel Disaster, Belgium (1985)
You know soccer hooliganism is out of control when your whole country gets banned from competing. In the 1985 European Cup final, held in Belgium’s Heysel Stadium, Liverpool faced off with Italy’s Juventus team. An hour before the match started, a group of about 100 Liverpool fans climbed a fence to attack Juventus supporters. As the Italians fled, they crushed dozens of innocents beneath them, eventually getting backed into a wall that then collapsed under their weight. 600 people were injured, 39 killed, and the rioting lasted for hours afterwards. Amazingly, the game went on, but all British teams were banned from UEFA competition until 1991.