Top 10 Most Unsporting Sportspeople

If you watch children playing together, there will always be a bit of rough and tumble -some shoving and pushing, some name calling and quite possibly some tears. What you’ll see next is whichever responsible adult is with them (teacher, parent, policeman) will intervene and make one apologize to the other until everything is peaceful again. It’s all in the name of teaching children how to be sporting – if they know how to treat each other as children, they will grow up knowing how to work and play together harmoniously, and take defeat graciously.

A pity then, that some sportspeople never learned that lesson. If things don’t go their worse, there’s still shoving and pushing, some name calling and quite possibly some tears. Find out who the worst losers are in our Top 10 Most Unsporting Sportspeople.


10. Eric Cantona

The Frenchman may nowadays be calm and sophisticated, dallying in acting, but during his soccer career he was legendary for his temper, as well as his ball skills. Even when playing with his first professional side – Auxerre – he memorably performed an assassin tackle on an opposing team member, and punched his own goalkeeper in the face.

However, his defining moment came in 1995, when he was playing for British side Manchester United. After kicking a defender from Crystal Palace, the other team, he launched an extraordinary attack on a Crystal Palace fan in the crowd, with first a kung-fu style kick, followed by a volley of punches. It earned him an 8-month ban and a 2-week prison sentence (later overturned). He justified it at a press conference by saying “”When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much”. Something must have been lost in translation there…


9. David J. “Dave” Hanson

A legend within his own sport (ice hockey), Dave Hanson was so popular that he even appeared in hit ice hockey film “Slap Shot“, described on the box as “One of the top ten sports movies ever!”. In it, a failing ice hockey team resort to violence to win their matches rather than skill. And, for Hanson, that would soon translate to the arena.

Ice hockey is notorious for its violence anyway, but this particular incident lives on in history. Hanson was playing for the Birmingham Bulls and got into a fight with one of the Winnipeg Jets, the “Golden Jet” Bobby Hull. As they fought, Hanson’s fist got entangled with Hull’s wig, pulling it off. The perceived insult to their hero led to Jets fans trying to assault Hanson on the way out of the arena. Luckily, Hanson lived to tell the tale – in his case, a book called “Slap Shot Original”.


8. Toni Merkens

The 1936 Olympics left a bad taste in the mouth for many reasons. It was held in Berlin, three years after Hitler’s rise to power, at a time when it was already becoming apparent just how malevolent a dictator he might be. After all, he had already annexed the Rhineland earlier that year, and had called on the Olympic organizers to exclude Black and Jewish athletes. It was probably one of the most uncomfortable sporting events ever held.

So, it was almost a bit of light relief when there was a scuffle on the cycling track between German Toni Merkens and Dutchman Arie van Vlie. And by scuffle, I mean that Merkens rode directly into van Vlie, pushing him up the banks. Van Vlie signalled to officials that there’d been a foul, but officials didn’t do much, allowing Merkens to go on to win gold. He was later fined a token sum of 100 Reichmarks, but allowed to keep the medal.


7. Wayne Rooney

British soccer player Wayne Rooney has held a few records in his career – England’s youngest goalscorer for one – but he’s probably not too proud of his record as England’s most red-carded player. He has been sent off twice in international games – once for stamping on Portugal’s defender Ricardo Carvalho right in front of the referee, and the other for a rough tackle on Miodrag Džudović of Montenegro in a qualifier for the Euro 2012 tournament. Rooney was given a 3-match ban, which would see him missing the group stages of Euro 2012 but it was reduced to two matches after appeals from Rooney, the FA and even Džudović. The Montenegro player obviously knows something about sportmanship!


6. Zinedine Zidane

Another international championship, another disgraceful performance. This time it was a French soccer player who had been called out of retirement to captain his side in the 2006 World Cup. France made it all the way to the final against Italy, and the match was in nail-biting extra time when Zidane suddenly headbutted Marco Materazzi in the chest. He was sent off, just a few minutes shy of finishing his career, possibly with a World Cup win.

There was general bemusement at his actions, until it was revealed that Materazzi had insulted Zidane’s mother and sister, enraging Zidane into the headbutt. It’s not known exactly what was said but it certainly wasn’t “son of a terrorist whore” – Materazzi sued British tabloids, including The Sun, when they alleged he had said that. Unsporting behavior all round!

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