2020 was a weird year, 2021 is not looking much better so far. COVID changed our lives. The beautiful game is no exception from that. Stadiums were left empty. Long-awaited champions got their prize in front of empty stands (which didn’t stop us from celebrating properly). But football has seen a lot of weird cases throughout its history.
Today, I want to tell you some of the weirdest cases in the world of football:
Ludogorets 2 – Neftochimic 2020
Let’s start with some of the absurdity in Bulgarian football. In December in Bulgarian’s second division, the game between Ludogorets 2 and Neftochimic was interrupted because the guests had no enough players to finish the game. Because of COVID cases, players’ strike and anti-COVID measures that forbid players under 18 to participate in sporting events Neftochimic had only seven players to start the game, which is the absolute minimum for a football game.
The hosts took the initiative and scored two in the opening ten mins. Then, one of the guest’s players faked an injury and they had no substitutes. With only six men, Neftochimic couldn’t continue. Ludogorets 2 got the three points, and the 5:0 score, because of the walkover.
Barbados – Grenada 1994
Now let’s move to the Caribbean region and the edition of the Caribbean Shell Cup in 1994. The game between Barbados and Grenada was decisive. The group winner was to advance to the Final 8 tournament. Grenada was the group leader. Barbados had to win by two goals margin to win the group. The game started with a lot of pressure from the hosts of Barbados, and they managed to take a 2:0 lead. Barbados was going through with this result. But in the 83rd minute, Grenada manages to score a goal back. With this result, they had their destiny in their own hands.
Hosts didn’t give up and kept attacking, trying to score another one. Granada’s iron defense disappointed them every time. Few minutes before the final whistle, Barbados players found out that in case of a draw, there will be extra time. In this extra time, there will be a “golden goal”. The absurd in this case is that the “golden goal” counts as two goals. So, the hosts took the ball to their own penalty area and scored an own goal.
After the initial shock, Grenada’s players found out what their opponents have in mind and tried to score an own goals too. Barbados’ attackers became defenders for Granada. However, the game went to extra-time and Barbados managed to score the “golden goal”, securing a 4-2 victory and advancing to the next round. Happily, this “golden goal” rule was removed after this game.
Queensland Road – LA Galaxy 2008
Fast forward to year 2008. Australian side Queensland Road have to host LA Galaxy for the Americans’ pre-season tour. David Beckham already signed to go to Milan on loan, so LA Galaxy decided not to risk him. Australians decided to cancel the game because without Becks, there would be no interest in this game…
Chile – Brazil 1990
South American football is always interesting; people’s passion and love for football have no equal. In a 1990 World cup qualifier between Chile and Brazil, Chile needed a win to qualify for the World Cup. The two teams were even on points but Brazil had a better goal difference. In the 67th minute, with the score 1-0 for Brazil, keeper Roberto Rojas fell on the ground pretending that a Brazilian fan hit him with a flair. The outraged Chilean team left the pitch in protest. Their hopes were that the match would be called off and replayed later.
However, with hundreds of cameras filming various angles of the match, it was clear that Rojas was simulating. He later admitted that he cut himself in the forehead with a razor to postpone the match. Brazil won 2-0 and Chile was out of the World Cup. In addition to their elimination from the 1990 World Cup, Chile got a ban to participate in the 1994 World cup qualifiers. Rojas got a lifetime ban from professional football (although this was later lifted after his retirement, he subsequently became manager of Sao Paulo), and co-captain Fernando Astengo was banned for five years for leading the team out of the pitch. The fan who threw the flare, Rosebery Mello, went on to become a cover girl for Playboy.
AS Adema – SO l’Emyrne 2002
The game between AS Adema and SO l’Emyrne in 2002 was part of a four-team round-robin playoff to determine the champion of Madagascar. SOE drew 2-2 in their penultimate match against DSA Antananarivo due to a late, controversial penalty. As a result of that Adema were crowned champions, which made this match completely pointless.
In protest of the refereeing decision that had gone against them in the previous game, SOE decided to score 149 own goals as their opponents stood in the distance and looked bemused. Immediately after the game, livid spectators descended upon the ticket booth to demand a refund.
SOE coach Zaka Be was suspended by the Fédération Malagasy de Football for four years. Four players on the team (one of which was the Madagascar NT’s captain) were suspended for the rest of the season. The result stands as the biggest margin of victory by any one team in the history of professional football. Imagine having to referee a game like this…
Levski – CSKA Sofia 1985
The final for the Bulgarian cup in 1985 is one of the most controversial games in Bulgarian football history. The two biggest clubs in Bulgaria faced. Levski and CSKA is the biggest derby in Bulgarian football, but no one expected the events following the game. The government ordered extra police presence because they were afraid of excesses at the stands. No one expected the problems to come from the football field.
After some controversial decisions from the referee, the game finished at 2:1 for CSKA. That’s where everything escalated, players started pushing each other, pushing the referee. According to the rumors, in the tunnel after the game, there was a big brawl between players, the cup was broken, and the referee escaped with a broken rib. In the next couple of days, Bulgaria’s 1st Todor Zhivkov personally ordered the punishment. Levski was renamed Vitosha, CSKA became Sredets.
The following players were banned from football: Plamen Nikolov, Emil Velev, Emil Spasov, national team’s captain Borislav Mihaylov and future ballon d’Or winner Hristo Stoichkov. Luckily for Bulgarian football and world football, all these punishments stood only six months.
Spartak Varna – Lesicheri 1995
Bulgarian football is a gift that keeps giving; the season of 1994/1995 in Bulgaria’s 2nd division is unique. Spartak Varna and Rakovski Ruse are battling for promotion. Before the last game of the season, both teams are equal on points, but Rakovski has a much better goal difference. Spartak faces Lesicheri in their last game of the season.
With weird circumstances, Spartak wins 15-0, which is enough to go up. After the scandal following the game, the Bulgarian football union ordered a replay. In even stranger circumstances where one of Lesicheri’s players came 30 minutes after the game started (because everybody traveled by their cars, but no one had space for him so he came by train), Spartak won 18-0 and went up.
Sunderland – Liverpool 2009
And just to see that bizarre thing happen not only in Bulgarian football, let’s move to the Premier League and the year 2009 at “Stadium of light” Sunderland hosted Liverpool. Within five minutes, Daren Bent’s shot deflected of… a beach ball and entered the net behind Pepe Reina. The referee thought the ball deflected from the defender’s leg so 1-0 Sunderland. Of course, if the ball hit an object that’s not supposed to be on the pitch, the game should be stopped and the referee should give a dead ball. Liverpool lost the game 1-0, and the referee went on to referee Championship games. And the beach ball is now located in the national football museum.
Australia – Croatia World cup 2006
Strange things happen even at the biggest football stage, the World Cup. In 2006, Australia and Croatia clashed in a decisive game. The game finished 2-2 which was enough for the Socceroos to go through to the round of 16; but, not the result was the most interesting thing in this game, although it was a very entertaining game.
Josip Simunic of Croatia saw a yellow card for bringing Harry Kewell down at the edge of the box at the 61st minute. He then got 2nd yellow with the clock showing 89th minute for a foul near the center circle but didn’t see a red. Then, the referee showed him the third yellow in the stoppage time and finally sent him off. The referee Graham Poll said for an interview after the game that he wrote down the right number for the 2nd card but wrote the wrong name. He never refereed again in the tournament.
The most popular sport in the world has seen all kinds of different situations, some funny, some serious, some even scary. It has its own features all over the world. The beautiful game brings us joy, happiness, anger, envy. It comes in different colors, races, and sexes and this is why we love it. Because out there on the football pitch, we’re all equal.