The 2018 World cup has been a joy to behold thus far. The World cup has already provided a spectrum of emotions to the fans and they have been treated to some brilliant football.
From reigning champions Germany crashing out in the first hurdle itself to hosts Russia stunning Spain in the round of 16 combined with the miraculous comeback from Belgium against Japan, it has only added to the spectacle.
The beautiful play on the pitch has also been aided by latest technological advancements such as the Video Assistant Referee or the VAR, which has thus far proved successful in reducing the human impact on the game, thereby leading to better contentment among the fans.
The 2018 world cup has so far been devoid of any major controversies, both on and off the field due to such strict regulations. But such transparency has not always been the case in the earlier World cups as they have been marred by a string of controversial incidents.
Thus, on a controversial note we look back at 5 such incidents in World cup history:
#5 Death of Andres Escobar (1994)
The history of Colombia has been riddled with drug trafficking and violence throughout the 80s and 90s, led by the famous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Andres Escobar, a central defender belonged to the same city of Medellin but were connected in no way.
Taking on the USA in the 1994 World cup, in what turned out to be the defender’s 50th and penultimate cap, Escobar inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net giving the Americans a 2-1 victory.
That goal not only cost Colombia a place in the Knockout round but also proved responsible for taking Escobar’s life. Five days after the elimination of Colombia from the World cup, the Medellin defender was gunned down in the parking lot of a nightclub in his native city.
Escobar was shot 6 times and the killer reportedly shouted Gol! after every shot, once for each time the commentator said it during the live broadcast.
The death of Andres Escobar in 1994, just one year after drug lord Pablo Escobar’s death shook the entire world and brought shame on the nation trying to move away from its violence-plagued past.
#4 The disgrace of Gijon (1982)
They followed that up with a defeat to Austria and a win over Chile. As the African nation played their final game a day before West Germany met Austria, both European nations knew what result they needed to qualify for the next round.The mere mention of this 1982 group stage game would be enough to enrage any Algerian supporter. Group 2 of the 1982 World cup began with a shock as Algeria beat West Germany 2-1.
A German win by one or two goals would see three teams tied on 4 points each, but it would be the European nations that would advance to the next round by virtue of having a better goal difference than the African nation.
The West Germans took the lead after 10 minutes and what followed thereafter was nothing short of a farce. In the next 80 minutes, the match was played at walking pace as both teams were satisfied with the score line.
This result sent the Algerians home and became a moment that enraged all football supporters as the chants of “Fuera, Fuera” (“Out, out”) grew louder in the stadium.
Thus, FIFA had to step in and in came the rule whereby the final two group games would be played simultaneously.
#3 South Korea’s run to the semi-finals (2002)
Before the 2018 World cup came along, the 2002 edition co-hosted by Japan & South Korea held the tag for the tournament of the underdogs. Host nation South Korea and European underdogs Turkey made it to the semis while Senegal dumped out reigning World and European champions France in the first round itself.
In a fairytale run, the South Koreans beat Portugal, Italy and Spain on their way to the semi-finals, yet instead of being remembered as a result of passion and guts, poor refereeing hogged all the headlines.
The Italians especially were on the wrong end of some poor decisions by the Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno, who since has spent time in jail for drug trafficking. The game went into extra time after Christian Vieri’s goal had been cancelled out by Seol Ki-hyeon.
It was in extra time that a series of poor decisions were witnessed. First Damiano Tommasi’s legitimate goal was ruled out for offside, followed by a second yellow card to Totti for alleged diving which the replays confirmed to be the wrong decision.
Adding salt to injury, Korea’s Ahn Jung-hwan scored three minutes from time which sent the Italians crashing. The same trend continued during the quarter-final clash as Spain had two legitimate goals ruled out.
The media alleged that South Korea’s favourable decisions were knowingly orchestrated by FIFA in order to keep the host nation in the tournament and pocket the riches.
Whatever the amount of moaning, no one can take the shine of South Korea’s greatest world cup campaign to date.
#2 Il Duce’s dodgy dealings (1934)
Italy won the rights to host the 2nd ever World cup in 1934 after a lengthy decision-making process in which the FIFA executives met eight times. It was finally won by Il Duce a.k.a Benito Mussolini’s Italy who sought this as an opportunity to promote fascism.
The Italian dictator was hell bound on winning the tournament, adding several South American players to the squad as well as paying of qualifying opponents Greece pre-tournament to ensure their safe passage to the finals.
In the tournament proper, it is believed that Mussolini himself appointed the officials for Italy’s games, meeting and greeting the referees before they took charge of the matches.
In the quarter-final against Spain, in what turned out to be an intense physical battle, the referee let many of Italy’s fouls go unpunished. Questions of biasing were also raised in the games against Austria and Yugoslavia with one journalist suggesting:
“The referee Baert behaved as if he was well aware where the game was taking place.”
In the absence of televisions those days, the reality of those matches was largely shaped by Fascist controlled media personalities, making people believe whatever they wanted to.
#1 Maradona failed drug test (1994)
Love him or hate him, no one could simply ignore the phenomenon named Diego Maradona, such was his stature. By the time the 1994 World cup arrived, Maradona was 33 and had returned to his homeland with Newell’s Old Boys for his final hurrah.
Despite barely playing during the 1993/94 season, Maradona remained captain for Argentina’s 1994 World cup campaign. After a goal and an assist in the opening two games, Maradona was sent home after being tested positive for ephedrine, a stimulant banned by FIFA.
FIFA found five banned substances from Maradona’s blood as doctor Michel d’Hooghe claimed that the five identified substances could not be not found in a single medicine. It is believed that consumption of ephedrine in larger concentrations can act as an adrenaline-like stimulant to increase energy or to lose weight.
Having lost 26 pounds just prior to the World cup, suspicions about Maradona’s drug intakes were already high. After scoring against Greece, Maradona celebrated by running up to a camera and screaming wildly. In retrospect, his celebration against Greece was popularly seen as “evidence” that he was on drugs.
In the aftermath of that game, FIFA conducted a drug test which he failed and subsequently he was expelled from the tournament bringing down the curtains on a glorious International career.
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