JOHANNESBURG – I was just reminiscing about football’s dirtiest players and whether such characters have a place in what undoubtedly is the world’s most popular sport.
Thing is, soccer has always been considered a family sport, a game that unites families and even a nation at war. But this game, the world over, has produced characters that are or were renowned for their rough attitude as opposed to skills on the pitch though others, and in most cases, combined the two.
Recently, Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter admitted he, at one time, seriously thought of offloading Zimbabwean hardman Willard Katsande from his team following the midfielder’s running battles with the referees.
Katsande is a player who has earned himself a bad reputation from match officials for his robust behaviour when going for tackles, most of which have left opponents with broken legs or nursing career threatening injuries.
According to Baxter, Chiefs have suffered more often than not as a result of Katsande earning an early yellow card, meaning playing with a restrained attitude throughout the remainder of the match.
The Chiefs strongman is among the players I have just been thinking about who really made great changes in the game of soccer as a result of their tough approach to the game of football.
The Dynamos of the past had the likes of Angirai Chapo and Misheck Marimo who brook no nonsense at the back and were perennial enemies of the referees. The two were not the most of talented defenders but playing for the most famous team in the country, the referees tended to turn a blind eye or for their safety, gave the two safe passages to do as they please – break opponents’ legs.
I vividly remember, Marimo going for Friday Phiri’ leg in the first minute of one of the derbies and the late Shacky Tauro’s nemesis was Chapo. Not because the little defender played him out of the game but purely because the Mufakose-born right back was always looking for his knee to handicap the deadly striker’s deadly exploits. And somehow it worked much to the delight of Dynamos supporters.
Highlanders had their own bad boy in defender Dumisani Nyoni. This man was as hard as they come. Pitch black, Dumisani was repulsive, mean and always went into the tackle with the intention of breaking someone’s leg.
CAPS United’s Clever Muzuwa was not a talented defender but strikers would think twice when coming across him. His fame rose from breaking opposition strikers’ legs than winning clean tackles. And he seemed to pride himself in that feat.
Across the world, such players are awash.
Here in Mzansi, former Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Linda ‘Mercedes Benz’ Buthelezi would consider himself luck to finish the entire 90 minutes without a yellow or the dreaded red card. This man was South Africa’s dirtiest player but was a crowd favourite because he would make sure the job is done.
In the past Wimbledon’s Vinnie Jones was a player who used to give opponents sleepless night. He duly ended several of his peers’ careers, thanks to his hard and robust tackling.
Lately, Manchester United’s Roy Keane would take no prisoners when going for tackles. This is one man who if he missed the ball, would land an opponent in hospital. And he never apologised for his behaviour.
Somehow, coaches seem to see something special in these players that spectators don’t see. It’s like, what does Arsene Wenger see in Flamini? The midfielder is just downright dirty and he goes into a tackle with a pre-determined conclusion of hurting an opponent.
And remember the likes of Joey Barton, Marco Materazzi, Eric Cantona, Duncan Ferguson, Pepe of Real Madrid?
According to you readers, who do you consider or think are/were soccer’s dirtiest players; whether current or past?
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