Top 15 Craziest Red/Yellow Cards

“Footballers are stupid, give them a bit of responsibility and watch them mess up”

-Brian Clough

Clough was a manager who prided himself on discipline, he may not have been squeaky clean, but rarely would you see one of his Derby or Nottingham Forest players pick up a needless, or avoidable, yellow or red card. No back-chat to referees, no kicking the ball away, no madcap celebration routines. And anyone who did get themselves booked softly would no doubt face his wrath after the game. God only knows then what Ol’ Big Head would have made of this little lot.

Welcome to the madhouse.


Radoslav Kovac
27 July 2008

I’ve never seen the point in pitch invaders at football. Never. They have obviously paid good money to see the game, they are sat quite nicely in their seat, and everything is going swimmingly. So why then, would it cross your mind to remove your clothes, and skip merrily across the field of play, ensuring that you will not see the remainder of the game? Doesn’t make sense to me.

Nor did it make sense, it would appear, to Spartak Moscow captain Radoslav Kovac. With his side trailing 2-1 to rivals Lokomotiv, the 6’3” Czech international took exception to the arrival of an uninvited, and topless, guest. Pursuing the unwelcome visitor for a fair few yards, Kovac produced a perfectly executed “Playground” trip, sending Topless Timmy skittling over. Maybe it was borne out of frustration? Maybe he just objects to seeing a semi-naked man interrupting a big league fixture? Either way, Kovac picked up a yellow card for his troubles.


Adrian Bastia
2 December 2008

But Kovac got off lightly compared to Greek player Adrian Bastia. Very lightly. Bastia was in the midst of enjoying a hard-fought 1-1 draw between his side Asteras Tripolis, and the mighty Panathinaikos, when he too came face to face with an unclothed pitch invader. Producing a trip so cynical it would have made Chopper Harris blush, Bastia had helped the security staff to apprehend the naked individual. But the referee had a different viewpoint (surprise surprise) and produced a red card. After the final whistle.


David Pratt
2 December 2008

Easily the most aptly-named on our list, good old Dave hit the headlines in December 2008 when he received a straight red card in a Southern Premier League game between Chippenham Town & Bashley. Pratt was said to be a “full-blooded and committed” player, but surely that can’t excuse this behaviour? Ok, it isn’t the end of the world to pick up a red card, but this particular dismissal came after a grand total of…….three seconds…….had elapsed! Three seconds? It takes me three seconds to realise the whistle has gone!

If you were interested, the fastest recorded dismissal in a top flight European game is listed as ten seconds, for Bologna’s Giuseppe Lorenzo in a Serie A match with Parma in 1990, whilst that shrinking violet Vinnie Jones was once booked in an FA Cup game between Chelsea & Sheffield Utd inside four seconds. Pratt would have been showered and changed by the time those tackles went in. Prat.


Paul Gascoigne
30 December 1995

When you think of Paul Gascoigne and yellow cards, it is inevitable that your thoughts will turn to that semi-final, and those tears in 1990. But never let the Geordie Genius be accused of lacking diversity in his bookings, or his pranks, or his goals for that matter.

Referees are, by their very nature, pedantic. They have to be I suppose. But Dougie Smith took pedantry to a new high (or low?) in 1995 when refereeing a match between Gazza’s Rangers side, and Hibernian. Having dropped his yellow cards on the pitch, Smith responded to Gascoigne playfully “booking” him, by booking the teary-eyed-one for real. If it had been me, the referee would have been sent for sense-of-humour implants. And then sacked. Book that.


Kieron Dyer
Lee Bowyer
2 April 2005

When Newcastle duo Andy Carroll & Charles N’Zogbia clashed during training recently, manager Joe Kinnear was quoted as saying “I like my players to show a bit of passion”. Fair comment I suppose, but then Graeme Souness was often heard muttering similar phrases during his stint on Tyneside, and look what happened there.

Souness had arrived at St James Park hell-bent on instilling some discipline into the talented, but wayward, young side left by Sir Bobby Robson. But within six months he had alienated striker Craig Bellamy after a more-than-public spat, and then came this. Trailing at home to Aston Villa, midfield “maestros” Kieron Dyer & Lee Bowyer decided it was time to show some of that mythical “fighting spirit”. The only problem was, they picked on each other, earning themselves a red card each.

As a sub note, that game also features another farcical red card, as Toon defender Steven Taylor blocked a goalbound Darius Vassell shot on the line with his hand, only to try (and fail) to convince the referee it had smashed him in the chest.


Joey Barton
2 April 2005

No self-respecting list of dumb incidents would be complete without at least one entry from Liverpool’s answer to Scrappy Doo, would it? The loveable Mr Barton ensured his place on our list thanks to this ridiculous sending off for Manchester City in an epic FA Cup tie with Tottenham in 2004.

Picture the scene, you are probably the underdogs anyway going into the tie, you lose a goal in only the second minute, your top scorer hobbles off soon after with a groin injury, you concede a second goal soon after. Worse still, you pick up a soft booking, for a foul which gives them a free kick from which they make it 3-0, just before half time. THEN you are lucky to escape another caution, after berating the referee for a couple of nothing decisions. Luckily, the half time whistle intervenes.

Do you: a) bite your lip, get back to the dressing room, try to get your head back on the game and listen to your manager’s rallying cry? Or b) carry on attacking the referee, even when he gives you chance after chance to walk away, even when you know you have already been booked?

Barton, predictably, chose option B, and referee Rob Styles was left with no option but to dismiss him as the players left the field for half-time. And just to really show Barton up, his City team-mates produced a stirring second half fightback to win 4-3 with a last gasp goal from Jon Macken. Doh.


5 January 2009

The red mist can descend on anyone, even referees. And that is what must have happened to Spanish whistle-blower Jose Manuel Barro Escandón in a regional first division match between Recreativo Linense and Saladillo de Algeciras earlier this month.

Recreativo led by a single goal when one of their players was sent off nine minutes after half time, sparking a mass brawl on the pitch. The referee abandoned the game on the spot, but could not resist dishing out a bit of punishment in the dressing room afterwards, administering nine red cards per side- leaving just three shame-faced individuals without a suspension pending, and the Recreativo coach admitting “I don’t know what happened to the guy…..the referee has set a new record”.


Zinedine Zidane
9 July 2006

Zinedine Zidane’s football career has always had a theatrical feel to it. There is even a silent film which just shows the great man in action for Real Madrid. But if his career was theatrical, its ending was farcical.

The setting was perfect, the World Cup final, Raymond Domenech’s France side had defied the critics to eliminate Brazil & Portugal, and now they took on Italy in Berlin, with all eyes on Zizou. He didn’t disappoint his adoring public, nonchalantly chipping an early penalty home off the underside of the bar, but with Italy back level before half time, the game was approaching what Sir Alex Ferguson might call “squeaky bum time” when Zidane reacted to some typical provocation from Azzurri defender Marco Materazzi with a crazed headbutt to the chest. The greatest player of his generation walked off the pitch with a red card, and away from football forever. Sacre bleu!


Paolo Diogo
10 December 2004

Hi, I’m Paolo Diogo. You may remember him from such Top Tens as “Top Ten Crazy Football Injuries” and “The Maddest Things Ever To Happen In Football”.

When I was playing for Geneva against Schaffhausen in December 2004, I managed to get my name on the scoresheet. Nice goal as well. I don’t score too many, so I decided to hurdle the perimeter fence and celebrate with my fans (both of them). But on the way over the fence, I managed to get my wedding ring caught, and it ripped the top off my finger. Painful indeed. Luckily, the referee was straight over to see what had happened……and issue me with a yellow card for excessive celebrations. I’m Paolo Diogo.


A Parrot
21 January 2009

Ok, so I have descended into farce now. Shoot me!

The story goes something like this:

  • It is a game between Hatfield & Hertford Heath in the Hertfordshire County FA Cup.
  • Referee Gary Bailey (no, not that Gary Bailey) is baffled by a repeated whistling sound, which keeps on stopping play.
  • Bailey’s investigation into the noise leads him to a woman, 66 year-old Irene Kerrigan.
  • Kerrigan reveals that it was not her who produced the whistle-sound, but her parrot Me-Tu. She had brought him to the game “to give him some fresh air”.
  • Bailey, unsympathetic to the plight of a fresh-air-starved parrot, doles out a straight red to the whistle-happy bird (Me-Tu, not Irene), and the original odd couple leave the field.
  • Play resumes, whilst Kerrigan is adamant that she will take Me-Tu back down to Hatfield again the following Saturday.

You really couldn’t write this, and if you could, I am sure Eastenders would have snapped you up straight away. Madness.


Jamie Carragher
27 January 2002

It hurts me to do this, it really does. Cards on the table time, I love Jamie Carragher. I love the man more than any other footballer- Robbie Fowler excluded- in the world. So when it comes to labelling one of my heroes “dumb”, it is done so with a heavy heart. But there can be no excuses for Carra’s error in judgement during a Fourth Round FA Cup tie between Liverpool & Arsenal at Highbury in January 2002.

Liverpool had beaten Arsenal in the previous year’s Cup final, and there was a highly charged atmosphere for the next Cup meeting, as the Gunners looked to seek revenge for what, quite frankly, was a smash ‘n’ grab win from Michael Owen’s Liverpool. Indeed, Arsenal defender Martin Keown had already been dismissed for hauling down Owen as he raced through on goal to equalise Dennis Bergkamp’s opener. When Bergkamp himself was then shown a straight red card for a stamping incident, the Highbury crowd were incensed. Carragher, playing at left back (hard to imagine that these days isn’t it?), was struck by a coin as Arsenal players surrounded referee Alan Wiley.

These days, Carragher is a far more sensible guy, and might have simply passed the coin to the referee and let the stewards/police sort the trouble out, but frustrated and petulant, he opted instead to throw the coin back in the (vague) direction it came from. In his autobiography, released last year, said

I think there were thirty eight thousand inside Highbury that day, and only five of them failed to make an insurance claim

It was a fair point, but still Carragher had to go. A straight red card meant Liverpool did not play the last 20 minutes with a two-man advantage, and the holders crashed out of the Cup. Carragher would miss out on England’s friendly with Holland (the Darius Vassell one) and was fined £40,000.


Paul Scholes
29 August 2008

If you are gonna get sent off, you might as well do it for something worthwhile. That is a general consensus amongst football fans such as myself. Do it for saving a goalbound shot on the line, or pulling down Ronaldo as he is about to score. Don’t, Paul Scholes, do it for this!

UEFA Super Cup, August 2008. Champions League winners Manchester United face UEFA Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg in Monaco. Zenit are surprisingly outplaying United, leading through goals from Pavel Pogrebnyak & Danny, and the European Champions are getting frustrated.

Nemanja Vidic pulls one goal back, but United are still struggling for form. Often in situations such as this, reliable performers like Scholes can be counted on to get them out of trouble. A threaded pass, a long range piledriver, a bit of composure, Scholes is the master. Unfortunately, he is also the master of the ridiculous and unnecessary sending off.

Already booked for a late tackle in the first half, Scholes launched himself with gusto at a late corner, but then inexplicably proceeded to “spike” the ball, volleyball-style into the net, earning himself a second yellow, and a ban which forced him to miss United’s Champions League opener at home to Villarreal. The price of experience eh.


Arjen Robben
15 January 2006

Ok, so it’s the law that is the ass in this instance, but players know the rules. So why they repeatedly ignore them, and then act all innocent once they are punished is beyond me.

Chelsea were on a roll in 2006. Cruising with consummate ease towards a second successive Premiership title under Jose Mourinho. Mourinho had even worked out the exact date at which the Blues would seal their crown.

They travelled to Sunderland on Sunday January 15th feeling invincible, looking to record a tenth straight league victory. They overcame the shock of Liam Lawrence’s early goal to level through Hernan Crespo. But then they found Black Cats keeper Kelvin Davis in inspired form, repelling just about everything they could throw at him.

So when Arjen Robben cut inside from the right flank and saw his fierce shot deflect off Dean Whitehead and fly past Davis for 2-1, the relief and elation was palpable. Robben, ignoring the rulebook, left the field of play to celebrate with the joyous visiting fans. They saluted their hero, who quickly turned villain moments later as referee Chris Foy was left with no choice but to show the Dutchman a second yellow card for excessive celebrations, and leave Mourinho’s side battling on with only ten men.


Dean Windass
29 November 2008

Ok, here is a question for you. Has anything ever caused more fear in Premier League defences as Rory Delap’s long throws? I mean, Thierry Henry’s pace, Cristiano Ronaldo’s stopovers, Alan Shearer’s elbows, they have all caused panic and chaos, but for sheer gimmicky build-up, a Delap missile has taken the set-piece to a new level.

Petr Cech seemed to have Delap boxed off, clear the defence out and come and claim the ball at it’s highest. Easy. Manuel Almunia went for a different tact, stay on your line and get your tallest defenders to deal with the danger. It didn’t work. Hull City’s attempt to stop the Delap machine dead however, not only earnt them plaudits for ingenuity, but also earnt Dean Windass a yellow card for his troubles.

Windass was named as a substitute for Hull’s trip to the Britannia in November 2008, but he was still assured by Tigers’ boss Phil Brown that he would have a big part to play in the match. Although I am not quite sure that Deano had this in mind when he was told that!

Basically, Windass’ order was to warm up vigorously on the touchline in Delap’s vicinity, as he prepared to launch one of his long throws. Windass, not famed for his athleticism, proceeded to launch into the most rigorous and theatrical warm-up imaginable, prompting referee Keith Stroud to book the substitute for “ungentlemanly conduct” It was just about Windass’ only Premier League action of the season.


David Beckham
23 October 2005

And finally, Goldenballs himself. When you think of Beckham and red cards, your thoughts should automatically go to St Etienne, 1998, and that flick at Diego Simeone.

However, Beckham has managed to top that stupid dismissal himself. In a game between Beckham’s Real Madrid, and Valencia in October 2005, the former England captain picked up a soft booking for dissent aimed towards referee Arturo Dauden Ibanez. Rather than back off and bite his tongue, Beckham decided to sarcastically applaud the decision, earning himself a second yellow immediately.

The decision was later overturned, but the damage was done. Real Madrid lost 2-1 in front of their demanding Bernabeu crowd.

Text & Research by Neil Jones. Formatting and Images by Marco Pantanella.

Also See:

20 Most Bizarre Incidents Ever in Football
Football Violence & Top 10 Worst Football Riots
10 Crazy Fans Who Shook The Footballing World

2009 VIVA World Cup Preview: Can Padania repeat?
SL Podcast: Ep. 1, Cristiano and Steven Kiss and Make Up, Back and Forth Becks, and more


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