Just as vital as sports heroes who are admired and respected all around the world are the true villains of athletics, men who elicit emotions of disappointment and even anger. Fans, as history has shown, will pay their money and tune in via television sets to watch supposedly reviled athletes “get what is coming.”
It's the very business model with which Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment made millions upon millions of dollars.
World football has, over the years, seen its fair share of despised players, talented footballers who could not, for one reason or another, keep themselves in check at vital moments. One of the best goal-scorers on the planet today begins this particular list, which is a shame considering all of the positive things that he can achieve while on the pitch.
List courtesy of Football Daily
Here are the 10 longest soccer bans of all time.
10 Luis Suarez: 4 Months
The Liverpool star made worldwide headlines in the group stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup when he, while featuring as striker for Uruguay, bit the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. The offense itself is, of course, despicable, a completely inexcusable action that also happens to be assault.
That it was at least the third time that Luis Suarez had been caught biting an opponent during a sanctioned match left some analysts and commentators wanting the front man banned from the game for life.
FIFA, within their rights to keep Suarez off the pitch for up to two calendar years, decided that four months was enough. Suarez will miss nine Premier League matches and a handful of Champions League contests for Liverpool; that is, of course, suggesting that the Premier League side won't sell Suarez off to either Barcelona or Real Madrid before the summer ends.
9 Vinnie Jones: 6 Months
How much damage can one little ol' video do? Quite a lot if those running football organizations are displeased with the film's content.
Jones' work for the infamous Soccer's Hard Men video that was released in 1992 got the on-the-pitch bad-boy banned for six months, and it also netted him a then-record £20,000 fine. The Football Association also suspended Jones for three years.
As with Suarez, Jones was a repeat offender during matches. He was sent off a total of twelve times, and he was once caught committing what many male athletes would refer to as the ultimate no-no, grabbing the nether regions of Newcastle United's Paul Gascoigne.
8 Kolo Toure: 6 Months
Message to any and all professional athletes out there: Always – ALWAYS – know what you are putting into your body. Doing so is your responsibility, and failing to keep tabs on what is in your system can and usually will cost you.
He said that he had ingested his wife's diet pills.
Whether or not he was telling the truth is irrelevant. Know what is legal to take and what is not, footballers, and then follow the rules.
7 Adrian Mutu: 6 Months
Get used to seeing Mutu's name on the list. The troubled striker was nailed for a positive doping test in the winter of 2010, not the first time that substances banned in world football were detected in his system.
This time, Mutu was banned for half of a calendar year.
Mutu, like Suarez and Jones, is an example of what happens when an athlete who commits offenses against the laws of the game simply doesn't get it. Yes, Mutu is a figure who needed serious and real treatment years ago, but a person has to want to receive the help for it to work.
6 Adrian Mutu: 7 Months
The 35-year-old Romanian who has struggled to defeat his demons throughout his adult life failed a drug test for cocaine in 2004. Chelsea, a club with a zero-tolerance policy concerning the use of drugs, sacked Mutu on the grounds of “gross misconduct.” The two parties also battled in court over Chelsea seeking compensation from the player.
Chelsea weren't the only organization to hit Mutu. The FA sat the striker for seven months. Mutu was also fined £20,000.
5 Rio Ferdinand: 8 Months
Word to the wise for athletes everywhere: Just as important as knowing what goes into your system is showing up for those pesky doping tests. The authorities frown upon players that miss such tests, suspecting that the individual in question may be ducking his moment under the spotlight.
Ferdinand, to his credit, provided a clean sample two days after he was supposed to take his test. That proved to be nothing more than a matter of “too little, too late.” Ferdinand was banned for eight months and fined £50,000, a punishment Manchester United claimed to be “particularly savage.”
4 Mark Bosnich: 9 Months
Some athletes will, when popped with a positive drug test, fall on their proverbial swords and hope to come back better than ever. Others, however, will cling to an excuse in a feeble attempt to avoid the inevitable. Bosnich chose the latter when he failed a drug test for cocaine in 2002, claiming that a drink of his had been spiked.
The truth, as often is the case, eventually came out. In 2003 Bosnich would admit to a $5000-a-week cocaine habit. Following a retirement from professional football, Bosnich returned to the sport via the A-League in 2008.
3 Eric Cantona: 9 Months
It is perhaps the most famous “kung-fu style” kick to occur in a sporting even that was not a version of mixed martial arts. Cantona, during a match that took place in January of 1995, was the subject of verbal abuse from a Crystal Palace fan. Noticing that the fan was within his reach, Cantona, having been sent off for kicking an opponent, launched both feet at his heckler, making contact with the man.
Cantona was obviously out of line in this situation, but this, along with other similar incidents (the “Malice at the Palace” will come to mind for American sports fans), brings with it discussions on when fans who attend events are no longer merely bystanders. Fans who hurl racist or discriminatory insults toward players, and also those who throw items onto a playing field, are far from innocent, and it's hard to feel sorry for them should a player react as did Cantona.
2 Diego Maradona: 15 Months
Maradona is seen by many experts as the greatest footballer to ever lace up a pair of boots. The Argentinian living legend was also a man who struggled with addiction for many years. Maradona failed a drug test for cocaine in 1991, an offense that landed him banned for 15 months.
His story does have somewhat of a happy ending. Maradona would eventually get the help that he needed, kicking his cocaine and drinking habits for good. The shame is that treatment came only after his international career ended in shame.
1 Diego Maradona: 15 Months
The 1994 FIFA World Cup was to be the last time Maradona would feature at the competition. The 33-year-old captain of the Argentina squad was sent home early, however, after he tested positive for multiple variants of the stimulant ephedrine.
Maradona's drug use during and after his playing days has been well documented. That he is still with us is a minor miracle. So many others, athletes and non-athletes, have not been so lucky to escape their addictions before it was too late.