When it comes to how they comport themselves, soccer fans aren't exactly held in high regard in the sports world. And it's not without good reason. For centuries, fans of the beautiful game have been behaving in a not-so-beautiful manner. (That's no exaggeration; Edward II banned the sport in Great Britain in 1314 because of the rowdiness associated with it.) Too many times the sport has earned a well-deserved black eye. Sometimes you can't help but laugh: Following a 1905 game between Preston North End and Blackburn, a number of Preston supporters were tried for hooliganism, including a "drunk and disorderly" 70-year-old woman. Sometimes it's far more serious: The annals of the sport are littered with instances of fans losing their lives.
But we're not here to lament the occasional lapse in judgment by overzealous spectators. No, we're here to lament the occasional lapse in judgment (or lapse in simple motor skills) by the sport's players, coaches and officials. Herewith, soccer's most embarrassing moments in recent memory.
1. Pulling a Zidane: July 9, 2006
He was the greatest player of his generation. He had magical moves, a series of twists, turns and drags that left fans gasping and defenders scratching their heads. He also had a bit of a temper. Both were on display in his final tournament.
Zinédine Zidane had what was probably the best individual effort of the 2006 World Cup -- and perhaps of his career -- against Brazil as France eliminated the favorites in the quarterfinals. The performance capped a remarkable comeback. Two years earlier Zidane had retired from international play, but he returned when France struggled in the early stages of Cup qualifying. Zidane guided France into the tournament, where they had an "over-the-hill" tag stuck on them. After a slow start, Zizou and the rest of his vet-laden side sprang to life, knocking out Spain, Brazil and Portugal. When the French made it to the final, it seemed as if a Hollywood ending was in the cards.
Alas, Zidane's career didn't end with a remarkable win on the sport's biggest stage. It didn't even end with a valiant effort in a hard-fought loss. It ended with him head-butting Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the chest, a shocking act of violence that got him sent off in the waning moments of a tie game. France lost on penalty kicks, and Zidane left the pitch with a tarnished legacy.
During a training session in 2004, Spain coach Luis Aragones tried to inspire 21-year-old forward Jose Antonio Reyes by convincing him that he was better than his Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry, who plays for France. Nothing wrong with that. The problem was with how Aragones referred to Henry: "negro de mierda," which means "black s---."
Aragones insisted he wasn't a racist, but the remark, overheard by several journalists, offered FIFA a chance to show that it was serious about ridding the game of racism -- an issue that has been especially problematic in Spain, where black players are often greeted by monkey noises when they touch the ball. (Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o actually heard the noises from his own fans.) Instead, FIFA blew it. They fined Aragones a mere 3,000 euros, or about $3,800.