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Sep 27, 2012

Brawl games

After a referee had to abandon a Christian football match due to a mass brawl, we pick out a selection of pitched battles from the history books.

Argentina 2-0 Brazil (1946 South American Championship)

In the final game of the 1946 South American Championship, Brazil were trailing by a single point as they headed to Buenos Aires in search of victory. What resulted was one of the most extraordinary shows of violence ever witnessed in an international football game.

The game came three months after Ademir had broken Argentina defender Jose Batagliero's leg in a 6-2 Copa Roca victory for Brazil. Ahead of the South American Championship decider, the Argentinean press had spoken out about the violent tendencies of the Brazilians and whipped up nationalistic fervour. Although Argentina captain Jose Salomon had handed flowers to Brazilian counterpart Domingos da Guia ahead of the kick-off, the mood was tense and it hardly helped that Batagliero, with his leg in plaster, was paraded around the field.

Argentina quickly racked up a two-goal lead through Norberto Mendez, but the game descended into chaos when, in the 28th minute, Jair injured Salomon, breaking his tibia and fibula in a tackle that brought an end to the Argentina captain's top-class career. Juan Carlos Fonda confronted Jair, and when Brazil's Chico jumped in to defend his team-mate, he was set upon by four Argentina players.

Mario Vianna, the referee of the aforementioned Copa Roca clash and also a Rio de Janeiro policeman, ran onto the field to protect Chico, who was holding his face in defence as he was mercilessly attacked. Around 500 people then invaded the field and it took the intervention of riot police to dispel them.

The Brazil players were taken to the dressing room. Understandably, they had little interest in returning to the field but were urged to do so by police.

The game finally recommenced - without Chico or Vicente de la Mata, who had been sent off by Uruguayan referee Nobel Valentini - but there was to be further trouble. Ademir was punched in the face after coming on as a second-half substitute.

With no further goals, Argentina claimed the continental title, and it would be another decade before the two teams would meet again.

Hungary 4-2 Brazil (1954 World Cup)

"I thought it was going to be the greatest game I'd ever see," referee Arthur Ellis said of the 1954 World Cup quarter-final in Berne. "It was a disgrace. It was a horrible match."

The match between Hungary's "Magical Magyars" and Brazil brought two penalties, three red cards and incredible scenes of on and off-field fighting.

The Brazilians had looked to start the fight from the outset; when Nandor Hidegkuti opened the scoring on four minutes, he did so while holding his torn shorts. The match continued in this vein, but it was not until the 71st minute that Ellis - desperate to see the match reach its conclusion - dismissed anyone. Jozsef Bozsik and Nilton Santos were the first to go, sent off for fighting, and Brazil forward Humberto followed soon afterwards.

When Hungary made it 4-2 through Sandor Kocsis in the 88th minute, Brazil went berserk, punching their opponents. As the final whistle sounded, loudspeakers summoned all available police into action as the trouble spread to the stands. Ferenc Puskas, who had been injured and unavailable, raced into battle and began fighting with Pinheiro. Spectators joined the fight, and Pinheiro appeared to be struck with an iron bar. Hungary coach Gustav Sebes was also caught up and bore a scar on his cheek when he emerged. The Daily Express reporter Desmond Hackett, present at the game, wrote in his report: "My jacket is ripped, my shirt torn and I am minus a tie. And I have been thrown over a fence."

Sebes announced afterwards that Hungary would be cancelling their planned tour of Brazil the following month.

Chile 2-0 Italy (1962 World Cup)

The "Battle of Santiago" was ignited by journalists. A 1960 earthquake in Chile had disrupted preparations for the tournament, and La Nazione reporter Antonio Ghiredelli had, before arriving in the country, written that it was filled with prostitutes and poor, illiterate alcoholics. The Corriere della Sera's Corrado Pizzinelli had also made unsavoury comments, though not on the same scale. The Chileans had become aware of the remarks and many bars and restaurants in the country bore notices reading: "No Italians admitted."

Despite the World Cup hosts' sense of national indignation, it was the Italians who went into the match in the most provocative mood. As the president of the Chilean team's technical committee said after the game: "The Italians seemed to go on the field only with the intention of injuring the Chileans. It was like a rodeo. Frankly, I think they were doped."

Armed police were required on the field on three occasions, and when Giorgio Ferrini was sent off for an eighth-minute foul on Honorino Landa, the authorities were required to remove him from the pitch. When Italy's Mario David fouled Leonel Sanchez, the Chilean responded with a punch; when David later took revenge by kicking Sanchez in the head, he was sent off. Sanchez later broke Humberto Maschio's nose but still remained on the field as Chile won 2-0 with two late goals.

Referee Ken Aston received condemnation for what was viewed as a particularly weak performance, and the Italian press were convinced there was corruption involved. But the Englishman responded: "I have self-respect - otherwise I would have taken the easy way out and abandoned the game."

Manchester United 0-0 Leeds United (FA Cup, 1964-65)

The FA Cup semi-final clash between Sir Matt Busby's Manchester United and Don Revie's Leeds United is considered to be the spark for the burning hatred that exists between the two clubs to this day.

A scuffle between Denis Law and Jack Charlton descended into punches, kicks and headbutts and, as players from both sides joined the melee, the game erupted. The Times wrote of an "angry, shabby affair of naked intimidation and violence" under a report headlined: "Sad distortion of the game of football".

The match has been discussed in greater length in the Wars of the Roses article.

AC Milan 4-2 Estudiantes (1969 Intercontinental Cup)

Estudiantes had shown an inclination towards extreme violence in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup victory over Manchester United, after which Sir Matt Busby had said: "The Argentineans should be banned from all competitive football. FIFA should really step in."

In 1969, when Estudiantes took on AC Milan, Argentina President Juan Carlos Ongania was sufficiently horrified by the players' behaviour to announce that action had to be taken. "The Estudiantes players violated the most elementary standards of sporting ethics," he said.

Milan, having won the first leg in Italy 3-0, travelled to Argentina to complete the job but were met with an astonishing display of aggression as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.

Estudiantes defender Ramon Aguirre Suarez insulted, spat on and elbowed Nestor Combin, the Argentina-born forward who had done his military service for France. He was left unconscious and had to be carried from the field on a stretcher. Goalkeeper Alberto Poletti, who also punched Milan captain Gianni Rivera, kicked Combin in the face as he lay on the floor, and also brawled with away fans. The Milan players had apparently initially refused to return to the field for the second half, with Rivera telling the referee: "You'll get us all killed."

Suarez and Poletti, along with Eduardo Manero, would spend time in prison for their actions (Combin was also briefly held in police custody as a 'deserter'). The Argentine Football Association issued a life ban to Poletti, while Suarez received a 30-game ban at local level and a five-year international ban, and Manero was suspended for 30 local games and three years at international level.

Arsenal 4-3 Norwich City (English First Division, 1989-90)

A top-flight clash between Arsenal and Norwich at Highbury ended up in a 21-man brawl that necessitated police intervention.

A series of dubious calls from referee George Dyson had seen tensions simmer throughout the match, and the award of a contentious injury-time penalty to Arsenal proved the flashpoint: when Lee Dixon scored from a rebound after his kick had been saved, giving the Gunners victory, a melee broke out by the corner flag, escalating into a brawl from which only Canaries keeper Bryan Gunn was absent.

Tyson, who was given a police escort at the end of the match, said afterwards that he wouldn't be mentioning the matter in his report to the FA. "I won't be reporting it," he said. "The police did speak to me about it and said they were happy as long as I was. It was a game of football I enjoyed."

Alan Eastwood, chairman of the Police Federation, had a different point of view, saying: "If a riot had occurred, there is no doubt it would have been down to the indiscipline and hooliganism of the players. We had players punching and kicking each other and running 50 yards to join in. That is hooliganism."

Arsenal were later fined £50,000 and Norwich £20,000.

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (English First Division, 1990-91)

Manchester United were deducted one point and Arsenal two after a mass brawl broke out following Nigel Winterburn's lunge on Manchester United's Denis Irwin. Irwin and Brian McClair reacted to the tackle by kicking Winterburn while he was on the floor, and it swiftly escalated into a 21-man fight.

Arsenal boss George Graham said the fight was "not something anyone is proud of" and vowed to fine his players, but added: "Our disciplinary record is outstanding, apart from that Norwich incident last year, which was again a group thing."

Graham himself was hit with a substantial fine by the club.

Bologna 1-1 Marseille (UEFA Cup, 1998-99)

Riot police were needed to stop the fighting that broke out in the tunnel after the UEFA Cup semi-final second leg in Bologna in 1999. Marseille had booked their place in the final on away goals after an 86th-minute Laurent Blanc penalty, and an already fractious encounter, which had seen six yellow cards and a red for Bologna's Giancarlo Marocchi, boiled over at the final whistle.

Fighting broke out at the entrance to the tunnel, with players exchanging kicks and punches before the police intervened. The row was said to have been started by Stephane Courbis, the son of Marseille coach Rolland, and he was briefly held by police.

UEFA responded with stern sanctions. Both clubs were hit with heavy fines, while Marseille forward Christophe Dugarry was banned for five matches and team-mate Hamada Jambay for four; Bologna's Amedeo Mangone was suspended for five games and Giampiero Maini for three, while Marocchi received a four-match ban for his sending off. Stephane Courbis was suspended from any involvement in any UEFA functions for a year.

Turkey 0-0 Republic of Ireland (Euro 2000 qualification play-off)

After a 1-1 draw at Lansdowne Road, Ireland missed out on a place at Euro 2000 when they drew 0-0 in Turkey.

That second leg had been a tense encounter, and veteran striker Tony Cascarino appeared to cause the hosts some irritation at the Ataturk Stadium when he had warmed up near to their bench before coming on as a substitute for his final Ireland appearance.

He had then been involved in an incident with Turkey defender Ali Eren at a corner just before the final whistle. "He tried to punch me, though he complained to the referee I tried to butt him, which I hadn't," Cascarino said. At the final whistle, things escalated: "There was a bit of a scuffle at the end, and that erupted into a fight."

Eren kicked and punched Cascarino - "He caught me with an absolute pearler," the 37-year-old said - before the striker hit back. After that, supporters joined the fracas. "At one time they were all on top of me - they were coming from all angles," Cascarino said. Roy Keane, Kevin Kilbane and Gary Breen all attempted to defend him but were ushered away by riot police.

Security staff managed to rescue Cascarino, but manager Mick McCarthy was less than impressed. "We go away from home and we battle with teams, but I don't think we should have to fight our way off the pitch," he said.

Turkey 4-2 Switzerland (2006 World Cup qualification play-off)

Switzerland qualified for the 2006 World Cup on away goals despite a 4-2 defeat in the second leg of their play-off in Turkey, but they had to survive an almighty brawl at the final whistle.

The Swiss players contended with missiles thrown from the stands when they left the field as a brawl between players and officials on both sides broke out. Benjamin Huggel, of Switzerland, kicked Turkey assistant coach Mehmet Ozdilek, while Switzerland defender Stephane Grichting, who was covered in blood, had to be taken to hospital.

UEFA ordered Turkey to play their first three Euro 2008 qualifiers on neutral territory, while other punishments included six-match bans for Huggel and Turkey duo Emre and Alpay.

Valencia 0-0 Inter Milan (Champions League, 2006-07)

When Valencia booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals after a draw at the Mestalla, all hell broke loose.

The brawl appeared to have been sparked when Carlos Marchena kicked out at Inter's Nicolas Burdisso at the final whistle. At that point, David Navarro - an unused Valencia substitute - ran onto the field and punched Burdisso, breaking his nose. Several Inter players then gave chase, attempting to trip Navarro as he fled the scene.

"I was having an argument with one person and then someone else gave me a punch from behind," Burdisso said. "It was not a man's punch."

A rather hopeful Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores said afterwards that he hoped his club would "be given a minimal punishment and that it will affect the team as little as possible", but Navarro was handed a seven-month ban from football, reduced to six on appeal, while the clubs were handed heavy fines and several players from both teams - including Marchena, Burdisso, Maicon and Ivan Cordoba - were also given short bans.

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