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Apr 7, 2011

Blue is the colour

Wayne Rooney's foul-mouthed reaction to scoring a hat-trick against West Ham on Saturday has brought an outcry in the English media and prompted action from the Football Association.

Rooney, though, is far from the first man in football to have run into trouble after turning the air blue.

Below, ESPNsoccernet puts together a selection of some of those who have done their bit to turn the beautiful game ugly.

Ernie Hart (1933)

Centre-back Hart is considered one of Leeds United's finest ever players, and he made his full debut for England in 1928.

However, those pre-war days were more sensitive times, and his international career was restricted after he swore at the referee in the West Riding Senior Cup final against Huddersfield of April 1933: he was handed a 28-day suspension, and axed from the England squad that travelled to Italy and Switzerland the following month.

He returned to the fold the following year and made a further three appearances before calling time on his international career at the age of 32.

Antonio Rattin (1966)

The Argentina captain became the first player to be sent off in a Wembley international during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final against England. Rattin had already been warned for persistent fouling but, disputing one of many decisions that day, he pursued West German referee Rudolf Kreitlein around the field, ranting and raving and pointing at his captain's armband.

Kreitlein did not actually understand the content of his attack but dismissed Rattin for "violence of the tongue".

The persistence of his fouls and complaints had mounted but, used to the more relaxed refereeing in Argentina at the time, he refused to leave the field and received the support of several of his team-mates. The game was interrupted for eight minutes and police moved forward in readiness as officials at the side of the field became drawn in. Rattin eventually departed but is said to have trampled a red carpet for the Queen on his way out before being escorted to the changing rooms by police.

Kreitlein was then manhandled by several Argentina players at the end of the game, prompting the assistance, as The Guardian put it at the time, of "resolute police intervention". FIFA said "the referee would have been justified in bringing a charge against certain players for assault, but informed the police that he did not wish to do so".

Kreitlein added: "This match was the roughest I have ever refereed. It was terrible. A disgrace. I sent Rattin off because he was following me and shouting at me. I had no option. He was trying to be the referee. I could not understand Rattin, but I could read in his face and actions."

Rattin, who was hit with a four-match ban for his actions, suggested he had done nothing wrong before the dimissal: "I was sent off simply because I asked for one minute with an interpreter because the referee could not understand me. After I was sent off, there were all kinds of kicks, bangs and tackles but no one was sent off, so why was I? All I can say is that England will win the World Cup, because the referees are on their side."

While many English critics had seen the dismissal itself as harsh, the press had been horrified by the general behaviour of the Argentina players, who were booed and barracked from the stands for their tactics even during their group-stage games.

Alf Ramsey, the England manager, memorably said Argentina had acted like "animals" after the game and, in 1969, after two particularly brutal Intercontinental Cup finals involving Estudiantes, one Argentinean newspaper ran with the headline 'The English were right'.

Derek Dougan (1969)

In October 1969, the Football Association decided to make an example of Wolves striker Dougan by issuing him with an eight-week ban after he was sent off for swearing at a linesman during a 3-2 home defeat to Everton. The ban incorporated a two-week suspended sentence for kicking out at an opponent earlier in the season.

Wolves announced that they planned to go to court over the extraordinary length of the ban, with chairman John Ireland saying: "It is likely we will be seeking the advice of solicitors. They seem to have used Dougan to try to put football right on the field." Manager Bill McGarry added: "I'm staggered by what I can only describe as a vicious sentence."

The ruling came during a particularly violent era for the game, and PFA secretary Cliff Lloyd agreed that it seemed odd to punish verbal attacks with that kind of severity. "We are very concerned with this issue of swearing," he said. "After all, it is known that some referees swear at players, and they accept this. Some uniformity is needed. Foul and abusive language come under violent conduct in FA rules. This does not seem right in this day and age."

Sir Alex Ferguson (1978)

St Mirren are the only club to have dismissed Ferguson throughout his long and distinguished career in management. During his four years there, he had led the club from the third tier to the top-flight and ensured they stayed there, and there are several versions of the events that led to his departure in 1978.

One version was presented to The Guardian by Saints chairman Willie Todd in 2008. "Four days before he eventually left, I knew perfectly well that he had told all the staff that he was moving to Aberdeen," he said. "There were various other stories at the time, such as one about Alex wanting players to receive tax-free expenses, but that was not the real issue. The issue was St Mirren being destabilised because the manager wanted to leave."

Nonetheless, the club had provided a different explanation of events in the wake of his sacking. Ferguson had been involved in a series of rows with people behind the scenes at the club, and he took the Saints to an industrial tribunal in protest at his treatment.

During that tribunal, the club claimed Ferguson had been sacked for "unpardonable swearing at a lady on club premises". Ferguson happily acknowledged that, when the office typist had sided with the chairman during a row, he had followed her out of the office and said: "Never bloody do that to me again, lassie."

Tony Adams (1989)

During Arsenal's 2-1 victory at Millwall in the 1988-89 season, referee David Elleray had, unbeknownst to the players, been 'wearing a wire' for ITV programme Out of Order.

When the programme was broadcast the following month, viewers were treated to the sound of Adams, the Arsenal captain, calling Elleray a "f**king cheat" after the official had decreed that his attempt on goal had failed to cross the line. He was not alone in haranguing the referee and questioning his impartiality as the tape aired amid a flurry of bleeps.

The programme sparked a furore, with even Tommy Docherty - whose Chelsea team of the 1960s were hardly a paragon of virtue - asking the live studio audience: "Where is our game going?" There was talk that Adams and David Rocastle could be charged with bringing the game into disrepute, but Elleray dismissed suggestions anything out of the ordinary had gone on.

"I watched the film with a League official and we are both happy," Elleray said. "It's not always what is said, but how it's said. Certain swearwords are part of players' everyday language."

Eric Cantona (1991)

A prolific trouble-maker throughout his career, Cantona managed to get himself banned from the French national team for ten months at the age of 22 in 1988 when he said of coach Henri Michel: "I am not far from thinking he is a s**tbag." Cantona later filmed an advert for Nike in which he discussed that particular insult, and due to its profanity it was banned from UK television.

By 1991, he had learned to keep his insults clean. During a game for Nimes against St Etienne, he threw the ball at the referee and earned a four-match ban. At the disciplinary hearing, he muttered that the committee members were "idiots" and, when asked to repeat himself, walked up to each in turn and said: "Idiot."

He later explained: "The ruling body passed judgment on my life, not just the isolated incident, so I told them they were idiots, which was remarkably restrained for me." Restrained or not, his remarks saw his ban extended to two months and, as a result, he announced his retirement from football at 25.

Paul Gascoigne (1992)

Public confidence in Graham Taylor had been low after Euro '92 and, in the build-up to the opening USA 1994 qualifier against Norway, he had told Lazio star Gascoigne that it was important for him to "express" himself.

On the Saturday before the game, Gascoigne was approached by the Norwegian NRK network and asked if he had any words for the people of Norway ahead of the game. "Yeah," he replied. "F**k off, Norway."

Taylor's assistant, Lawrie McMenemy, immediately stepped in, clipped Gascoigne around the ear and said: "That's a silly remark. He didn't mean it." Gascoigne claimed he didn't realise the cameras were on and issued an apology, and later thanked the British press for "playing down" the incident.

The Norwegian press, though, went big on it, with NRK broadcasting the footage and Sunday newspaper Dagsbladet running the story as its main headline. Gascoigne's unprovoked national insult may have helped inspire the visitors at Wembley: Norway boss Egil Olsen had spoken of his fears of a 4-0 thrashing prior to the game and said he would be happy with a 1-0 defeat, but they came away with a 1-1 draw.

Lessons were only partially learned. The following January, during a self-imposed media silence, Gascoigne belched into an Italian TV microphone and was fined £9,000.

Danny McDermid (2007)

The FA charged referee McDermid with using foul and/or abusive language towards Dennis Wise after he sent the then Leeds boss to the stands and reported him for an abusive outburst during a League One game against Gillingham.

Wise was given a two-match ban and a £5,000 fine for his behaviour, but his accusation meant McDermid would be up on the same charge. Dave Bassett, days before he was appointed Wise's assistant, said: "Dennis would have no problem with anyone swearing at him, but the ref in this case has been silly in doing Dennis for swearing rather than something else."

McDermid ultimately escaped punishment as the FA's disciplinary committee ruled that the charge had not been proven. Other referees, though, have been successfully charged after lowering the tone.

In 2004, Scottish referee Stuart Dougal was fined £200 and severely censured for swearing at Rangers midfielder Christian Nerlinger, while Massimo Busacca earned a three-match ban for making an obscene gesture towards fans during a Swiss Cup match between FC Baden and Young Boys in 2009. The same referee was accused of swearing at Arsene Wenger after Arsenal's Champions League exit to Barcelona this season.

Didier Drogba (2009)

After Chelsea had seen four penalty appeals rejected by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo as they crashed out of the Champions League to Barcelona in the 2008-09 season, Drogba let the TV viewers in on his thoughts. "It's a f**king disgrace," he shouted, repeatedly, into the cameras.

Drogba issued an apology in the aftermath, and Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledged that his behaviour was not unprecedented. "It happens," Ferguson said.

However, UEFA felt it shouldn't happen, and Drogba was eventually forced to sit out three Champions League games as punishment for his potty mouth. "It wasn't a pleasant sight," UEFA general secretary David Taylor told BBC Radio 5.

Diego Maradona (2009)

El Diego's lawyers explained that the great man had been "in a state of violent emotion" when, having averted disaster to secure qualification for the 2010 World Cup, he told journalists at a press conference that was broadcast live internationally: "You lot take it up the arse."

He added: "To those who did not believe: now suck my d**k - I'm sorry, ladies, for my words - and keep on sucking it. I am either white or black. I will never be grey in my life. You treated me as you did. Now keep on sucking d**ks. I am grateful to my players and to the Argentinian people - I thank no one but them. The rest, keep on sucking d**ks."

Unsurprisingly, FIFA took a dim view, and Maradona was fined and given a two-month ban from all football activity.

Domenico Di Carlo (2010)

Following the introduction of a zero-tolerance approach to blasphemy in Serie A in February 2010, Chievo coach Di Carlo became the first to fall foul when he was caught "proffering a blasphemous expression" during a 2-1 win over Cagliari in Serie A the following month. His words that day - "porco dio" - roughly translate as "god is a pig" but are used in the sense that an English speaker may say "Goddammit". He received a one-match touchline ban.

Di Carlo took charge of Sampdoria in the summer, and in November he was left infuriated when one of his players, Nicola Pozzo, was handed a one-match ban for using the same expression after a 1-0 win at Cesena. "It was 20 minutes after the game in a hallway in the changing rooms," Di Carlo said. "He had a sandwich in his hand while talking to a team-mate. It's really absurd."

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