The Ten Most Bitter Sporting Feuds – Part 1

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

While many of us will wax lyrical about the great champions we’ve admired down the years, those who have pursued athletic excellence and amazed us with their talents, it is so much better when they come with a ready-made nemesis. The two become inseparable and give the sporting stories we all love to recant an almost mythic quality to them. They are all the better when there’s no quiet respect or dignity to them, just unbridled hatred and viciousness… Here’s a list of some of the most bitter feuds in sporting history.

Roy Keane Vs Alf Inge Haaland

Not so much a feud as an example of just how long the fiery-tempered Keane is willing to let something stew before seeking retribution, this warrants an inclusion for producing everyone’s favourite “dirty” tackle from the midfield general.

History forgets, of course, that it was Haaland that had effectively instigated the incident by standing over an injured Keane following a nasty tackle that saw the Irishman come off the worst. The thing that stuck in Keane’s sizeable craw the most was the accusation that he was feigning injury to avoid punishment.

Three and a half years passed before the two had a chance to go at it again and the first meaningful opportunity he got Keane went in for a knee-high challenge that saw Haaland fly through the air and land in a crumpled heap. Barely acknowledging the rightly brandished red card the player left the field only after delivering a barrage of insults in the ear of his writhing victim.

While the initial outcome was a five match ban and an unprecedented £150,000 fine, the challenge entered into the realm of football mythology when Keane stirred the hornet’s nest once more with the admission he had wanted to “hurt” Haaland in his autobiography.

Many pub bores are quick to point out that Haaland never played seriously again after this challenge took place and while that might be true the two aren’t linked. The injury that ended Haaland’s career was in the other leg, although one gets the feeling that Keane likes to believe it was him to blame as much as anyone else out there.

Ian Bothan v Ian Chappell

In 1977 an uncapped 21 year old English cricketer called Ian Botham was playing club cricket “down under”. After a few tipples in the Melbourne Hilton he happened to stumble across the Australian player Ian Chappell who was happily berating all things English after a few drinks of his own. The younger man asked him to stop before giving him a rather ungentlemanly uppercut, knocking him off his chair and into a table full of Australian Rules football players. Or so the story goes… Unsurprisingly Chappell denies it went like that at all.

Despite Chappell having retired before Botham had even represented his country the two always seemed to find reasons to talk about each other through the medium of the press. Chappell would often point to his impressive record of 75 tests with 5,345 runs and label Botham as “nothing special”. Botham on the other hand was more vicious and responded with “as a human being he is a nonentity.”

Although the incident in 1966 was often talked about as part of crickets great mythology, especially ahead of The Ashes, in 1996 Chappell stirred the hornet’s nest again by adding the up until then unspoken detail that Botham had threatened to cut him from “ear to ear” with a broken beer glass if he didn’t leave. Botham denied this newly revealed detail.

Old age didn’t calm them down when at last year’s Ashes the two had to be pulled apart in the car park after Chappell muttered an insult. At 55 and 67 respectively you think they would know better but some feuds just get more bitter with time.

Pele Vs Maradona

The debate about which one of these two is the greatest footballer of all time might well continue to rage for another fifty years. There is no doubt what side of the fence each of the two players are on though when it comes to such discussions and both have no qualms about expressing that.

Funnily enough, with no real playing overlap in their careers (Maradona’s debut was in 1976, with a past it Pele retiring in 1977) they have become fierce rivals solely because of the debate and little else. With only the occasional reference to each other prior to 2000 it was FIFA that seemed to set the ball rolling with their online vote to crown the player of the century. After Maradona won it, they decided to alter the award and dubbed it in the “Internet Player Of The Century” giving the main award to the much more clean cut – Viagra not withstanding – Pele.

This prompted a tirade of spiralling abuse from the always emotional Argentinian that started with him saying Pele won “by forfeit” and the had had won “the people’s vote” and ended with him stating that Pele had a homosexual affair during his time at Santos. Pele made it clear he’d not be responding to the allegations due to Maradona’s drug problems fuelling delusions.

Each year afterwards when one spoke to the press it seemed the other was never far behind. In 2007 Maradona said “I won’t network and lick my way through Fifa. I won’t do that, that would make me a total son of a bitch. Like Pele.” The Brazilian followed up with a call for Maradona to be stripped of his honours “”Why is it Olympic athletes lose their medals when caught taking drugs, but not him?”

It’s showed no sign of abating with only last year Maradona insisting that “Pele should go back to the museum and stay there” making this feud between two sportsmen more akin to something you might see on an internet forum.


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