TOP 4: The Most Ridiculous Red Cards Ever

April 03, 2018

- Grant Whittington

As any football fan will testify, red cards rarely enhance your enjoyment of a game. If you lose one of your side’s players, for example, you’ll probably spend the remainder of the game cursing under your breath and moaning to anyone who’ll listen.

When a rival player is dismissed, however, you may be forced to watch a turgid battle between attack and defence, and one that will leave you incredibly frustrated if your side does not come out on top.

These scenarios are made worse in the case of ridiculous red card decisions, whether they’re the result of crazy antics or inept refereeing decisions.

Below, we’ll look at some of the most bizarre red cards of all-time and ask what made each one so unique.

  1. Jospic Simunic – Croatia vs. Australia, 2006

This dismissal during the 2006 World Cup clash between Croatia and Australia concluded one of the most bizarre and inept examples of referring of all-time, as English official Graham Poll endured a World Cup nightmare for which he will always be remembered.

Interestingly, the ultimate decision to send off Croatia’s Simunic was more than justified, with the player appearing to push Poll as he game ended. The issue was that this was actually Simunic’ third booking of the game, with Poll having unwittingly booked the defender twice during the 90 minutes but failed to send him off after attributing his second yellow card to Australia’s Craig Moore allegedly as a result of Simunic’ Aussie accent.

The fact that Simunic was wearing a Croatia kit did not seem to register with Poll, who clearly lost control of the game as the second half progressed.

Poll was roundly criticised after the game, while FIFA actively removed him from the pool of referees for the knockout stages. Unsurprisingly, Poll retired from officiating at international games later in the summer, citing this incident as the main trigger for his decision.

  1. David Healy – Northern Ireland vs. Wales, 2006

 2006 was clearly a stellar year for ridiculous red cards, with Northern Ireland striker David Healy also on the end of a bizarre dismissal during a World Cup Qualifier against Wales in Cardiff.

Healy was one of three men sent off in a tempestuous encounter, but the manner of his dismissal was unusual to say the least. It came after the prolific striker had slid the Irish into a 2-0 lead at the Millennium Stadium, as the forward looked to celebrate his goal by gesturing to his father with a fist pump and drop-kicking the corner flag.

Apparently, the Italian referee Domenico Messina took exception to these actions, however, inexplicably booking Healy for both the fist pump and the flying kick within a matter of seconds. This caused considerable confusion among spectators, as the decision to book Healy twice rather than simply brandish a straight red car left everyone scratching their heads.

While the reasoning was at least explained after the game, the dismissal was ridiculously harsh at best and seemed indicative of a referee who had lost all control. Healy was particularly nonplussed, while the decision played a key role in helping the Welsh to overturn the 2-0 deficit.

  1. Robin Van Persie – Arsenal vs. Barcelona, 2011

 Arsenal and Barcelona played out some truly memorable Champions League games during Pep Guardiola’s time in charge at the Nou Camp, including this second round clash in 2011.

Leading 2-1 after a thrilling first leg at the Emirates, Arsenal arrived at the Nou Camp confident that they could progress to the quarterfinals. Despite going a goal down in Spain, a Sergio Busquets own goal put the Gunners in the box seat and left them just 30 minutes from a famous win.

Then came a bizarre turning point, as star forward Robin Van Persie broke clear and fired a low shot towards goal despite the refereeing having blown the whistle to signal that the Dutchman was offside. He turned to see the referee brandishing a second red card followed by the inevitable red, presumably for kicking the ball away after the whistle had been blown.

Van Persie was incredulous, as he reasonably claimed that he had not heard the whistle in the incessant din of the Nou Camp and its impassioned crowd. The conviction with which he powered towards goal and got his shot away certainly supported his claim, as did the fact that Barca’s defenders also continued to play.

Still, the referee was unmoved as he administered one of the harshest and most unreasonable red cards in living memory, and one that ultimately enabled Barcelona to overwhelm their game opponents.

  1. Hakan Unsal -Turkey vs. Brazil, 2002

 Red cards are always funnier when they involve histrionics, particularly those that revolve around blatant and embarrassing examples of simulation.

Such shameless acting certainly led to the most ridiculous red card of the 2002 World Cup in Japan, when Turkish defender Hakan Unsal received his marching orders for a bizarre incident involving Brazil’s Rivaldo.

Frustrated by the decision of the ref to award Brazil a corner, Unsal decided to kick the ball directly at Rivaldo as he prepared to deliver the set-piece. This was a stupid act for sure, but while the ball struck the Brazilian on the thigh it was hardly kicked with enough pace to cause harm or serious injury.

Still, rather than ignoring this act of petulance, Rivaldo allowed the ball to strike him and bounce away before clutching his face and dropping to the floor as though he’d been struck by a five iron.

This ridiculous piece of acting and Rivaldo’s delayed reaction should have resulted in a yellow card for the Barcelona forward, but despite the linesman being just five feet away from the incident both he and the referee were taken in by his theatrical collapse.

As a result, referee Kim Young Joo brandished a senseless, second yellow card for Unsal, while Rivaldo recovered from his ‘injury’ and continued the game.

Unsurprisingly, Rivaldo faced serious criticism for his play-acting, with FIFA ultimately administering a fine for the Brazilian’s actions. Still, this was a paltry £1,000, which led many to believe that FIFA did not fully recognise the severity of Rivaldo’s simulation.

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