5 Darkest Moments In Soccer History

In the Beautiful Game, winter has not come. Winter has always been here. With the magnificence of soccer, we often forget the morbidity that comes with beauty. After the Taj Mahal was built, a wonder of the world, Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor at the time, ordered the chopping of the 20,000 workers’ hands involved in the legendary monument’s creation. So goes the myth at least but nonetheless, beauty comes with a price. Often a dark one. Soccer, our beloved monument, is no different.

Here’s the countdown to the 5 darkest moments in soccer history:

5. The Flying Santa At Villa Park: 

Dressed as Santa Claus, Nigel Rogoff parachuted straight into the Villa Park stadium’s roof during a halftime stunt in a match between Arsenal and Aston Villa in December, 1998. After horribly damaging his left knee, the former Royal Air Force flight sergeant was rushed to the hospital for an amputation.

Rogoff was not an amateur parachutist and no, Arsenal were not winning (is that really a surprise?). The veteran, with 6,000 parachuting successes under his belt, survived the horrible plunge and now charitably works with other military casualty survivors.

During his physical rehabilitation Rogoff met the love of his life, Sarah, the nurse who took care of him after the Father Christmas gone wild accident. Rogoff and Sarah now have grown up twins, Harry and Oliver. How British.

4. Welcome To Hell: 

The fearless Frenchman, Eric Cantona, walks into hell…which is apparently modern day Turkey.

Dubbed as the “most intimidating atmosphere” by Manchester United’s former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, the Champions League match with Turkey’s Galatasaray was unforgettable. As in “oh god, please save me” unforgettable, not “that cheesecake was awesome” unforgettable.

Since this happened in 1993, can we blame it on the Macarena? Or poorly pixelated video games? Or fanny packs? (If you’re a 90s kid, I am not sorry.)

The Red Devils were embraced with the ever so hospitable signs reading “this will be your last 48 hours”, “RIP”, and the infamous “welcome to the hell”. Maybe ‘the’ was intended to signify this hell as the hell…or it was just bad English. The players who lived through it would argue for the former.

Back when denim jackets were cool.

Regardless of the intent, the mania of that night did not end with the fear tactics of Galatasaray’s fans. Turkish police were reportedly violent and abusive as well. Players like Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel suffered both verbal threats via late-night phone calls and nightstick thwaps to the head via police officers. Even the hotel’s bellboy gestured a throat slice with his thumb when defender Gary Pallister smiled at him.

“There were so many flares and so much smoke, it seemed the entire stadium was on fire.” — Gary Neville

3. The Own Goal Murder

After scoring an own goal against the U.S., Andrés Escobar led to the regulation of Colombia in the 1994 World Cup—and as many suspect, to his own death.

No, this is not another episode of Narcos. No, the Colombian defender is not related to Pablo Escobar. Yes, this tragedy happened in Medellin, Columbia’s infamous cartel territory. Maybe if you cut back on your ‘Netflix and chill’ you’d learn something.

Escobar was shot 12 times by three gunmen to which one of them was heard shouting “thanks for the own goal”. The murder is suspected to be the cause of cocaine-financed gambling where the top-16-qualifying-match was rumored to be fixed by both U.S. and Colombian mafiosi, the Independent reported.

Kids, play soccer, don’t do drugs and, for the love of Maradona, don’t score an own goal.

2. Morosini’s Heart Attack:

During a match against Pescara in April of 2012, tragedy struck Livorno as midfielder Piermario Morosini suffered a heart attack on the pitch. One that he did not survive.

On loan from Udinese, Morosini had a cardiac arrest in the first half. He fell to his knees, clenched his chest, and struggled to get up before falling unconscious. Livorno’s medics rushed to his aid after players from both sides noticed Morosini’s pain and alerted the referee. The medics massaged his heart while waiting for paramedics to arrive, but it was too late.

Many players have died and suffered heart attacks on the pitch.

Morosini died an hour after arriving to the hospital. His unfortunate death at age 25 was followed by much controversy. Witnesses outside the stadium said police cars were blocking the exit disabling the paramedics and ambulance to quickly deliver Morosini to professional medical attention.

After more than four years, ESPN reported Morosini’s doctors to be guilty of manslaughter. Three doctors were sentenced to prison for failing to use a defibrillator and “following medical protocols” despite the right equipment found in both the stadium and the ambulance. Vito Molfese, emergency doctor, was sentenced to one year in prison. Whereas Manlio Porcellini and Ernesto Sabatini, Livorno and Pescara club doctors respectively, were sentenced to eight months each.

Justice was served and a player of the Beautiful Game was sadly lost. The Italian leagues suspended all matches throughout that tragic week.

1. The Hillsborough Disaster:

When Liverpool and Nottingham Forest faced off in the semifinal of the 1988-89 FA Cup in Sheffield, the deadliest disaster in British sporting history was lurking in the stands.

A massive human crush, due to horrible event organizing, caused the deaths of 96 people and injured more than 760 in the Liverpool supporter pens. The Leppings Lane Stand, a part of Hillsborough stadium allocated for Liverpool fans, was becoming overly crowded. The two pens, where you can only stand to watch the match, were already full with 2,000 Liverpool fans. For David Duckenfield, the police match commander, adding another thousand or two didn’t seem like a deadly idea.

The police responsible for maintaining the peace for the spectators and fans lied to the press as to what happened. Many of the officers and medics in charge accused the fans of hooliganism and excessive drinking. As unruly as Liverpool fans can get, that was not the case.

In 1990, a governmental report argued the disaster happened because South Yorkshire Police failed to control the crowds. It was dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions who said no one could be charged as there was no evidence. Stadiums were then regulated to be all-seaters rather than have standing pens.

A Hillsborough Independent Panel was formed in 2009 to investigate what really happened. In 2017, After 27 years and 800 witnesses, the jury hearing charged Duckenfield and five other police organizers for manslaughter by gross negligence, misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. The jury hearing also entered the books as the longest in British legal history.

If you did not enjoy these horrible moments in soccer history then good on you. Congratulations, you’re not a psychopath!

Honorable Mentions:


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