Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Help
---------------
---------------
CHOOSE A SPORT
RELATED BBC SITES
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Most unsporting moment?
The infamous moment when Diego Maradona punches the ball past Peter Shilton in the 1986 World Cup
Maradona 'scores' for Argentina
Choose which act of deliberate fouling or blatant cheating deserves this unwanted accolade.

Dubious acts of an unsporting nature affect all sports around the globe but some acts have proved to be particularly galling for players and spectators alike.

An online poll by children's charity the NSPCC discovered that the worst offences included Maradona's legendary handball that helped Argentina to a 2-1 World Cup quarter-final win over England in 1986.

And also Mike Tyson's biting of Evander Holyfield's ear during their bout in 1997.

Are these the two worst incidents of all time or can you think of others to rival their infamy?


This debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails appear below.

My favourite was in the Rugby World Cup, England v Tonga, when there was a little bit of a bust up with the Tongans. One lad had to run the width of the pitch to get to the tussle, which was over by the time he got there. Obviously miffed about missing the action, he aimed a running punch on the side of Richard Hill's head. Hilly never even saw him coming. It was so ridiculous, even Hill was laughing about it afterwards.
Al, Newcastle, UK

David Campese's deliberate knock-on in the 1991 Rugby World Cup final
Ash, UK

Dennis Lillie kicking Javed Miandad when he was trying to go past him while taking a run was pretty bad.
Ike, USA

Steve Waugh claming a catch to dismiss Lara in the Kensington Test match of the 1995-96 series that he clearly took off the ground as the television replays indicated. What about Brendan Julian's blocking of Sherwin Campbell in a ODI at the same venue in the 1998-99 series bringing the game to a crisis with angry fans reacting with bottle throwing.

Asif (below), I do agree that what happened in the Test match between Pakistan and West Indies was terrible for the game. So was Australian ODI captain Ricky Ponting advising his players not to walk when out and Indian managers advising players that as well. This spoils the great game of cricket.
Ansley, Barbados

To Bill (below): Well of course no one has mentioned the 1972 US basketball team's refusal to "accept" its silver medal even though it was supposedly beaten "fair and square" - because your example is ludicrous! Those medals still have never been, and will never be, accepted by the members of that team because to accept them would be to accept cheating and incompetence of the rankest sort.

I don't know what "fair and square" means in your world, but that phrase doesn't fit the last frantic seconds (played again and again) of that game.

My nominations: The US Ryder Cup dance marathon on the green at Brookline; serial diving by too many international footballers to mention.
Chris Morrison, USA

David Campese's deliberate knock-on in the 1991 Rugby World Cup final. Strange, he's a bit quiet all of a sudden...
Ash, UK

Beckham's infamous sending off after play acting by Diego Simone at the 98 World Cup. His shocking feign of injury was bad enough!, but Batistuta's berating of the referee and nodding of approval when Beckham got sent off was deplorable!!
Steve Taylor, Berkshire

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the United States basketball team's initial refusal to accept the silver medal after they were beaten fair and square with the last shot of the game by the USSR in the 1972 Olympics.
Bill, UK

Peter Ebdon shouting and screaming halfway through a critical and unfinished frame with Stephen Lee. I've wanted to see him lose every game since!
Phil, Leeds

I'm shocked that only one person has mentioned Schumacher (the goalie, not the driver) decking Batiston - he knocked him clean out. But for me, the most unsporting act was the behaviour of the Argies after the '98 win. They weren't laughing so much last summer though.
David, England

Maradona's handball '86 must be the worst closely followed by Roy Keane's assault on Alfe Inge Haaland and his subsequent public gloating about finishing another professionals career.

Also the Argentinean players attempts to put David Beckham off during his penalty WC 2002. Wasn't justice done?

The German 'rolling' champion of WC 1990 intent on getting Gascoigne booked.

Ali Williams stamp on Josh Lewsey this weekend and his 'not guilty' plea. The panel deserve a mention for ignoring the assault and letting him off!
Steve, Birmingham

An infamous incident which sticks in my mind is when Angelo Dundee extended a tear in Cassius Clay's gloves which meant that he had to have them changed in-between rounds.

Ruud van Nistelrooy's dive to earn and score the penalty to relegate Ipswich
Hung Lee, London

This crucially gave him an extra few seconds to recover from a Henry Cooper knockdown.
Simon Whittingham, England

How is Maradona's hand ball any worse than Michael Owen or Robbie Keane diving in the box or Neil Back slapping the ball out of Stringers hand in the Heineken Cup Final?

The team on the end of the result will obviously feel hard done by but it happens in sport.

No offence lads but when it happens to England you make a much bigger deal out of it than when you do it to others.

Stuff like this happens in sport all the time. If you ask me, a player diving in studs up trying to break someone's ankle or stamping on someone's head in rugby is far more serious than cheating to get a goal.
Ross, Ireland

The worst sporting moment for me has to be Tyson's dinner assault on Holyfield, although at the time I was amazed by it, it has got to be the most serious incident on a sporting event there has been.

The interesting thing though is that Holyfield was continually cheating by head butting Tyson before hand, therefore we now know what happens when you push sportsman too far!
Roy Gardner, Scotland

When Michael Schumacher forced Damon Hill to drive "up the wall" by forcing him off the track. He went on to beat Hill to the title! Shocking
Paddy, Dewsbury

Anything involving Australian 'sportsmen' be it under arm bowling, sledging, complaints of why cant we just automatically qualify for the world cup, deliberate knock-ons in rugby matches, the list is endless......
Mike, Bristol

My "favourite" would have to be Willie Young's professional foul in the 1980 Cup Final, denying a 17 year old Paul Allen a great scoring chance.
Andy, Earley

The German keeper Schumacher did an insane tackle on French forward Battison in one of the 1982 world cup semi's.

The French deserved to win, but the Germans nudged it on penalties.
Antony Topazio, UK

Heart of Midlothian going 22 games in a row without a defeat against Hibernian is just sheer cruelty what kind of sporting gesture is that!
Stephen Crawford, Scotland

Ruud van Nistelrooy's dive to earn and score the penalty to relegate Ipswich and how can anyone forget Roy Keane vicious assault on Alf Haaland.
Hung Lee, London

Basil Boli's cowardly headbutt of Stuart Pearce during the France v England opener in Euro 92. Boli got away with an act of unsporting thuggery, where as Pearce dusted himself down and carried on regardless.
Mark Whittaker, Lancashire

In my view, there is a difference between cheating (breaking the rules of a sport for advantage) and unsporting acts (which may technically not involve a breach of the rules, but which offend the spirit of a sport).

Greg Chappell redefined unsporting behaviour with his decision to instruct his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery in 1981
John Higgins, Auckland

My top five pieces of unsporting conduct in reverse order are: Any post match interview involving Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson; David Lloyd's "we flippin' murdered 'em" outburst after a Zimbabwe v England Test match; Ronnie O'Sullivan playing left handed v Alain Robidoux; Tyson's ear biting and finally, US golfers dancing on the green during the Ryder Cup of 1999.
Roy Pinney, UK

Without doubt the worst thing I have ever seen in sport was Slavan Bilic's dive in the 1998 World Cup finals that got Laurent Blanc sent off. In itself it was not a terrible moment but take into account that Blanc had played 97 times for his country, he scored the golden goal to get his team that far, but he never got to play in a World Cup final (which France won by the way) and never will because of the incident.
Andy, Nottingham

I think that Ronald Koeman's professional foul on David Platt in a World Cup qualifier was one of the worst I have ever seen. To add insult to injury he went down the other end of the pitch and scored a free kick!
Dan, England

Aussie cricket captain Greg Chappell redefined unsporting behaviour with his decision to instruct his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm (along the ground) delivery to tailender Brian McKechnie in an ODI against New Zealand in Melbourne in 1981.

NZ needed six off the final ball to tie. McKechnie blocked the ball then threw his bat away in disgust. Chappell's decision was appalling and gratuitous to the extreme. Second on my list also involves a McKechnie, again not as the protagonist. All Black lock Andy Haden dived in a line-out with a few minutes to go against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in 1978, and milked a penalty. McKechnie kicked the goal for the All Blacks to win 13-12.
John Higgins, Auckland, New Zealand

I'm surprised Eric Cantona's 'kung-fu' attack on a Palace fan hasn't been mentioned, surely assaulting the fans who pay your wages can be described as a little unsporting?

Also, Michael Owen's tendency to dive and gain penalties for club and country is also a stain on his otherwise unblemished reputation.
Ross Elliott, Oldham

How about Kevin Muscat's entire career? Selling him to Scotland was the best thing Wolves have ever done!
Ross Mc Givern, London

I would have to say that although "any player would have done the same" as Maradona's handball in order to get through to a World Cup semi-final, it was the player's comments afterwards which let him down; I would hope most professionals would admit afterwards to such transgressions.

Also Rivaldo's apparent "broken cheekbone", when struck on the thigh by a ball kicked gently at him rates up there; but perhaps to me the greatest cheating is in sports that are "one on one", not so much Tyson biting Holyfield (that was hardly going to knock his opponent out) but more so athletes who take drugs months before in order to enhance their chances. That is an instance of cheating that is premeditated and is not a spur-of-the-moment action.
Jiminy, London

A few years ago when Europe won the Ryder Cup for the second time on the run, Tom Kyte was interviewed. When asked about Europe's victory, he said "they didn't win it, they only retained it". Not a particularly sporting gesture.
Adam H, UK

When England played Sri Lanka a few years back, Gough bowled to Mahanama who dropped it in front of himself and went for a quick single. As Gough was trying to run the non-striker out, Mahanama barged Gough as he was making his way to the other end preventing the non-striker from possibly being run out. That just wasn't cricket!
Mark Tattersall, England

Sean (below), it wasn't an England captain that ordered the bowler to bowl underarm, it was an Australian captain (one of the Chappell brothers - Ian I think) who instructed brother Trevor to bowl the ball along the ground.
Dan, Lancaster

At Madison Square Garden in 1983 a boxing prospect named Billy Collins was badly and surprisingly beaten by an outsider named Luis Resto. At the end Collins's eyes were swollen shut, his mouth was badly bruised and his nose broken. Afterwards his trainer-father shook hands with Resto and felt no padding in the gloves. The New York commission discovered it had been replaced with water.

Resto's cornermen, Carlos "Panama" Lewis and Pedro Alvarado, were banned for life and Resto for one year. Lewis and Resto were also convicted in a criminal court and jailed. Collins never boxed again, became depressed and died nine months later in a car crash.
Simon Royle, Liverpool

How can you say Arsenal's goal against Sheffield United was the most unsporting moment ever? The game was replayed to the agreement of all parties. I think Conners wiping off the mark of a ball at the French Open must rate highly on the list though.
Ashley Richardson, London

The worst incident happened when the Pakistan cricket team last visited the West Indies. It was the series deciding final Test match. Jimmy Adams edged the ball (a very big edge that everybody in the crowd heard) but the player didn't move and the umpire, Billy Doctrove, also stubbornly gave it not out.

Liverpool's Henchoz handling the ball to deny Arsenal a goal in the 2001 FA Cup final left a bitter after-taste
Mitesh Shah, England

It was the last wicket and only 20 runs were required. In the next over, the New Zealand umpire gave Courtney Walsh not out when he edged the ball and was caught off the bowling of Saqlain. Pakistan were barred from an historic win.
Asif Mahmood, Pakistan

I don't think anything can top Mike Tyson tucking in to Evander Holyfield's ear. I've never seen such an act of petulance in such a "masculine" sport.
Dan Adams, New Zealand

Michael Branch (I think) scored for Wolves against Forest a couple of years back. Dave Beasant kicked the ball towards touch as there was a Wolves player injured on the pitch. All the players stopped apart from Michael Branch who managed to stop the ball going out and subsequently scored. It almost caused a riot.
Philip Waller, Wokingham, Berkshire

Wasn't there an incident in a cricket match some years ago when the opposition needed one to win off the last ball and the England captain ordered the bowler to bowl underarm?
Sean McAtasney, Southampton

The most unsporting moment was Harald Schumacher's blatant assault on Batiston in the 1982 World Cup semi-final
Tristan Sjoberg, London
It was at the Tower Circus and the famous Blackpool wrestler Jack Pye had just given his opponent a lesson in 'eye gouging' when an irate lady ran down to Jack's corner and stuck a six inch hatpin in his behind! Jack jumped half way across the ring and chased the woman into the crowd and had to be restrained by six attendants, it was the nearest wrestling ever got to being a real sport.
Mal Walker, Australia

Liverpool's Henchoz handling the ball to deny Arsenal a goal in the 2001 FA Cup final left a bitter after-taste. Nobody can say whether he meant it or not but his hand stopped a goal and it should at least have been a penalty.

Also, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's antics which saw Sol Campbell sent off and subsequently suspended for the vital last few games of the 2002/03 season, including the FA Cup final, was not very sportsmanlike either.
Mitesh Shah, England

Maradona's handball cannot possibly be considered to be in the top 10. Every top striker around the world would do the same if it meant getting into the World Cup final. No-one was hurt, no-one died. Mike Tyson's ear biting incident was much worse, and for that he should have been banned for life.
Julian, England

I nominate an incident from England's 16-9 win over the All Blacks at Twickers in 1993. Six minutes into the game Jamie Joseph (flanker) charged through at new cap Kyran Bracken, and landed one of his size twelves, and most of his weight, onto Bracken's ankle. It was absolutely shameful to see.

Joseph had no other intention other than to injure Bracken, and it could quite easily have been a career ending injury. It was good to see Bracken come back on (heavily strapped) and play out the game, and to see NZ get stuffed.
JimiP, UK

How about the American Ryder Cup players jumping around on the green even though Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to save the Ryder Cup?
Jonathan Brown, Bournemouth, UK

Surely Arsenal's goal versus Sheffield United in the FA Cup, which came following the ball being put out of play to allow treatment of an injured player, has to rate as one the most sordid episodes in sport?
Adam Chataway, London

Michael Schumacher intentionally crashing into Damon Hill at the last race of the 1994 F1 season, knocking both cars out of the race, and hence allowing Schumacher to win the title by one point.
David, London

I'm a big fan of Alan Shearer but his threat to quit England if he was banned for blatantly kicking Neil Lennon in the head was a disgrace not befitting a great player and a great man.
Jonathan Brown, Bournemouth, UK

The most unsporting moment was Harald Schumacher's blatant assault on Batiston in the 1982 World Cup semi-final between Germany and France. It was nothing to do with sport whatsoever.
Tristan Sjoberg, London

The Ferrari team's orders to Rubens Barrichello to move over and allow Michael Schumacher the win in last year's F1 season.
Jonathan Brown, Bournemouth, UK

Neil Back in the 2002 Heineken Cup Final knocking the ball out of Peter Stringer's hand was pretty unsporting I thought, especially in rugby which is supposed to be played by gentleman.
Brian O'Neill, Ascot

I think the behaviour of England's fans when getting beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin in 1995 was pretty unsporting. They couldn't handle getting beaten by 'inferior' opponents.
Damien, UK

I think anyone who does not walk in cricket, if they know they have hit the ball and it is caught, is guilty of the worst kind of unsporting behaviour. Sadly the England captain Nasser Hussain is one of the worst offenders. It sets an appalling example to youngsters and contrasts horribly with the spirit of the game when I first played it. It is nothing short of cheating.

A specific incident of unsporting behaviour was Rivaldo going down clutching his face having been hit on the kneecap by a ball in the World Cup last year.
Jon Cooper, UK




E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs

MMIX

Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other Sport...

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport