Taking Offence - Footballers with criminal records
The lives of professional footballers are all about their sacrifices, their hard work and determination to be the absolute best. Every time they go out into the field, there are millions of eyes watching their every movement. The camera catches every twist and turns of a player in the field for the world to marvel at his magnificence.
So naturally, the limelight is always on them but beyond the façade of the glitz and glamour that accompanies every player’s life, more often than not there’s a darkness, where they sometimes lose their way. Some come back stronger than ever, but some just wallow in their misery, unable to fulfill their once heralded potential and waste away with time. Here’s looking back to some players who had all the talent in the world but had their times cut short on the field due to their off field criminal antics.
The most recent offender of this list, Johnson was one of Sunderland Football club’s prominent stars when he was charged with having sexual activity with a minor, while his wife was pregnant. On March 2, 2015 Johnson was arrested by Durham Police on suspicion of having sexual activity with an underage girl, who was 15. On April 23, he was charged with three offences of sexual activity with a child under 16 and one of child grooming, to which he pleaded not guilty in June. An initial trial date in Durham in September 2015 was later moved to February 2016 in Bradford Crown Court. On February 10, 2016 at the start of his trial, Johnson pleaded guilty to “one count of sexual activity with a child and one count of grooming”. He denied two further counts of underage sexual activity. On March 2, 2016 Johnson was found guilty on a majority verdict of 10–2 of one count of sexual activity with a child and found not guilty of a second count of the same crime. Finally on March 24, 2016 he was sentenced to six years in prison for grooming and sexual activity with a girl aged 15. The judge also ordered him to pay £50,000 of the prosecution’s legal fees of £67,132.
Oh where to begin with this one!! Considered to be one of the most controversial players in modern day football, Joey Barton is known more for his violent behaviour (both on and off the field) than his skills on a football field. He has done it all from poking his team mate’s eye with a lit cigar to breaking some pedestrian’s leg. He was convicted once for having a drunken brawl with some youth in a restaurant where he broke a teen’s teeth by punching him. He was sentenced to six months in jail. He was then charged with wildly assaulting a Manchester City team mate, Ousmane Dabo and was sent to prison for four months and was even banned by the FA.
No one watching Manchester United vs Crystal Palace in 1995 will ever forget what transpired that day when Manchester United legend Eric Cantona suddenly lost any semblance of sanity and directed a karate kick at a Crystal Palace fan, who was spewing some derogatory comments at him. He would then pummel the fan left, right and centre with his fists. He was sentenced to two weeks of prison time which was overturned after an appeal and he ended up doing 120 hours of community service instead.
The career of Tony Adams had always been plagued with his fight with alcoholism which led to quite a number of unwanted incidents. Everything came to a head in 1990 when he crashed his car into a wall in Essex. After taking a breathalyser test, it was found that his blood alcohol level was four times over the permissible limit. He was arrested and was sentenced to four months in prison, of which he served only two.
Dubbed El Loco for his rather unconventional behaviour, this Colombian goalkeeper is mostly remembered for his famed scorpion kick goal saves. He is also infamous for having links with the drug cartels which ran rampant in Colombia. He was involved in a kidnapping escapade which also had links with dreaded mafia Pablo Escobar and Carlos Molina. He acted as the go-between and delivered ransom money to secure the release of Molina’s daughter, for which he was paid more than $60,000. But Colombian law prohibits anyone from profiting from kidnapping and Higuita was imprisoned. When asked about the case he said that he was a footballer and did not know anything about kidnapping laws.
Infamous for grabbing the private parts of Paul Gascoigne during a match, Vinnie Jones is one hell of a scary character. When he played for Queens Park Rangers he was found guilty of assaulting his neighbor. He banged his neighbour’s door, smashed his window and when the aforementioned neighbor opened the door, Jones went completely ballistic. He bit him, kicked and punched him and stamped on him. He was fined and sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Perhaps the ‘best’ number 7 who has ever laced a pair of boots for Manchester United, George Best’s career is sadly, remembered more for his off field antics. He was addicted to alcohol and in order to keep up with his rather extravagant lifestyle he spent money like no one’s business. He was charged with assaulting a night club waitress. He was also arrested when he stole a fur coat, passport and cheque book from an American model Marjorie Wallace. He had also been charged with drunk driving, assaulting the police and failing to answer bail, for which he was sentenced for three months.
He may be known as the Oranje legend now but when he was young, Kluivert had his share of controversies to deal with. Early in his career at Ajax, 19-year-old Kluivert was involved in a fatal car crash which killed a theatre director, Marten Putman. Kluivert was driving his BMW 20 mph above the speed limit and slammed into Putman’s car. He died on the spot and Kluivert was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 240 hours of community service.
Peter Storey’s story (pun intended) is a rather bewildering one. He got arrested for financing a plot to counterfeit gold coins and got out on bail. He then set up a brothel with three women so he could raise enough money to flee England and avoid his trial for which he was again arrested, fined and given a six month suspended sentence. He was later sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy to produce counterfeit money. Years later, he spent 28 days in jail after he was caught attempting to import adult videos which he’d hidden in a spare tyre.
Here’s a biggie. Just months after failing that infamous drug test at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Maradona, irritated at reporters who had camped outside his house, crouched behind a car and fired an air gun at them, injuring some of them. In 1998 he was given a suspended jail sentence of 2 years and 10 months.