Adding insult to injury
Hamburg’s Muller latest in long line of soccer’s freak accidents
The commonly held view among fans and the media is that the multimillionaires we pay to watch play top-level soccer are not actually that smart. While much of that view comes from jealousy at seeing young men in their physical prime live out our shared dreams and reap the reward that brings, there is also an argument to suggest it’s a view that is not a million miles from the truth.
Hamburg winger Nicolai Muller is the latest soccer player to give credence to the notion. The player marked last weekend’s season opener against Augsburg with a goal and headed to the corner to celebrate – putting plenty of gusto into his double pirouette and jump at the corner flag. Sadly, he landed awkwardly and will sit out at least six months of games for his side thanks to a ruptured cruciate ligament. He is not the first player to befall injury while celebrating.
He could ask Martin Palermo, Shaun Goater or Paolo Diogo. Palermo celebrated scoring in extra time of a Copa del Rey game for Villareal by heading to the crowd only for a wall to fall on him, which broke his leg and ensured he missed the 2002 World Cup. Goater and Diogo were not even celebrating scoring themselves, with Diogo losing a finger when his wedding ring caught on the fencing – to add insult to injury he was booked by the referee and also lost the finger.
At least their injuries were all sustained on the pitch. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Guillermo Varela was ruled out of last season’s German Cup final on account of an allergic reaction to a tattoo that he got in the days leading up to the game. The on-loan Manchester United man was suspended by his German club and has since rejoined former club Penarol back in his native Uruguay. Last season, Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois missed the FA Cup semifinal because he had injured himself playing basketball in aid of an advertising campaign for the NBA.
Courtois could only be blamed for eagerly fulfilling his club’s commercial commitments. When Santiago Canizares, then at the height of his powers as Valencia goalkeeper, was ruled out of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea because he had severed a tendon in his foot due to a dropped bottle of aftershave while in the team’s training base in the runup to the tournament. The 32-year-old lost his place to Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, who was first choice as Spain became the dominant force in international soccer.
Goalkeepers have had it bad with regard to freak injuries. Chelsea keeper Dave Beasant tried to trap a bottle of salad cream and missed the start of the 1993-94 season, again with a severed tendon, while Manchester United stalwart Alex Stepney once shouted at his players so much in one game against Birmingham City that he dislocated his jaw. Crazier still, former England goalkeeper Richard Wright managed the distinction of being injured once by falling out of his loft and also once while tripping over a sign warning him to keep off the grass during a warm-up.
Two other former England goalkeepers, David Seaman and David James, missed games because of remote control-related injuries – not too out of this world considering both Alessandro Nesta and Rio Ferdinand were once out injured because of injuries picked up while playing soccer video games. Even the Germans have seen goalkeepers pull up with bizarre ailments. Michael Rensing, at Bayern Munich at the time, got into trouble tying his shoelaces. Worse still, he once kept fellow keeper Oliver Kahn out after giving him a black eye with a shot during their warm-up.
You don’t even need to be a goalkeeper by trade. Pity poor Emerson: the Brazilian midfielder missed the World Cup in 2002 because he dislocated his shoulder while playing in goal in a training session. Needless to say Brazil won the tournament. It could have been worse. Brentford keeper Chic Brodie’s career was ended after colliding with a dog that had got onto the pitch. Rochdale keeper Neil Edwards got off lighter with a more unusual pitch invader – he was bitten by a goose that had gotten onto the Glanford Park pitch in his side’s 2004 game with Scunthorpe but managed to complete the game after treatment.
Animals are a clear danger even if they are not on the field of play: David James once got injured while fishing, current Hull City manager Leonid Slutsky moved into coaching because his career ended at 19 after he fell from a tree rescuing a cat and Darren Barnard of Barnsley tore his ligaments slipping on his new puppy’s urine. Stoke midfielder Liam Lawrence missed several months after tripping over his pet dog and delighted subeditors by scoring the winner against Blackburn Rovers on his return.
Reading striker Leroy Lita managed to hurt himself stretching in bed, which is somehow less ridiculous than England captain Bryan Robson missing the 1990 World Cup after having a bed dropped on his foot during some hotel hijinks. Another England international, Alan Mullery, missed his country’s 1964 tour of South America after injuring his back while brushing his teeth. The home and hotels are not a safe place. Michael Stensgaard’s Liverpool career never took off after getting hurt setting up the ironing board.
Both Arsenal legend and Aussie keeper Frank Talia came a cropper to lawn mowers while Rangers striker Kirk Broadfoot missed a game after eggs he cooked in the microwave scalded his face. Kevin Kyle suffered worse: The Sunderland striker burned his testicles and thigh trying to warm milk for his young daughter. Kids are a danger on their own. Sean Flynn and David Batty got injured on toys while Allan Nielsen missed a run of Spurs’ games after his daughter poked him in the eye.
Eyes have been to blame for some bizarre injuries. Jari Litmanen was once ruled out after a ringpull from a can of Coke hit him in the eye, and Milan Rapaic missed the start of a season after poking himself in the eye with his boarding pass. Rapaic’s misfortune definitely falls into the category marked entirely self-inflicted and he is in illustrious company. Shinji Kagawa missed a Manchester United game because of overeating, Darius Vassell took a drill to his toe in an attempt to drain a blood blister and Brazilian striker Ramalho was once bed-ridden after swallowing a suppository. Perhaps the greatest self-inflicted injury was Ever Banega running himself over with his own car while trying to fill up at a gas station. He broke a leg and missed six months.
Hamburg winger Nicolai Muller reacts after injuring himself while celebrating scoring against Augsburg on August 19 in Hamburg, Germany.