“There is no revenge in football,” said Didier Deschamps this week. Hmm. Perhaps the France manager needs to ask what the name Alf-Inge Haaland means to one of those in the Irish dugout in Lyon this afternoon. Or perhaps read one of these tales of vengeance from our Seven Deadly Sins Of Football series:
Big Jack’s black book – Leeds United, 1970
Think of it as an early Facebook for misanthropes: while playing as a centre-half with Leeds United, Jack Charlton had a couple of people he wanted to keep in contact with, but not in the conventional sense – his little black book contained the names of players who had wronged him on the pitch, and whom he planned to strike down with great vengeance and furious anger. “I have a little black book with two players in it, and if I get a chance to do them I will. I will make them suﬀer before I pack this game in. If I can kick them four years over the touch line, I will.”
Dean gets the wrong man Liverpool, 1941
Dixie Dean was a goalscorer without parallel, a man with 43 career hat-tricks to his name who took advantage of the change in the oﬀside law to score 60 goals for Everton in the 1927-28 season. He was also a ﬁery character. Aged 17 he lost a testicle after a brutal foul by an Altrincham centre-half. Dean believed his attacker was a man called Davy Parks. He happened to bump into Parks 17 years later in a pub in Liverpool. “He sent me a pint across the bar,” Dean later recalled. “I couldn’t quite place the face for a time, but then I did. And I thumped him … they took him to hospital.” Unfortunately both for Dean and the drinker concerned, subsequent reports established that his assailant had in fact been a man called Molyneux.
El Loco’s revenge – Ecuador 2002
The toothbrush moustache, the swept over hairstyle and a tendency to make expansive gestures: Abdalá “El Loco” Bucaram, former president of Ecuador, certainly had all the trappings of the vaguely loopy, big-ego politician. Nobody has ever been able to prove that the shooting of Ecuador national team coach Hernán Darío Gómez (who led the side to the 2002 World Cup) – who took a bullet in his leg while minding his own business in a Bogota bar – had anything to do with Gomez’s refusal to pick Bucaram’s son in any of his squads. But most Ecuadorians suspect a Bucaram sympathiser with a pathological sense of familial loyalty. No one was ever charged over the attack, and the ex-president himself was in exile when the attack took place. At the time, head coach Gómez had already threatened to resign after hearing an untrue report that Bucaram’s son had been included in the under-20 squad against his wishes. That’s commitment for you.
Maradona strikes back – Barcelona, 1983
The miracle of Diego Maradona is that he excelled in an era when defenders could get away with, if not murder, than at least ABH. They had licence to stop him by foul means or fouler, but only once did he really suﬀer: while playing for Barcelona in September 1983 he had his ankle scrunched to pieces by a deliberate hack from behind by the Bilbao defender Andoni Goikoetxea, who revelled in the name “The Butcher of Bilbao”. Goikoetxea put the oﬀending boot in a glass jar in his lounge, just next to his dignity. Later that season, in his ﬁnal game for Barcelona, Maradona responded by trying to maim the entire Bilbao team in a spectacular bar-room brawl of a ﬁght after Bilbao had beaten Barça in the Copa del Rey ﬁnal to complete the double.
You get the idea. Revenge in football is definitely A Thing, regardless of what Deschamps may think. And though the Ireland camp have been pretty clear that this definitely positively isn’t about payback, no sirree, for Thierry Henry’s handball back in 2009, how sweet would it be for Martin O’Neil’s team to oust the host nation? It’s unlikely, true, given the players at Deschamps disposal and the Republic’s stuttering form in the group stage but they come into this last-16 tie buoyed by a victory over Italy. Yes, a slightly disinterested Italy, but Italy nevertheless.
The pressure is all on the host nation and if the game is a cagey affair – which would not be a surprise given the last 16 ties we’ve had so far – then who’s to say the underdogs can’t pinch it by the odd goal?