Manchester United Football Club’s Eric Cantona was fined, suspended, and given community service rather than jail time for a karate chop to fan Matthew Simmons while leaving the pitch after being red carded for merely kicking another player in 1995 on this day in soccer history.
The French forward was fined £20,000, banned from playing football nine months, and stripped of the captaincy for the French national soccer team for the incident. Cantona claims he was provoked with racial insults and by having a missile thrown at him by the Crystal Palace fan.
Cantona was walking off to jeers when Simmons ran to the front of the stand and screamed either “F*** off, you French c***” or “It’s an early shower for you”, depending on who you believe.
‘Le Nutter’, as some French papers were calling Cantona, was originally sentenced to 2-weeks in jail but that was overturned on appeal. The appeal process made its own headlines with Cantona getting the inspiration for his seagulls, trawlers and sardine quote from the appeal.
“When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” he said at the post appeal press conference. The quote left many confused, some laughing, and shaking their heads at another Cantona antic.
The suspension was only a temporary setback as Cantona returned on October 1 and scored a penalty in the Red Devils 2-2 draw with Liverpool. He was named the Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association in 1996 and helping Manchester United win the Premiership title in 1997.
The incident has followed Cantona and the then 20-year-old Simmons ever since that fateful day. Cantona has no regrets saying in 2008, “I should have punched him harder” while Simmons, who received a week in jail although only served a day, was still a little bitter with his treatment, still received hate mail, and continues to go to football matches but now supports Fulham.
1965 – Mike Newell, English football manager
1968 – Patrick Blondeau, French footballer
1976 – Ahn Jung-Hwan, Korean football player
1988 – Kerlon Moura Souza, Brazilian footballer