Halloween Special- Sports Spookiest Moments

To celebrate Halloween The Courier's sports writers look at some of the most spooky, scary, and downright horrifying moments in the history of sport, from ghost goals and phantom punches to leg-breaks and surely the most horrifying sight in sport, Sunderland AFC. 

multiple writers
31st October 2019
Image: Youtube, Sweetface; Gordon Haywood is attended to by medical staff as an opposition player prays
To celebrate Halloween The Courier's sports writers look at some of the most spooky, scary, and downright horrifying moments in the history of sport, from ghost goals to phantom punches, leg-breaks to bites, and surely the most horrifying sight in sport, Sunderland AFC.

David Busst- Tom Moorcroft

Image: Instagram @footballinsanity83, Buust's horror injury in the Manchester Derby

Many people might not be familiar with the name ‘David Busst’ at first. To be honest, when you think of the footballing moguls of the 1990s, his name isn’t the first on the list. However, if someone mentioned ‘Peter Schmeichel being sick on the pitch’, or ‘The worst injury in football history’, one quick google search will reveal his name.

The Coventry defender received a career ending injury during a game against Manchester United, in which he collided with United fullback Denis Irwin and midfielder/forward Brian McClair. For anyone brave enough to give it a google, which I wouldn’t advise, you’ll be greeted with a rather disgusting image of Busst holding his leg in agony, as he received compound fractures in his tibia and fibula.

Although the picture doesn’t do it any justice, just looking at Peter Schemichel’s reaction can confirm the horror of the injury, as he was physically sick on the pitch afterwards. When asked about it in a later interview, Schmeichel said, “It was very difficult. What we had just witnessed was horrendous, very, very nasty”.

The fact that the Dutch legend, 6ft 3in, ‘Great Dane’ was left ill after seeing the injury is testament to just how brutal it was, and the few months afterwards were tough. Busst received 26 operations on his leg as a result of the clash, and is still reminded of the event to this day, with a large array of scars on his right leg. However, he did bounce back after his injury, going into coaching and working with young children in the Coventry area.

Ghost Goals- Jamie Armstrong

Image: YouTube, Oh My Goal; England's third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final, perhaps the most famous ghost goal of all time

Football is haunted by things coming back from the dead. Liverpool were six feet under when they returned from 3-0 down to win their famous 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul. More locally, Newcastle achieved the largest ever Premier League come back in 2011. Trailing 4-0 at half time, St James’ Park witnessed a 4-4 resurrection right in front of their very eyes, courtesy of Cheick Tiote and Joey Barton. Sadly, not everything comes back from the dead. Sorry Bury!

In football, however there is a different kind of ghost. The ghost (or phantom) goal. Essentially, a ghost goal is any goal given by a referee that in reality did not cross the line, or did but was not given.

The term seemingly originates from Germany, more precisely from a match played between Bayern Munich and 1.FC Nürnberg in April 1994. Defender Thomas Helmer, also of Sunderland shame, poked an incoming corner goal wards that was tipped round the post by Nürnberg keeper Andreas Koepke. Disappointed initially, Helmer was then stunned to see his teammates cheering, as the Phantomtor was given. The repercussions of this were drastic. A win for Bayern meant winning the league title on goal difference. Yet for Nürnberg, the draw would have meant surviving relegation… by one point. Following FIFA’s objection, the match was replayed with Bayern running out 5-0 winners. But football has been haunted before and since by the ghost goal.

Germany as a nation are renowned for economic strength, beer and apparently, the ghost goal. Like an apparition, they appear throughout footballing history’s phantom finishes. Famously Geoff Hurst’s winning goal in 1966, against Germany has since controversially been deemed a ghost goal. An Oxford University study concluded the ball was 6cm from fully crossing the line.

Since then, ghost goals have haunted the likes of Crystal Palace, Hoffenheim and even Frank Lampard in the 2010 World Cup… against Germany. For better or worse, it seems that Germany may be cursed with the ghost goal. Penalties aside of course.

But whilst there is nothing inherently ominous or eerie about the ghost goal, nothing more than poor officiating in reality, it has bought about something truly dark and twisted. Goal-line technology and VAR. Football’s true Halloween-like nightmare.

Gordon Haywood and Paul George NBA Injuries- Dominic Lee

Image: Youtube, Sweetface; Gordon Haywood is attended to by medical staff as an opposition player prays

For a supposedly non-contact sport, NBA Basketball has seen its fair share of gruesome moments. You only have to go back to 2016’s Western Conference Finals when the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green intentionally kicked Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder in his particulars to make your stomach churn.

Nonetheless, it is arguably the injuries of Paul George and Gordon Hayward that will stick in the minds of fans of the sport as the most horrifying moments in the history of the league. Both players had to sit out significant time in order to recover and while George has flourished upon his return to action- with last year’s successes earning him a nomination for MVP- Hayward has returned a shadow of his former self as the Celtics underperformed with him in the starting line-up last season.

Hayward's nightmare injury came in his first-ever season start for Boston, on opening night of the 2017 term. The small forward went up for an alley-oop when he collided with an opposing player and came down hard on his ankle, which snapped to the side on landing. The shocking scene was a flashback to the injury to George just three years earlier as the entire arena looked on in horror- the crowd fell silent while some knelt down to pray.

George’s injury came in a similar manner, colliding with the basket in a 2014 Team USA showcase, with the entire lower portion of his leg snapping and the bone bursting out of the skin. Similar sights befell George as players found it hard to look on at their teammate who lay on the hardwood.

Looking back on these injuries was an especially tough watch and with the new season starting soon we can just be glad that both players recovered and can grace the court again this season.

Muhammed Ali's Phantom Punch- Philip Etchells

Image: Instagram @boxingnewsonline, Ali stand above a strewn Sonny Liston having knocked him down with the famous phantom punch

On 25th May 1965, in the small town of Lewiston, Maine an innocuous right hook from Muhammad Ali would go down in the annals of boxing history.

The former Cassius Clay, fighting for the first time since his conversion to Islam, stood over the body of Sonny Liston, rolling on the canvas 104 seconds into the world heavyweight title rematch. “You’re supposed to be so bad! Nobody will believe this, screamed the enraged Ali after his ‘phantom punch’ floored the former world champion. It went on to become one of the most iconic photographs in sport.

The infamous ‘phantom punch’ was seen by few people, even at the ringside, and continues to remain a mystery over 54 years later. From the footage from the old fight, it is difficult to tell what really happened. Many believe it was powerful right-hand from the man who went on to define a new era of boxing, whereas others believe the fight was fixed. Liston was supposedly paid off by the mobsters who controlled his fights and with whom he was involved with throughout his murky, criminal past.

The scariest man he ever faced, according to Muhammad Ali himself, soon fell from grace after that career-defining loss in ‘65. He would tragically be found dead in his Las Vegas home just 6 years later. Sinister circumstances surround his death and the mystery of what really happened to this fearsome fighter continue to haunt boxing today.

Luis Suarez - Toby Bryant

Image: Wikimedia Commons, Luis Suarez celebrates an international goal for Uruguay

With 307 goals in 446 appearances, there are few strikers in history hungrier than Luis Suarez.

Quite literally too. The pantomime villain’s penchant for having a nibble on an opposition’s centre-back during matches is infamous in football culture. For sure, the ravenous forward’s snacking may be childish and downright bizarre, but it’s pretty comical too.

First rearing his gnashers on November 20th 2010, the Uruguayan was playing for Dutch side Ajax against PSV Eindhoven. Otman Bakkal was the dish being served as the biting phenomenon got underway. A two-match suspension and a fine for a ‘good cause’ the first punishment for Suarez’ lacklustre table manners.

Biting incident number two was even more high profile than the first. Now at Liverpool, the goalscorer fancied some Serbian shoulder as Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic came under the chomp. Going unnoticed by officials, Suarez stayed on the pitch to score a last-minute equaliser but was later charged with violent conduct, fined again and even David Cameron himself condemned the striker.

Three times a charm, the 2014 FIFA World Cup saw Suarez salivating once more. Uruguay's final group match against Italy saw the South American side in need of a win and Suarez in need of feeding. A 79th minute coming together with Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini gave the talisman the perfect chance to take a nibble. Once again unnoticed, despite the defender’s bite marks, it was two days after the incident that FIFA banned Suarez for nine international matches (including the rest of the World Cup). The longest ever international ban, Suarez was also forbidden from entering any stadium worldwide for four months and fined once again.

The real question now, five years after his last meal... could Suarez be hunting for prey again this Halloween?

Wearside Horrorshow- Matthew Crichton

Image: Instagram @lets_all_laugh_at_sunderland, Sunderland fans look on in horror as their side falls to yet another loss

Over the past three seasons, Sunderland have suffered a horrifying run of form as they've suffered consecutive relegations, witnessed two Wembley defeats and employed four different permanent managers.

The club were left to rot without investment, with the fans enduring mercenaries like Jack Rodwell draining the club of every last penny whilst refusing to play.

Last season provided stability, but a poor run of form as well as losing star striker Josh Maja in January left the club falling short of their promotion desires.

Fast forward to this season and the club are still underachieving, takeover uncertainty caused a problematic summer which combined with underwhelming results proved the end of Jack Ross as manager.

But after a prolonged period of suffering, the future of Sunderland AFC is highly exciting. A revolution is coming which could take the club back to their former glory.

A group of American investors linked to the Dell cooperation are close to agreeing a deal for investment, which should provide the tools to fire Sunderland out of League One.

Newly appointed manager Phil Parkinson has been provided with a unique opportunity to guide a sleeping giant back to prosperity.

Although results have been poor and fans are feeling apathetic, all it takes is a run of consecutive wins to get Sunderland back into the promotion places. The sky may currently appear dark and gloomy, but the future of Sunderland is sure to bright.

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