5 Most Controversial Moments in Sporting History


Want to know the controversial moments in sports ? Join us as we go down the memory lane to examine some of the controversial moments in some popular sports.

Controversial moments is used in describing some sympathetic, unforgettable moments in the world of sports.


First in the list is During the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy, out of nowhere Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi with the scoreline at 1-1.

The match took place on 9th July 2006 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany, to determine the winner of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

After a fierce play of 90 minutes which ended in a full time 1-1 draw, an ongoing extra time that will come to an end in 10 minutes to give way to penalty shootout, something happened?

Italy’s Marco Materazzi was suddenly found on the floor rolling in pains with hands stocked to his chest. What had happened? No could have figured it out yet.

Zidane headbutts Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA WORLD CUP Final in Berlin

But someone did, the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who ran to the fourth official remonstrates incident. Materazzi who was rolling in pains was already up at the moment.

It should have been the perfect ending to for the Frenchman international career but finished in an unfortunate event. A day, moment to remember!

The midfielder was rightly shown a straight red after the fourth official alerted referee Horacio Elizondo.

All the talk should have been about Italy’s triumph but unfortunately Zidane stole the headlines as he bowed out of international duty in disgrace.

It was later confirmed by Materazzi that he had insulted Zidane’s sister (rather than his mother, which was initially claimed) before the headbutt occurred.

In an interview with Marco Materazzi on May 2020 by newsmen, he finally revealed what was said moments before the headbutt had come from Zidane.

“My mother died when I was 15. I would never have insulted his,” Materazzi has said. “I spoke about his sister instead.” Ah. That’s OK then.

Endless Warren Report-style analysis seems to have concluded Materazzi said: “You can give it [his shirt] to your sister” or something close.

The mystery is that it doesn’t add up, amidst a whole lot of noise and temptation, it is yet actually clear to lots of people what was said that night hence, imprinted on sands of time.


Second on the list is one of the most infamous episodes in the sport’s history came in South Africa, when Proteas captain Hansie Cronje conspired with a bookmaker to engineer a result in a Cricket Test.

That game, against England at Centurion in 2000, was lauded at the time for its positive thinking and attempts to entertain after three days were lost to rain.

Hansie Cronje in middle on white jersey between the two gentlemen

On January 18, 2000, South Africa and England each forfeited an innings to revive a dying Test match and engineer an enthralling finish.

It transpired later that the ugly hand of match-fixing was responsible for tweaking the outcome of the match.

If the story of R53,000 and a leather jacket had remained untold, Hansie Cronje would probably have gone down as one of the greatest sporting captains of all time.

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Unfortunately, what transpired as a thrilling match, after pioneering and laudable forfeiture of an innings each by both sides, is now looked at through the murky lens tarnished by the sordid world of bookies and match-fixers.

However, on April 12, the match-fixing scandal erupted. Within three days, the truth behind the Test match emerged.

A bookmaker, who would have suffered huge loss in case of a draw, had supposedly contacted Cronje on the fourth evening.

“He urged me to speak to Hussain about an early declaration,” Cronje confessed to the King Commission later that year. “He said if we declared he’d give $150,000 to charity.”

When Hussain agreed to the suggestion, Cronje immediately texted the bookmaker “the game is on”.

After the match, this bookmaker supposedly met Cronje and paid the South African captain R50,000 and gifted him a leather jacket — the price of the first fixed Test in the history of cricket.

Delighted by the unexpected win, Hussain had lavished Cronje with generous praise: “It was a very special thing that Hansie did and I hope he gets the credit he deserves. It certainly was a great finish to be a part of.”

His opinion understandably changed radically after the sad truth was made public. He wrote later:  “We can’t get away from that. It will always be remembered as a Test that was fixed.”


Third on the list is The Boxing. The first fight between these two heavyweights Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield took a surprising turn.

Holyfield was awarded the win after doing the unthinkable and dominating Tyson for eleven rounds.

This was after a couple of headbutts to Tyson, which made what followed even more controversial.

Meeting again in 1997, the bout had a bad-tempered start after Holyfield caught Tyson with a headbutt which resulted in a cut to Tyson’s eye.

Iron Mike’s reaction was to bite a chunk out of his opponent’s ear, earning a round 3 loss, a $3 million fine and a disqualification from boxing.

The bite avulsed a one-inch piece of cartilage from the top of the ear, and Tyson spat out the piece of ear onto the ring floor.

Tyson clinched Holyfield and bites him in the ear

As Holyfield shrieked in pain and jumped in circles, he managed to push Tyson away, at which point Lane called for a time-out.

Holyfield turned to walk to his corner, Tyson shoved him from behind. Mills Lane the centre referee sent Tyson to a neutral corner as an enraged Holyfield gestured for Lane to look at his bitten ear, which was bleeding profusely.

The fight was delayed for several minutes as Lane debated what to do. Lane’s original decision was to immediately disqualify Tyson.

After the ringside doctor determined that Holyfield was able to continue despite the massive bite, Lane announced he would be deducting two points from Tyson and the fight would continue.

During the bout Continuation, Tyson bit Holyfield again which just scarred Holyfield’s ear. Lane did not stop the fight this time, so the two men continued fighting until time expired.

The men walked back to their respective corners, and when the second bite was discovered, the fight was stopped.

The referee in charge, Mills Lane, disqualifies Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield in both ears, the winner by way of disqualification and still the WBA Champion of the world, Evander ‘the Real Deal’ Holyfield!” As a result, Holyfield remained the WBA Heavyweight champion.


Tyson was disqualified from the match and lost his boxing license, though it was later reinstated.

When interviewed about his championship and the incident with Tyson, Holyfield said he already forgave Tyson for biting him since he has 100% faith in God and Jesus.

When Tyson and Holyfield retired from boxing they befriended each other and are close friends today.


Fourth on the line is Tennis. Tennis history is full of spectacular moments, from marvellous wins to sublime rivalries and even controversial events.

However, this had been the greatest and some, contentious thus far, is the Monica Seles stabbing incident.

As of April 1993, Monica Seles was tearing up the tennis record book. Of the last eleven Grand Slam events she’d entered, the 19-year-old Seles had won eight.

Included in this run to the top were three wins in Slam finals versus the great Stefanie Graf—twice at Roland Garros (1990, 1992) and, most recently, a crackling three-setter in the 1993 Australian Open.

Unfortunately, one person took it far more seriously—in a deeply disturbed way. Gunter Parche was an unemployed German lathe operator.

Tremendously upset by Seles’ ascent, Parche wanted nothing more than to see Graf return to the top.

On Friday, April 30, 1993, Seles took the court at the Rothenbaum Tennis Club in Hamburg, Germany to play a quarterfinal match versus Magdalena Maleeva. After winning the first set, 6-4, Seles led 4-3 in the second. Given her well-earned reputation for finishing off her opponents, this might well have been the last changeover of the match.

Monica Seles taking a break for the changeover shortly before the incident

As Seles sat on the bench, Parche walked down the aisle, stopped briefly behind her and then, with both hands, raised a nine-inch knife. There came a loud cry from a spectator. Seles twisted to look, at which point Parche’s knife entered her back at an angle. Seles yelled, began to cry and was then lowered to the ground, tended to by tour officials. Parch was subdued by two guards.

Seles would suffer a half-inch wound between her spine and left shoulder blade that required surgery.

Had she not bent forward prior to the attack, there’s a strong chance Seles would have been paralyzed.

But once she’d been operated on, doctors believed Seles could return to tennis at the 1993 US Open.

The psychological wounds were much deeper. There were the memories of the attack itself and its aftershocks—anxiety and depression by day, troubled sleep by night.

There was the fate of Parche. Declaring that he had no desire to kill Seles, but only wanted to injure her just long enough to let Graf regain the No. 1 ranking, his penalty was a two-year suspended sentence: zero jail time.

The Graf-Seles connection was a far cry from the days when Evert and Navratilova would share a bagel while waiting to play one another in a Grand Slam final.

Seles would spend more than two years recovering. For the assailant, mission accomplished. Graf was back at No. 1 just five weeks after the stabbing. Of the ten Grand Slams Seles missed while absent, Graf won six. 

Not until August 1995 did Seles return to competitive tennis. The WTA opted to let her ranking remain at co-No. 1, alongside Graf.

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In Toronto, Seles’ first tournament back, she would win the title without dropping a set.

Next came the US Open, where Seles made a superb run to the final, losing a dramatic three-setter to Graf, 7-6 (6), 0-6, 6-3.

But as well as Seles could play, highlighted by raising her ninth—and ultimately last—major trophy at the 1996 Australian Open.

Seles was never quite the fearless player she’d been prior to the stabbing.

Though it’s never easy to determine how a single event might have affected future outcomes.

Surely tennis history would look much different had this tragedy not happened.


Fifth on the log is the 1972 Olympic men’s Basketball final. It was one of the most dramatic events in Olympic history.

Also, was the first ever loss for Team USA since the sport began Olympic play at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

USSR Celebrating winning of Basketball Olympic Men’s final 1972

The United States team had won the previous seven gold medals at the Olympics, and was among the contenders to win another in Munich at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union convincingly won their first eight games of the tournament. The US team put its overall Olympic record at 63–0 and advanced to the final against the USSR.

For as long as people talk about basketball, they will talk about the 1972 Olympic final, one of the most contentious and discussed sporting matches in history.

The United States came into the final having won 62 Olympic matches in a row, dating back to the 1936 Olympics. Indeed, they had never lost a game at the Olympics.

But the Soviet Union had a strong team. They scored first and led by the healthy margin of 26-21 at the half.

When it was clear that the match was going to be a lot closer than most American fans had hoped.

With a little more than six minutes to go, the lead had extended to eight points, but then the Americans started to exert strong pressure and saw the Soviets stumble.

With just six seconds left to play, the Soviets were ahead by just one point.

And that’s where things became contentious. America’s Doug Collins won two free throws and sank them both to put his team ahead by a point.

But while he was taking those shots, a time-out was called by the USSR. The game resumed with a second left, and when that went by, the United States players started celebrating.

But then the head of the governing body of basketball came on the court, and said the clock should be put back to three seconds because of a refereeing error.

That was done, and the USSR’s Sasha Belov promptly scored the single basket his team needed to win. Now they were celebrating while the Americans stood furious and bemused as the game ended.

USA Basketball Team of 1972 saddened by a perceived great injustice in Olympic final

An appeal was held, and refused by three votes to two, but the American team felt a sense of great injustice.

The players all decided to refuse their silver medals, none of which has ever been collected. Years later, the game remains one of basketball’s best known matches.

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