As part of a series kicking off this season, we’ll be taking a look each week at the teams and leagues out of the spotlight of Europe’s elite. While the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 grab most of the headlines, we’ll be focusing on some of the other big leagues around the globe.
This week it’s the top flight in Portugal that’s piqued our interest, and a day to forget for Sporting Lisbon defender Sebastian Coates. The Uruguayan ex-Liverpool defender endured a nightmare outing as he conceded three penalties – all of which were scored – and was also sent off in Sporting’s 3-2 defeat to Rio Ave in the Primeira Liga on Saturday.
It got us thinking. Have there been many other players who’ve endured a worse day on the football pitch?
Here’s a look at 10 footballers who are either among the unluckiest players ever or are remembered mostly for all the wrong reasons.
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The 28-year-old centre-back – who scored two goals in 24 appearances for Liverpool between 2011-13 – was playing with fire from just the sixth minute when he was booked for bringing down Mehdi Taremi in the area.
Filipe Augusto scored the penalty to put visitors Rio Ave ahead. Coates probably thought he’d avoided the headline writers’ ire when goals from Bruno Fernandez and Luiz Phellype put Sporting ahead early in the second half.
But rather than breathing a sigh of relief, he will have felt the breath of journalists, as well as everyone else inside the Estadio Jose Alvalade, on his neck when he gave away a second penalty with just four minutes remaining.
In reality, Taremi fell over with minimal contact, but substitute Ronan Jeronimo converted to level the scores. Coates, named best young player as La Celeste won the 2011 Copa America, had no excuse though when he was then shown a second yellow in injury time when he fouled Taremi again, recklessly sliding in to concede a third penalty.
Augusto stepped up to score and Coates presumably got his coat and vacated the premises rapidly.
Bassong could go down as one of the most relegated players ever – having gone down six times during his career.
It’s an amazing feat for a defender who’s hit quite a lot of highs. Capped by France twice at U21 level, Bassong went on to make 15 appearances for Cameroon, including being part of the Indomitable Lions’ 2010 World Cup squad.
Bassong roared during one season at Newcastle, named the Magpies’ player of the season in 2008/2009, although the club went down – Bassong’s third relegation in four years after twice dropping down to Ligue 2 with Metz. He earned a move to Tottenham but suffered a fourth relegation while on loan at Wolves in 2011/12.
He joined Norwich that summer, picking up the club’s player of the season for 2012/2013 and going on to skipper the Canaries. But he was twice part of Norwich sides relegated from the Premier League – the last time in 2015/16.
And the record could yet be added to. The 33-year-old joined Greek side Volos this summer after being released by League 1 Peterborough. Volos gained promotion to the Greek Super League and despite winning both of their opening games, will be among the favourites to go down.
Anyone can make a mistake in a game, in fact they’re part and parcel of football. But rising young German shotstopper Baumann will wonder how different his promising career might have turned out were his performance for Freiburg in a match against Hamburg on October 27, 2013, erased from the record books.
Baumann, the Freiburg skipper at just 23, was on the rise and had won 10 Germany U21 caps. Senior national team coach Joachim Low was in attendance at the Schwarzwald-Stadion, reportedly to watch the keeper.
Whether he knew that or not, Baumann proceeded to have a meltdown as Freiburg lost the game 3-0 with the young keeper at fault for all three Hamburg goals.
He inexplicably raced out of his area twice either side of the break but misjudged two long balls terribly as first Maximilian Beister and then Pierre-Michel Lasogga were gifted simple tap-ins. Baumann then fumbled an innocuous Beister shot, allowing Hamburg skipper Rafael van der Vaart to pounce and make it 3-0 and secure the points.
Baumann, now 29, joined Hoffenheim at the end of the 2013/14 season and has strangely never gone on to represent Germany at senior level.
STAN VAN DEN BUYS
Stan was certainly not the man on January 22, 1995, when the Belgian famously, or rather infamously, scored a hat-trick. Three goals, sounds pretty good right? Except all three strikes were own goals as his Germinal Ekeren team were beaten 3-2 by Anderlecht in the latter’s 1994/95 Belgian Jupiler League title-winning campaign.
Van Den Buys, 37, first slid in only to deflect a shot past his own keeper midway through the first half to make it 1-1 after Gunther Hofmans had given Ekeren the lead.
Early in the second period he then attempted to head Marc Degryse’s free-kick clear of goal, only to glance it past a stranded Philippe Vande Walle. His third was the most comical as he collided with Vande Walle, nodding over his own man and into the net. Although replays seemingly show Anderlecht midfielder Johan Walem diving in to head the ball over the line, the goal was credited to Van Den Buys.
What a way to crown your 100th Premier League appearance, by scoring two goals in a game against Chelsea. The horror for Walters, however, was that instead of scoring a brace to earn a 2-2 draw at home to giants Chelsea, the Ireland international headed two own goals in a 4-0 bashing by the Blues.
He was hardly in poor company, becoming the fourth player to score two own goals in a single Premier League game. Gary Breen while playing for Coventry against Manchester United in 1997, Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher against United in 1999 and Michael Proctor while playing for Sunderland against Charlton in 2003 the other three.
But a truly miserable day was bookended for Walters when he was presented with a crumb of redemption at the death as Stoke were awarded a penalty. Walters stepped up confidently, but smashed his spot kick against the crossbar.
The former Argentina striker was nicknamed Loco (‘Crazy’) and that word succinctly sums up both a prolific and mad-cap career. Palermo, now 45, enjoyed two goal-laden stints with Boca Juniors – he is the club’s all-time top scorer with 236 goals.
His first spell from 1997 to 2001 attracted La Liga scouts and Palermo signed for Villarreal, which is where things unravelled. After scoring a goal in extra-time during a Copa del Rey encounter against Levante in November 2001, Palermo broke his tibia and fibula when a small concrete wall collapsed on him as he celebrated with fans. It ruled him out of the following year’s World Cup.
A favourite of Diego Maradona during his brief spell in charge of La Albiceleste, Palermo became the nation’s oldest scorer at a World Cup when he netted a rebound from a Lionel Messi shot to seal a 2-0 group stage win against Greece in 2010 – it was his first World Cup appearance at 36-years-of-age.
Maradona had brought Palermo back in from the cold after a decade-long exile. It was with his country 10 years earlier that Palermo had entered infamy, as well as the Guinness Book of World Records.
He missed three penalties against Colombia at the 1999 Copa America, smashing one off the crossbar, blazing another over while the third was saved by Miguel Calero.
Maradona’s faith in the veteran was repaid as he scored six goals in eight games following his recall, making for a very impressive nine goals in 15 total caps. Crazy.
Signing for Real Madrid is a dream for any footballer, right? Well not for perennially injured Englishman Woodgate who never recovered from his Los Blancos debut.
Woodgate’s £13.4 million move to Real from Newcastle in the summer of 2004 was a huge shock, not least because he had not played a competitive game since suffering a torn thigh muscle playing for the Magpies against Chelsea in April 2004. It was an injury that caused him to miss that summer’s European Championships, while it was to be another 17 months before he actually took to the field in Madrid white.
It was a desperate act to throw him in against Athletic Bilbao, four games into the La Liga season. But Real coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo was desperate, changing both of his centre-halves after back-to-back defeats.
Woodgate proceeded to score a spectacular diving header… own goal. To compound matters he was then sent off just after the hour mark after being shown a second yellow for a foul on Bilbao striker Joseba Etxeberria.
A bit strange to have a player with five league titles in two different countries as well as three DFB-Pokal and two FA Cup winners’ medals to his name in this list, you might say.
But, as much success as the decorated Ballack enjoyed during his glittering career, he suffered just as much heartache too. Having won the Bundesliga title with Kaiserslautern in 1997/98 Ballack went on to lift three more with Bayern Munich before adding the Premier League crown while with Chelsea. He won two FA Cups in west London and the German equivalent three times.
And yet the prolific goalscoring midfielder’s trophy cabinet is just as full with runners-up medals. He was a Bundesliga runner-up with Bayer Leverkusen, a Champions League runner-up with both Leverkusen and Chelsea, twice finished second with Chelsea in the league and lost a League Cup final.
Meanwhile, with Germany, he scored the winning goal against South Korea in the 2002 World Cup semi-final but then received a booking that ruled him out of the final, which Germany lost to Brazil.
He was also part of the team that finished third on home soil four years later, while Die Mannschaft also lost the Euro 2008 final against Spain.
It remains one of the biggest frauds in sporting history; Dia duping Southampton manager Graeme Souness into believing he was the cousin of FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winner, George Weah.
Souness signed Dia to a one-month contract in November 1996 after receiving a phone call from someone purporting to be Weah, telling him Dia was his cousin, had played for Paris Saint-Germain and had represented Senegal 13 times.
Souness was convinced but it quickly became apparent it was all a con. In his one-game Premier League career, Dia’s performance against Leeds was so bad that he was substituted off 52 minutes after he had entered the fray.
Dia replaced Saints legend Matt Le Tissier in the first half, but was himself taken off following a shambolic display in which he wandered around aimlessly, gave the ball away constantly and missed one good chance in a 2-0 defeat. Le Tissier later said: “He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch.”
Dia was let go the following week and, surprise, surprise, was found to be no relation to Weah.
As a Liverpool player the one game you want to stand out in is against arch rivals Man United. Carragher certainly achieved that status – but for all the wrong reasons during his fledgling Reds career.
Carragher ended his Anfield career iconically, as both a Champions League winner and with the club’s second most appearances (737) behind Ian Callaghan. But he also loved an own goal – scoring eight of them in his playing days. And two came against United in a league game in September 1999. Carragher was just 21 and contributed to a 3-2 win for 10-man United.
Carragher put through his own net twice in the first half as Liverpool were beaten in front of their own supporters. Hardened by the experience, however, he would go on to win two FA Cups as well as be part of that famous 2005 night in Istanbul.