We have all wanted to do it from time to time – go on strike. But because most of us are well-adjusted human beings who aren’t wholly selfish cretins (such as, for example, the RMT), we don’t do it. Because going on strike has consequences. Usually. Here are some of our favourite examples.
Nguyen Minh Nhut
We’re surprised this hasn’t happened more often. Long An were playing Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam’s V-League in February 2017. After a third dodgy refereeing decision resulted in a penalty for Ho Chi Minh, the entire Long An team went on strike. With minutes to play, the whole visiting team stood in place while the home team slotted in a couple more goals to finish the game 5-2. Well, all except goalie Nguyen Minh Nhut, who turned his back at the last moment during the penalty, and then somersaulted over the ball when the next goal came in. It’s also a little harsh that Nhut bore the brunt of the sanctions, a two-year ban. Probably should have just stood still like the rest of the team, rather than appear to be having fun.
George Best was already halfway out the door at Manchester United toward the end of 1973. The team was not doing so well, and he had already lost interest, skipping training for a night in London’s clubs instead. The final straw came in January 1974, which saw United lose 3-0 to QPR. Best handled the defeat in classic Best style – a three-day bender that ended with him being charged with the theft of a lady’s fur coat. He remained on strike until November that year, until FIFA helped remove him from the now relegated United. As for Best, it was the start of a long, lingering descent.
It’s a tough position to be in: you want to leave your team, but your team feel like they need you, and won’t release you. What’s a guy to do? Whatever it is, the answer is not “threaten to score own goals”. That’s what William Gallas was accused of in 2006, though he denied such allegations. After the W. Cup, he refused to turn up to training and was eventually transferred to Arsenal in exchange for Ashley Cole. It did not seem to have hurt Gallas too badly, as he went on to be Arsenal captain and then played for Spurs.
Pierre Van Hoojidonk
In 1998, Pierre Van Hoojidonk and Kevin Campbell seemed unbeatable. Between them, they scored 57 goals to help Nottingham Forest back into the Premier League. But then Kevin Campbell was sold to Trabzonspor and a heart-broken Van Hoojidonk was not allowed a transfer. He went on strike, and stalemate ensued. With no-one to break the deadlock, he had no choice but to return to the team where he was made about as welcome as a rabid walrus with an uzi. This culminated in a celebration for one when he scored against Derby County in 1999 and his team-mates gave him the cold shoulder.
This one’s just sad. In a display of youthful petulance, Kieron Dyer decided that he didn’t want to play on the right side of the pitch. He made a few (very) reluctant appearances on the right in 2004, coming on a substitute but to say he was not putting his back into it would be an understatement. Twice, they ended up drawing a game that they should have won. But manager Bobby Robson would never criticise one of his players publicly. He claimed that Dyer had been suffering from a hamstring injury and apologising to Dyer for not protecting him from booing fans. Robson was sacked a couple of weeks later, leading Dyer to state that the biggest regret of his life was letting Bobby Robson down. Quite right, too.
In a rare move, this player’s strike ended up doing more good than harm. After signing for Newcastle in 1956, George Eastham played for four seasons before things went bad. He was unsatisfied with the club’s treatment of him, he refused to sign a new contract in 1958. Due to the rules at the time, the club were perfectly within their rights to refuse to transfer OR pay him. With no other options, Eastham went on strike and sold cork with a family friend in Guildford. Newcastle eventually sold him to Arsenal in 1960, but by now Eastham had the support of his fellow players and took Newcastle to court. The court ruled in his favour, leading to a shake-up of the rules and a fairer deal for players around the country. We’re only sorry that we were unable to crowbar an Eastham/West Ham gag into the story…
Wait, here’s one! Carlos Tevez had form for this sort of misbehaviour. When the Argentine forward was signed to West Ham, it was because he was refusing to play for his former team, Corinthians, and West Ham were fined £4.5 million for breaching rules in signing him. When he was signed to Manchester United, West Ham went to court to try to keep him but failed. And when he was signed to Manchester City, he refused to come on as a substitute against Bayern Munich.
You don’t think of Paul Scholes as a bit of a diva, which just goes to show that you can’t tell that sort of thing just by looking at someone. But he certainly had a bit of a hissy-fit in 2001 when things started not going his way. For a start, he was playing at no. 10 to accommodate Juan Sebastian Veron, and it was not going too well. Then he was on the bench against Liverpool, which can’t have helped his mood. The final straw came when he and just two other first-team players were selected to play against Arsenal in a cup tie. Well, Paul Scholes didn’t get where he is today by playing with a bunch of second-stringers, so he refused. Then said he was very sorry, and never did it again.
In 2015, Liverpool were desperate to keep their two-time young footballer of the year, Raheem Sterling, but Sterling was having none of it. He wanted to go to Manchester City, and there was no amount of money that Liverpool could offer him to make him stay. Contract negotiations went public, with fans turning on Sterling for what they saw as greed and betrayal. He asked to be left out of Liverpool’s pre-season tour to Asia and missed a couple of days training due to ‘sickness’. When he did eventually sign to Man City for £44 million, he had an awful first season and his signing was considered one of the worst of the year.
Andreas Heraf is the only coach on our list. The former Austrian international became the manager and also the technical director of the Football Ferns, New Zealand’s ladies women’s football team in 2017. It was a disaster from the start. After a game in which NZ lost to Japan, he stated that they would never be able to compete with other countries because the size of New Zealand was too small. Then it emerged that 13 players from his squad were refusing to play for him due to a culture of fear and bullying. It is alleged that players had to ask permission from him before leaving the dinner table. Yeah. Heraf was sent packing in July 2018, and is still blaming the entirety of New Zealand for his problems.