The stadiums at this year’s World Cup in Brazil will be full of beer-swilling buffoons shouting obscenities and picking fights. That’s just time-honored tradition. Unfortunately, there will also be plenty of racists, thugs, rapists and biters—but they’ll actually be the ones out on the field, proudly representing their home countries.
FIFA, the international crime syndicate masquerading as football’s organizing body, has joined money-grubbing local officials in taking the most heat in advance of the 2014 tournament. But make no mistake: The first-class assholes won’t be just in the luxury boxes. Many of the athletes on the rosters this year have received match bans and fines for their poor behavior but somehow managed to escape more serious punishment. When you’re a football star committing crimes in a footballing country, you’re assured a loving welcome back to your national team. So what would a team comprised solely of the World Cup’s baddest apples look like? We fielded an all-star roster of the 11 most offensive players on the pitch in 2014.
Luis Suárez, Uruguay
Luis Suárez could lead Uruguay to a World Cup win this year. He could take Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League for the first time in two decades. He could cure cancer. But he’s always going to be remembered for trying to bite a chunk out of a Chelsea defender’s arm. The defining moment came last April, and it wasn’t even the first time the mercurial striker had used his teeth on the pitch, it was just the most visible. As much as Suárez would like the world to forget his Mike Tyson moment, he must at least be happy that it has overshadowed the eight-match ban he got in 2011 for racial abuse on Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. Gotta look on the bright side.
Karim Benzema, France
Having sex with a 16-year-old is legal in France. Having sex with a prostitute is legal in France. Having sex with a 16-year-old prostitute is not legal in France. Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema found this out the hard way after a 2008 romp with Algerian prostitute Zahia Dehar. Along with injured teammate Franck Ribery, who allegedly paid Dehar for sex in 2009, Benzema was officially charged with soliciting a minor last summer. The charges were dropped earlier this year. Not because Benzema was believed innocent, though he did deny the charges, but because Dehar, who has become the Kim Kardashian of France, didn’t really care about prosecuting him anymore.
Antonio Cassano, Italy
When a journalist asks an athlete a question like “What would you think about gays on your team?” it’s an all or nothing proposition. Either the athlete gives a non-answer that no one will care about, or he says what Antonio Cassano said in 2012: “Queers in the national team? That’s their business. But I hope not.” The striker apologized a day later.
Miiko Albornoz, Chile
Born in Sweden but playing for Chile (his father is Chilean), MiikoAlbornoz is bringing some serious baggage to the World Cup. Just last year, when he was 22, the fullback was charged with statutory rape after having sex with a 14-year-old. Though the official punishment was lax—he was given a suspended sentence—Swedish soccer fans didn’t let him off so easily. While attending a match last August in which his brother was playing, Albornoz needed a police escort out of the stadium after fans began taunting him with songs about being a “pedofile” and threatening to kill him after the match.
Johnny Herrera, Chile
What happens when a beloved Chilean goalkeeper kills an innocent 22-year-old student while drunkenly careening through the streets? In the case of Johnny Herrera, he’s let off with a slap on the wrist. Nearly two years after committing what we call vehicular homicide, Herrera was forced to pay the dead girl’s family $50,000 and donate sporting goods to at-risk schools. Then he did it again. Not the manslaughter, but the reckless drunk driving. For a second time, Herrera avoided jail, despite receiving a 41-day sentence. A Chilean court said he could check in each month rather than staying behind bars so he could play in the World Cup.
Sergio Busquets, Spain
The rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain’s La Liga might be the most intense in all of soccer. Just ask Madrid fullback Marcelo, who was the target of racist taunting by Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets in 2011. And it was all captured on film! Here’s the Spaniard Busquets calling the Brazilian Marcelo a mono, or monkey. As racially charged as that kind of thing would be in America, it’s worse in Europe where racist fans routinely taunt black players with bananas and gorilla chants. Busquets’ punishment? Nada, as he would say. The Brazilian fans might not be so lenient.
Igor Denisov, Russia
The Russian midfielder has a history of hissy fits, including an attempted attack on a coach and public pouting about not being included on Russia’s roster for Euro 2008. But he lands on this team of turds thanks to his reaction to his club’s signing of two high-priced players who lacked that prized Aryan quality. Zenit St. Petersburg brought in Hulk and Axel Witsel, its first non-white players, two summers ago for 80 million Euros. An organized faction of the team’s fans lashed out, calling for all non-whites and gays to be excluded from the team. Around the same time, Denisov protested the player’s wages, which were the highest on the team. “Why would foreigners earn three times more than the best players in the team?” he asked, channeling the nationalist spirit that would make Putin proud. While the public complaints were about money, the subtext was clear: The white players deserve more than the brown players.
Frank Lampard, England
How much leeway do we give an upstanding 35-year-old for something stupid he did over a decade ago? Not much if it’s Chelsea legend Frank Lampard. The British midfielder earned his spot on this team for one stupid night in 2001. The date was Sept. 12, and Chelsea’s game was just called off as a sign of respect for the victims of 9/11. Lampard wouldn’t be as kind. After a five-hour booze binge with a handful of teammates, Lampard and crew retreated back to their hotel near London’s Heathrow airport. Also at the hotel: a bunch of Americans whose flights were grounded in the aftermath of the attacks. Lampard, along with miserable human John Terry, who only missed this team because he retired from international competitions, proceeded to run though the hotel with their dicks hanging out of their pants, vomiting everywhere and laughing at crying Americans as they watched firemen dig through rubble on TV. As the manager of the hotel put it, “We had a lot of Americans here and were simply trying to comfort them in their hour of need. Meanwhile, these men were laughing and joking, taking off their clothes and abusing our guests.”
Mario Balotelli, Italy
How appropriate that the phrase “prima donna” is Italian, because Italy’s striker Mario Balotelli is its human embodiment. The 23-year-old has spent his eight years in professional soccer annoying everyone whose path he crossed, from the coach whose curfew he broke to the opponent whose head he stomped on. Some of his shenanigans can be chalked up to youthful stupidity, like lighting his house on fire by shooting fireworks from the bathroom window. But he lands on the all-asshole team for something downright dickish, and possibly criminal. In early 2011 Balotelli was caught throwing darts at players on Manchester City’s youth team from a first floor window at the clubs headquarters. Why’d he do it? Because, as he said afterward, he was “bored.”
Mamadou Sakho, France
These days, Europe takes anti-Semitism pretty seriously. They’ve got history with it over there. That’s why soccer players performing a gesture called the “quenelle” is looked upon so harshly. Mamadou Sakho is certainly not the only French player to perform the gesture, popularized by an anti-Semite comedian and seen as a kind of reverse Nazi salute, but he’s the most prominent. Sakho, naturally, denied all knowledge of the quenelle’s meaning, even though he was photographed doing it with the man who invented it. Is Sakho a vile anti-Semite? Maybe not. But hanging out with one might lead people to think otherwise.
Roman Weidenfeller, Germany
Europe is used to roving bands of violent nationalists sprinkled among its fan bases, but the racism usually stays off the pitch. Not so in a 2007 match that saw Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller call Ghanaian striker Gerald Asamoah a “black pig.” UEFA banned the keeper three matches and fined him 10,000 euros. It chose not to dock his team points, because in its view, Weidenfeller was provoked by a painful collision with Asamoah.
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