Eric Cantona Kung-Fu kicking Crystal Palace fan vividly lives in the memory even after 29 years

Rival fans mocking players in football matches has always been a common sight, and in some cases, it adds spice to the game. However, in others, it crosses the line that should not be crossed in the footballing world. A recent example is the racist mocking in Italy and England.

When thinking about all these controversies, one person who vividly comes to mind for many is the former Manchester United player and current singer-actor, Eric Cantona, who was banned after getting involved in such an incident back in the days when authorities weren’t as protective of players as they are now.

Infamous Eric Cantona Kung-Fu kick shocked the world 29 years ago

Exactly 29 years ago, on this very day, 25th January 1995, the whole stadium of Selhurst Park witnessed a 28-year old 6’2” young man flying-kicking a rival fan from the crowd. The scenes were astonishing as anything like that had never happened before in the sport’s history.

The Manchester United legend, always known for his gutsy and aggressive character, was given his marching orders in that match after a scuffle with Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw. While on his way to the dugout after being frustrated by the decision of the referee, the French forward heard a fan racially abusing him from the crowd.

Being so hot-headed as he was, the player didn’t think of any consequences when he jumped over the advertising hoardings and launched a free-style kung-fu kick on the fan’s face. Fortunately for the fan, the player wasn’t able to land the kick with as much as power as he wanted to otherwise, it would have been really a tragic situation.

Later, it was reported that the fan’s season ticket was revoked by the club and Cartona was given a 9 month’s suspension along with two-week jail sentence, later reduced to 120 days community work, by FA, which kept him out of the rest of the 1994/95 season. Surprisingly though, reported by some of the sources, Sir Alex Ferguson let Cartona of the hook but went on to rant the rest of the team in the dressing room after that game, which they drew 1-1.

Ferguson said, “And Eric. You can’t go around doing things like that son.”

In fact, recently, in the 2021 released sports documentary narrated and co-written by Cantona himself, he stated that his only regret is that he wasn’t able to land a powerful kick at the fan at that time. He also confirmed the reports that Sir Alex Ferguson’s words to him were well chosen and that he wasn’t scolded after the draw against Crystal Palace that night.

“I have been insulted thousands of times and have never reacted, but sometimes you are fragile. I have one regret, I would have loved to have kicked him even harder. I was banned for nine months. They wanted me to be an example. The manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] found the right words like always. And I loved him and respected him. Like a father.”

Eric Cantona’s Manchester United career

Eric Cantona, who was named alongside Pele in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players in the year 2004, was born in Marseille, France in 1966. In such a short career of 14 years, he played for some French sides like Auxerre, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Montpellier and Nim till he was 25. In the year 1991, the French forward made a move into Premier League signing for Leeds United for €1.50 million.

In his very first season in the Premier League, he played nearly 34 matches for the club, providing 14 goals and 5 assists. These were really good numbers, considering the below-average Leeds side that season. Impressed by his performance, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to sign him for his club in the very next year, and that was the day when the story of the French legend truly took flight.

After signing for the Red Devils for around €1.80 million, the then France National team captain played 185 matches under the management of the reputed Alex Ferguson, who was also involved in the career of CR7 later on. In those matches, he was able to provide 82 goals and 62 assists.

He was mostly deployed as an attacking midfielder or a second striker in the system under the manager and was only tasked with creating chances for the outright No. 9 in the team. Even though the whole Manchester United team, which has looked a shadow of themselves recently, was threatening during those seasons, winning five consecutive Premier League titles in five seasons with them was still not a small deal.

His performance obviously helped the team a lot. In fact, the whole Manchester United squad and the fan base were shocked and disheartened when he hung up his boots at the end of the 1996/97 season, so early in his career. In his book and documentary “Fever Pitch: The rise of the Premier League,” the French genius has explained about the reason of his retirement when he was at the very peak of his game.

He said that he was most afraid of the emptiness than anything and he tried to light the fire in him but he wasn’t able to do so anymore, so he retired. “I am afraid about one thing – the emptiness. I hate emptiness. When I lost the passion, lost the fire in me, I just retired. I tried to light it again but I knew it was the end.”

Eric Cantona’s short career marked by his performances both on-field and off-field have a really vital place in the history of the football heritage and the incident 29 years ago this day could be one of the reasons why the clubs and the Leagues are putting in more effort to protect the players from racial and sexual abuse from the toxic fans.

It would have been interesting to see how high the ceiling was for the French forward if he would have continued to play even after 30s. Do you think that if his career wasn’t so short, then could he be in the list of the world’s greatest football players ever? Let us know your comments below.


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