Who are the craziest soccer players in the history of the beautiful game? Any cursory research exercise reveals there have been way too many madmen on the pitch to tally.
So, in an effort to pack your screen with as much insanity as possible, we’re going to segment this rundown by region, starting with South America.
A few parameters: We’ll mostly limit this to on-field antics, unless the totality of a player’s off-field antics is too magnificently ridiculous to ignore (Hello, Diego Maradona). And we’ll preference long-term nuttiness over a single moment of losing one’s head, such as Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt at the 2006 World Cup.
With that said, here are the five craziest South American soccer stars.
Columbia’s jheri curl-mulleted Rene Higuita is best know for this ridiculous “scorpion kick” save against England in 1995. Let’s be absolutely clear: There was no earthly reason for him to save the ball this way. He could have caught it, or at the very least, punched it. The save was totally, maddeningly unnecessary.
His nickname: El Loco (The Madman). Higuita was known for his love of vacating the goal and dribbling into the opposition, which is, of course, always reckless and utterly insane. For a taste of this distinct variety of net-minding madness, check out the video above.
You’ll also be happy to hear Higuita was a bit off-kilter off the pitch: He underwent televised plastic surgery after being voted Columbia’s ugliest icon. “I am tired of being ugly Rene, I want to be handsome Rene,” he said at the time.
Oh, and he was imprisoned for taking part in a Pablo Escobar-orchestrated kidnapping, delivering ransom money to free a captive.
Football’s most famous handballer, you could write a book on the madness of Diego Maradona. Arguably the greatest soccer player in the history of the game, Maradona was (and is) also one of the craziest. The guy was a cocaine addict for half of his vaunted playing career!
Maradona reportedly tried to shoot members of Argentinian media. He also ran over the foot of a journalist and then yelled at the man for not moving out of Maradona’s vehicles way. He was suspended for 15 months in 1991 for cocaine use and had to leave the World Cup in 1994 after testing positive for ephedrine. As coach of Argentina’s national team, he told the entire country to “suck it” and engaged in a war of words with soccer’s other all-time great, Pele.
And none of this is to say Maradona wasn’t a loose cannon on the pitch, as the video at the beginning of this section shows.
Soccer players are supposed to be hungry, just not as hungry as Luis Suarez. The Uruguay international bit opponents…three times. That’s right, three times.
Playing for Ajax in Holland in 2010, Suarez first chomped a member of the other time. Then again, in 2013, Suarez brought his incisors to the Premier League pitch, biting Branislav Ivanovic. He was slapped with a 10-match ban after none other than Prime Minister David Cameron called for a hard-line treatment
And again, in 2014, Suarez sunk his teeth into the opposition, biting Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup.
Perhaps the craziest thing about the Suarez nibbles is, like Zidane’s headbutt, he’s not generally a combustible personality on the pitch.
He was, however, found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011 by the FA. He then refused to shake Evra’s hand during their next matchup, earning him an additional fine. So, basically, he’s a racist jerk who likes to bite people.