25 January 1995 saw one of the most iconic moments in football history: Manchester United striker Eric Cantona leaping over the advertising hoardings to kung-fu kick a fan who, it later transpired, had been abusing him.
And now, 22 years later, it’s happened again, with Patrice Evra - himself a former Manchester United player, and French international - kicking a member of the crowd. This time, though, it was before the game had even started. And, perhaps even more impressively, it was one of his own fans who got the boot.
The incident happened before Marseille’s Europa League match against Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes on Thursday night, with stunning images and video footage soon spreading across social media.
Evra was sent off by the referee; however, as he was one of seven substitutes, Marseille still played the game with eleven men - but they only had six on the bench to choose from. They lost the game 1-0, and managed to see red again later on, with Boubacar Kamara being dismissed.
Now, though, fans have begun coming forward to explain exactly what provoked the 36-year-old to launch his attack.
A fan known as ‘William’ told RMC Sport:
“We were in the group of Marseille fans after being welcomed by Guimaraes. When we warmed up, we started to [turn up the] heat on Patrice Evra because it’s been several games that he is not good.”
He then said that a stray shot in the warm up accidentally hit a supporter on the head, and then Evra proceeded to hurl insults at the fans after they began singing ‘vulgar’ chants.
“We warmed it up a bit,” he exlained. “I will not say the words because it’s a little vulgar but he responded. So obviously, we, the Marseille fans, we are a little hot. It does not excuse the behaviour of the supporter but it excuses even less the gesture of Patrice Evra to kick him in the head.”
French sports paper L’Equipe reports that supporters shouted: “Get out of Marseille, you’re bad” and “Go back to your videos”, with the latter comments referring to his viral Instagram videos.
French football journalist Julien Laurens said Evra was jeered and insulted for half an hour by a section of the 500-strong away fans and told: “Keep doing your videos, but stop playing football.”
He then went over to fans to talk to them but ‘the situation escalated’ - with reports suggesting he volleyed a ball toward the crowd (it’s unclear if this is the same incident as the ‘stray shot’ in the warm up).
Evra has been charged with violent conduct by UEFA, while Marseille have also been charged with a field invasion by fans, setting off of fireworks and ‘acts of damages’.
The club issued a statement which read:
“No matter what happens, a professional player must maintain self-control despite provocations and insults, no matter how unjustified they may be.”
His manager Rudi Garcia faced the media after the game and told BeIN Sports:
“Pat has experience and he must not react, it’s obvious. Patrice is a more than experienced player and we cannot respond to insults so low and so incredible because they come from one of our supporters.”
However, he also condemned the supporter who was attacked, saying: “He is not a supporter of OM, because you cannot insult your own players, you have to be behind everyone.”
Maybe true, but if every fan who’d slagged off a player was then kicked in the head by them then we’d all be in A&E right now.