Guns, Drones And UFOs: The Craziest Reasons Football Matches Have Been Postponed
Over the years, soccer matches have been temporarily suspended for a variety of bizarre reasons, whether it be canine pitch invasions, tennis ball protests or a pig head on the pitch, but it takes a heck of a lot for an event to end a match.
Usually these cases are as innocuous as inclement weather or an unplayable pitch, but sometimes the reason behind the postponement can be quite unusual.
Here are the wildest reasons soccer matches have been cancelled over the years — both before the opening whistle or during the game.
Craziest Reasons Soccer Matches Have Been Postponed
Brazil vs. Argentina: COVID-19 Concerns
Over the past year or so, plenty of matches have been cancelled because of positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff, but health officials stopping play mid-match has to be a first.
According to Brazilian health officials, four of Argentina's English Premier League players — Spurs' Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero and Aston Villa's Emiliano Martínez and Emiliano Buendía — broke Brazil's COVID rules by not quarantining for two weeks after arriving from England.
Antonio Barra Torres, president of Brazil's health agency, ANVISA, said that the four Argentine players would be fined and deported for not following Brazil's COVID-19 rules.
"Anvisa and local health authorities determined the players should quarantine,” ANVISA said. “However, even after the meeting and the report to authorities, the players took part of Saturday evening's training session. The decision to interrupt the match was never within ANVISA's reach. However, fielding players who did not comply with Brazilian laws and health norms, and also offered false information to authorities did require the agency to act, at its time and its way."
The match was cancelled, to be rescheduled at a later date that is yet to be determined.
Manchester United vs. Liverpool: Field Invasion Protest
Manchester United fans have been fed up with the Glazer family for a while now, but never more so than after the announcement of the European Super League — which United was at the forefront of.
While the Super League had already been called off before the Red Devils' match against Liverpool on May 2nd, the fixture against the Reds was United's first home match since that announcement, and the Manchester fanbase was ready to let its voice be heard.
Protesters who were demonstrating outside Old Trafford broke into the stadium and entered the pitch a few hours before kickoff. Carrying anti-Glazer regalia and flares, the boisterous group let their feelings be known about the negative direction in which the club was heading.
The match was rescheduled for May 13th and ended 4-2 in favor of Liverpool — a small price to pay for the strong message sent by United supporters.
PAOK vs. AEK Athens: Gun-Wielding Club President
Not to be confused with the referee that drew a gun at a men's league game in Oklahoma a few weeks ago, this harrowing incident occurred in a stadium filled with people. It started when PAOK's Fernando Varela seemingly scored the winning goal in the final minute, only for referee Giorgos Kominis to disallow the goal for offside.
The victory would have moved PAOK above AEK and into first place in the Greek Super League. Instead, cue PAOK president Ivan Savvidis storming the field, surrounded by four bodyguards, with his hand holding a holstered gun on his hip. Savvidis threatened to kill AEK players and the referee before fleeing the field of play.
Kominis suspended the match, and while Savvidis — a billionaire closely linked to Russian president Vladimir Putin — was not arrested on any criminal charges, he was banned from entering stadiums in Greece for three years (although that didn't stop him from attending PAOK matches abroad).
AEK was awarded a 3-0 forfeit victory and won the league by a six-point margin over PAOK.
Serbia vs. Albania: Drone-Induced Chaos
The Euro 2016 qualifying campaign is one that will always stay with me not only for the classic moments on the pitch (Shane Long's goal against Germany gives me goosebumps) but also for some of the crazy incidents that occurred throughout the 13 months.
Croatia was sanctioned for having a swastika chemically bleached into the pitch before its match against Italy (the perpetrators were never found, but the Croatian Football Federation was held liable for not properly inspecting the pitch beforehand).
This happened less than a month after Russia's fixture against Montenegro was abandoned due to crowd violence and scuffling between players (somehow the match was allowed to continue for 67 minutes after Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev was hit in the head by a Montenegrin flair in the first minute, which sent him to the hospital).
Either one of these episodes would have been enough to define an entire qualifying campaign, that is, if not for the antics that occurred in Belgrade on Matchday 3. There has long been tension between Albania and Serbia over the region of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is ethnically Albanian.
While away fans were barred from Serbia's Partizan Stadium, disorder still found its way into the ground in the 42th minute, when a drone appeared above the pitch holding a flag containing the outline of Greater Albania. Greater Albania is a conceptual region that extends the Albanian border to all ethnically Albanian areas, including Kosovo, plus parts of Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro.
The flag was then grabbed by Serbian defender Stefan Mitrović before being taken away by Albanian striker Bekim Balaj, which set up a violent series of events. The Albanians were accosted by Serbian players and supporters, causing them to flee the pitch while being pelted by an array of projectiles.
The match was abandoned and declared a 3-0 victory for Serbia since Albanian players refused to return to the pitch. Yet Serbia was also deducted three points for its role in the incident and forced to play its next two home matches behind closed doors.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport later changed the result to give Albania the 3-0 forfeit victory while also upholding Serbia's point deduction — which proved to be enough to earn Albania automatic qualification to Euro 2016.
Torquay United vs. Portsmouth: Solar Eclipse
Torquay United's first round match against Portsmouth in the 1999/2000 Worthington Cup (English League Cup) seemed about as routine as you could get on paper — the classic fourth-tier underdog with a home tie against higher ranked opposition that provided a great opportunity for some early season momentum.
Everything was normal until the town remembered that there was going to be a total solar eclipse on the same day. While modern floodlights make this a non-issue in terms of on-pitch visibility, the local police force decided that it would be unable to handle a soccer match on top of the expected traffic of the eclipse, causing the match to be pushed back six days.
A slim sector of southern England was the only area in the UK where the eclipse would be visible, and the seaside town of Torquay — nicknamed the English Riviera — was deemed the most picturesque destination for viewing the solar event.
"A total eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event, it hasn’t happened since 1927," according to a local police chief, and the region was overwhelmed by the number of visitors (close to one million). But in the end, most of the region was covered by clouds, and Torquay lost 3-0 to Portsmouth in a first round replay.
Fiorentina vs. Pistoiese: Unidentified Flying Objects
Seven years after the Roswell Incident of 1947, the concept of alien-carrying UFOs was becoming increasingly prevalent among the public conscious both in America and abroad. From the late 1940's, into the 50's, and all the way through the 70's, major UFO sightings occurred across the United States and on almost every continent — causing sky gazers to wonder what was out there in the great beyond.
UFO sightings in Italy, while less extensive than in the U.S., date back to 218 BCE, when Roman historian Titus Livius recalls, "phantom ships had been seen gleaming in the sky."
None of this was on the mind of the 10,000 fans that entered the Stadio Artemi Franchi on October 27, 1954 to watch Fiorentina face Pistoiese in a reserve match. But just after the start of the second half, the typical chatter and singing of the crowd fell silent. Then after a few moments came a great clamor — much like that of a promising attacking move — except that the focus wasn't on the pitch, it was on the sky.
As the players stood still on the field, all 10,000 people in attendance looked up to see the most amazing sight: flying objects in the sky that seemed to almost hover in place.
"I remember clearly seeing this incredible sight," Fiorentina supporter Gigi Boni said. "They were moving very fast and then they just stopped. It all lasted a couple of minutes. I would like to describe them as being like Cuban cigars. They just reminded me of Cuban cigars, in the way they looked."
Those present at the Stadio Artemi Franchi were in disbelief, but they were still very sure about what they saw: "I remember everything from A to Z," Fiorentina defender Ardico Magnini said. "It was something that looked like an egg that was moving slowly, slowly, slowly. Everyone was looking up and also there was some glitter coming down from the sky, silver glitter. We were astonished we had never seen anything like it before. We were absolutely shocked."
According to the referee's official match report, the match was suspended due to spectators seeing something in the sky. There were also other UFO sightings that occurred in towns throughout Tuscany that day — further corroborating the spectators' stories.
"I was so curious and I was also so, so happy," Pistoiese player Romolo Tuci would later say. "In those years everybody was talking about aliens, everybody was talking UFOs and we had the experience, we saw them, we saw them directly, for real."
Though accounts from onlookers may differ: some say there was one object, others saw multiple; some saw more spherical shapes, while others characterized the phenomena as more oblong; they can all agree that something was up there that day, watching a local derby between two reserve sides.