Five memorable moments where fans and athletes went toe-to-toe

Richie McCaw grabs a Springboks fans who attacked a referee.
Richie McCaw grabs a Springboks fans who attacked a referee. Photo credit: Photosport

We are only five days into the New Year and already we have seen two big incidents when sports stars have been confronted by spectators.

The first, on Wednesday (NZ time), was when a West Ham fan heckled West Brom's Jake Livermore about the death of his baby son, while in Scotland a fan threw fake eyeballs towards a visually-impaired player.

Both of those incidents are not good under any circumstance and luckily nobody was seriously injured as a result, but over the last 25 years we have seen plenty of incidents which did get out of hand.

When football becomes kung-fu fighting

The Frenchman kicks a Crystal Palace fan.
The Frenchman kicks a Crystal Palace fan. Photo credit: Youtube

In 1995, Manchester United star Eric Cantona was ejected during a match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park and as expected, Palace fans were delighted.

As Cantona walked towards the dressing room he unleashed a remarkable kung-fu kick at Palace fan Matthew Simmons.

Cantona also got in a few punches before security split the pair up and as a result, the Frenchman was suspended for the remained of the EPL season and fined £ 50,000 (NZ$ 94,716) for the incident.

The event has inspired other footballers to attempt the kung-fu kick, most notably former Manchester United fullback Patrice Evera when he kicked a fan before Marseille's match against Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes.

The Malice at the Palace

The 'Malice at the Palace' is described as the most infamous brawl in NBA history, which took place in 2004.

The Detroit Pistons were hosting the Indiana Pacers, and things turned ugly when Indiana star Ron Artest jumped into the stands after a fan threw a drink at the small forward while he as lying on the scores table. 

It sparked a massive brawl between players and fans that stretched onto the court, and saw nine players suspended while five were charged with assault. Five fans also faced criminal charges and were banned from attending Pistons home games for life. 

When Springboks attack

During a Tri-Nations match in 2002 match between the All Blacks and South Africa in Durban, Springbok fan Piet Van Zyl ran onto the field and attacked referee Dave McHugh.

While both teams were setting for a scrum, Van Zyl came flying out of nowhere and wrestled the Irish ref to the ground. First onto the scene was Richie McCaw, who grabbed van Zyl along with Springbok AJ Venter, and dragged him out of the massive brawl.

McHugh was left with a dislocated shoulder and had to be taken from the field on a medi-cab while van Zyl was banned by the South African Rugby Union from attending any matches and fined 3000 rand (NZ$340), and charged with assault to do grievous bodily harm and trespassing.

Symonds knocks streaker for six 

Andrew Symonds turned from all-rounder to security guard.
Andrew Symonds turned from all-rounder to security guard. Photo credit: Getty Images

Andrew Symonds turned from all-rounder to security guard as he decked a streaker during an ODI against India in Brisbane in 2008.

Symonds was at the crease when the streaker made his way onto the field, and while he avoided all the security at the Gabba, he was no match or Symonds' deadly shoulder as he fell straight to the turf. 

The nude runner was fined $1,500 ($NZ1649) but escaped conviction after pleading guilty to wilful exposure.

One player, two fights

In one of the more bizarre incidents back in 2001, Toronto Maple Leaves enforcer Tie Domi was sent to the penalty box for fighting Luke Richardson.

When he was in the penalty box, Flyers fan Chris Falcone was taunting the Maple Leafs aggressor and Domi reacted and sprayed the spectator with a bottle of water. Falcone was clearly not happy and leaned on the penalty box glass, which gave way seconds later and he fell right onto the lap of Domi, who then unleashed on the fans.

Domi was restrained by officials and fined $1,000 (NZ$1397) by the NHL for the incident, while the fan was ejected from the arena, received a police citation and was fined $150 (NZ$209).

But in a nice turn of event, both Dome and Falcone have both since become great friends.