Eric Cantona's kung-fu kick: 20 years on from football's most outrageous moment

Cantona's kick led to a football ban and a seagull quote

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The Independent Sport

If it had happened today, with the pervasiveness of Facebook, Twitter, Vine and smartphones, Eric Cantona could have broken the internet.

After the Manchester United man was sent off against Crystal Palace in 1995, the Frenchman took offence to the taunts of one fan in the crowd and launched a flying kick at the spectator. There followed a scuffle with the fan, Matthew Simmons, with Paul Ince getting involved, while United's kit man, Norman Davies, and Peter Schmeichel led Cantona away from the scene and down the tunnel.

Commentator Clive Tyldesley, watching the event unfold, said, "This is outrageous. It's all got wildly out of hand and once more, Eric Cantona is the man at the centre of a dramatic controversy."

It is now nearly twenty years since that moment. It led to Cantona being banned for nine months from football and ordered to do 120 hours community service. It was described by Des Lynam as "some of the most extraordinary scenes witnessed at a football ground in this country". This was long before the biting of Luis Suarez.

Following his appearance at Croydon Crown Court, Cantona famously told the media: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

While many would see the incident as a dark day for both football and Cantona's storied career, in 2011 he said it was a high point.

Asked on BBC's Football Focus what the highlight of his career was, he said: "When I did the kung fu kick on the hooligan, because these kind of people don't have to be at the game.

"I think maybe it's like a dream for some, you know sometimes to kick these kind of people.

"So I did it for them. So they are happy. It's a kind of freedom for them."

Talking to the Manchester Evening News on the anniversary of the event, former defender Gary Pallister, who was playing that day at Selhurst Park, said Sir Alex Ferguson did not give Cantona his famous "hairdryer treatment" after the incident.

He said, "He had never had the hairdryer. Virtually everyone else had, but not Eric. We wondered if finally this was it. We expected Fergie to go berserk. But he didn’t. Hardly anything was said immediately after in the dressing room. We couldn’t believe it!"