Gasps as a rebel is sent to prison
Steve Boggan on the moment when the mask slipped
Friday 24 March 1995
There were gasps around the court masking a signal shout of "yes" from a lone Crystal Palace fan in the public gallery. The rash kung-fu kick had brought Cantona to the shabby Court No 1 at Croydon Magistrates was irresponsible, crass and shocking. Cantona himself said in a statement read out in court that he "deeply regretted" what he had done. But no one thought it would come to this.
The sentence read out by Jean Pearch, the chairman of the bench, had been interpreted paragraph by paragraph for Cantona and concluded: "You are a high-profile public figure with undoubted gifts and as such you are looked up to by many young people. For this reason, the only sentence that is appropriate for this offence is two weeks' imprisonment."
No translation was necessary for the last words. Cantona rocked on his heels, looking plaintively towards his counsel, David Poole, QC, and his fellow Manchester United player Paul Ince. For a fraction of a second it appeared that the volatile Frenchman might say something, do something, but he was simply led away by a portly prison officer. He looked dazed; his fans in the public gallery were speechless, several bursting into uncontrolled floods of tears. "It's disgraceful," said Jillian Priest, 39, an office worker who had taken the day off. "They're using him as a scapegoat. He's a genius. We should be able to watch him on the pitch not in the court room."
It had begun promisingly for the 28-year-old. He strode into court surrounded by hundreds of Manchester United fans. Wearing a pale blue jacket without lapels, a grey T-shirt and black jeans, he appeared unflappable.
In a statement Cantona had told the court: "I accept it was wrong. I am deeply upset and angry about the consequences." The consequences yesterday involved three hours in the cells, giving Cantona the opportunity to sample a prison meal of minestrone soup, roast lamb or sausage and onions with roast potatoes, cabbage and chips.
Within three hours, however, a judge had granted bail on a £500 surety pending an appeal against sentence on 31 March. Cantona was free, striding through a posse of photographers, escorted by harassed policemen to his nearby hotel, ignoring pleas for comment, the mask of indifference firmly back in place.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal transfer news: Gunners make new enquiry for £35m rated William Carvalho
Manchester United transfer news: More arrivals expected, indicates Ed Woodward
WWE Battleground 2014 results: John Cena and The Miz are the big winners on a night to forget in Tampa, Florida
Liverpool transfer news: Loic Remy, Dejan Lovren and Divock Origi all on verge of Anfield switch
Manchester City transfer news: Completed summer deals
- 1 Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
- 2 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 3 Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
- 4 Laurie Penny: Feminist author subjected to 'vile sexist and anti-Semitic abuse' over her book
- 5 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Obama - 'We’re going to make sure that truth gets out'
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...
£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Business Analyst r...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently looking for a PERMANENT S...