Soccer Tunnel Encounters

The tunnel can be a tumultuous place, whether it’s before kickoff, at half time, or at the end of a match. For the players, it may feel like the last place that they can act recklessly and without the scrutiny of the public eye – but cameras have brought some of the encounters that take place there out in the open.

Celtic vs. Rangers

Celtic and Rangers – known together as the “Old Firm” – are Scotland’s two most successful teams, so it’s no wonder that they have a particularly fierce rivalry – and this often continues off the pitch. Another factor adding to the rivalry between the teams is that Rangers supporters are historically native and Ulster Scots, while Celtic supporters are historically Irish-Scots. Here some of the tension between the teams is clear as the players head into the tunnel 0-0 at half time.

Gerrard vs. Mancini

Unfortunately we only have the audio for this strange altercation, but from the sound alone we can tell that during the half-time interview, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was interrupted by a rather irritated-sounding Steven Gerrard. Gerrard accuses Mancini of trying to get a Liverpool player sent off, to which Mancini responds with a quip that is, if anything, an indecipherable Italian slur. The closest English approximation would be Mancini accusing Liverpool of tasting like Frosties.

Ronaldo vs. Pogatetz

While Cristiano Ronaldo may have the reputation of being a deft-footed goal-scoring machine, the Austrian Emanuel Pogatetz has the nickname of “Mad Dog” in his home country. The way he pulls Ronaldo down by his neck in the corner kick we see above makes it clear how he came by this moniker. The tension continued when the two players headed into the tunnel at half time. Maybe Ronaldo should have left well enough alone, as Mad Dog looks really, really mad.

Keane vs. Vieira

The story behind this famous tunnel scuffle stretches back all the way to Arsenal’s unbeaten season in 2003-2004. The team known lovingly as “The Invincibles” consisted of stars like Toure, Lehmann, Henry, Bergkamp and the man in question, Patrick Vieira. They played 49 games without losing, until their winning streak was ended by Manchester United.

Following this game, there was a famous meeting of teams in the tunnel that came to be known as “PizzaGate”, or as the “Battle of the Buffet”. While players and managers were exchanging heavy words, a slice of pizza flew through the air and landed square in Alex Ferguson’s face. Evidence has since revealed that the offending slice was thrown by the then newly signed, 17-year-old Cesc Fabregas.

Unfortunately we don’t have a video of PizzaGate, but the following meeting of the two teams showed that they both still had their backs up, as tempers rose between Vieira and Keane in the tunnel on the way onto the pitch.

Manchester United vs. Blackburn

It was the brave work of Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to keep the television cameras out of the tunnel during the halftime fracas that broke out during this 2006 Carling Cup match. The game ended 2-1 to United, but what happened at halftime can only be left to guesswork. The video suggests that Ferdinand deliberately barged into Savage while running to the tunnel. The two were then closely followed by the rest of the players, as well as the linesmen and match officials. Perhaps they caught wind that Ferdinand and Savage were hotfooting it for the last of the half-time orange slices.

Gerrard vs. Chelsea kid

Kudos go to this kid for having the guts to pull this old trick on the legendary Steven Gerrard. If you look closely, not only does he pull his hand away just in time, but he winks cheekily right before Gerrard gives him a light slap or two on the back of the head. Kudos also goes to Gerrard for taking it like a good sport. We can only guess who put the little guy up to it.