Man United’s Eric Cantona Kung-Fu Kicks a Fan: This Week in Football History


Fifteen years ago today, Manchester United took on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in a fixture that received worldwide attention.

Well into the match Manchester United forward Eric Cantona and Eagles defender Richard Shaw got into a scuffle. Cantona was surging on for a possible counterattack but was stymied when Shaw held onto his jersey. In retaliation, Cantona blatantly kicked the defender and the referee had no choice but to give Cantona his marching orders.

After much protest from the rest of the Red Devils, Cantona went on his way; but before he could reach the tunnel, Matthew Simmons, a Crystal Palace supporter had his undivided attention.

According to Cantona, Simmons was spewing racial remarks and threw a projectile at the Frenchman. The short tempered Cantona sprinted towards the fan and launched a kung-fu kick of Bruce Lee like proportions and bombarded him with haymaking rights.

Security and teammates separated the two and after much bewilderment, the match went on with Manchester United shorthanded.

The Aftermath
After the much covered event, it was discovered that Simmons had been arrested previously for aggravated assault and robbery where he attacked a gas station employee with a wrench. The fan had also attended several National Front rallies (a white member’s only radical fascist group).

Simmons was fined £500 and sentenced to one week in jail for threatening and abusive behavior, had his season tickets for Selhurst Park revoked, and was banned from all football grounds in England and Wales for one year.

As for Cantona, his punishment for the unruly behavior was much more drastic.

The forward was originally sentenced to two weeks in jail for assault, but in an appeals court on March 31st, had his sentence reduced to 120 hours of community service.

Furthermore, the club fined and suspended Cantona for the remaining four months of the season (and as a result lost their League title race to Blackburn Rovers), but the FA increased the exile to eight months. FIFA also enacted a suspension with the same duration to prevent Cantona from seeking playtime anywhere else.

In addition, Cantona was stripped of his captaincy from the French National Team.

The only group to have directly benefited and profited from the incident was British rock group Ash who released their single “Kung-Fu,” with Cantona kicking Simmons on the cover.

Years Later
In recent or past interviews well after the Selhurst Park incident, Cantona remains unremorseful of the event. In 2007 he reflected on his career and in an interview he said, “I have a lot of good moments, but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”

However, Cantona finds one thing regrettable in regards to the hullabaloo. In a 2008 interview with the Croydon Guardian, he stated, “… I should have punched him harder.”

Regardless what a fan says or does, a player must be a professional at all times and never attack a spectator. Granted, they can be inappropriate at times but they are no means to launch an attack.

Cantona did not exhibit professional conduct in the matter and was thus punished accordingly. Never touch a fan in retaliation. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

15 thoughts on “Man United’s Eric Cantona Kung-Fu Kicks a Fan: This Week in Football History”

  1. “never touch a fan in retaliation” ? Tell that to poor Scott Laird as he laid on the pitch after being punched by a “fan” two weeks ago.

    1. brn442, was that the FA cup game against Newc? I saw that happen and had it on my dvr to show people. I was in disbelief when I saw what I thought I saw. Sad that the players cannot celebrate without the fear of assault when fans enter the pitch. If Laird had seen the assault coming instead of the cowardly way which it was done, I would fully support his ability to protect himself however necessary.

      1. Indeed, I didn’t condone Cantona’s actions that night but when “fans” decide to get physical with players – they shouldn’t play victim when it all goes wrong.

  2. I agree Cantona should’ve never left the pitch to assault a fan, however there are mitigating circumstances here as well that add to the clarity of what happened.

    I also argue that the fan in question who, if verbally and physically assaulted Cantona as was alleged, should be punished to the fullest extent of law as well. The ability to go to pay and go watch a match is a privilege, not a right. Violating civil law is no different whether on the pitch or in a seat.

  3. Being someone in the stands does not grant you immunity to acting like a douchebag. He got what he deserved.

    If you can’t take the heat of hurling racially charged threats to an athlete, get out of the kitchen… 😉

  4. Is this right? I was always under the impression that Cantona was little more than a bit-part figure for France, and certainly not their captain. I might be wrong.

  5. His reaction and suspension led to Palace fan being attacked and killed at the FA Cup semi final leaving a wife without a husband and kids without a dad, NOW tell me he can’t do any wrong? RIP Paul Nixon

  6. I completely disagree. If players have to be professional. I think the same thing should be required of fans. Fans believe they can do anything and not get retaliation as if they are somehow kings. I believe if you throw something at a player or utter vile verbal abuse directed towards one player, you should not cry when the player retaliates.

  7. WOW, 15 years ago? how time flys! I remember this like it was last year. What do you think would of happened tho ‘The King” if he did that in this generation???? Banned from the game completely?

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