By Shane Thomas
Like the villains in the now tiresome Scream movie franchise, it seems that every time I've wrote something about one spineless coward footballer, another one comes into view. Step forward Kevin Muscat.
For those who haven't heard of him, Muscat is an Australian who plied his trade in Britain for ten seasons. While ostensibly appearing as a footballer, Muscat's 'trade' tended to be intimidating or attempting to severely injure opposition players.
He hit the news again in the past week after a sickening tackle on Adrian Zahra in an A-League match between the Melbourne Victory and the Melbourne Heart. The tackle itself has become a popular YouTube video and if you haven't seen the challenge, here's the link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwHzCtRa2SE
Not exactly pretty viewing, was it? However, what I found as shocking as the tackle - if not more so - was Muscat's bellicose reaction to the referee and other players of the Melbourne Heart after being correctly sent-off. But then this isn't a one-off as far as Muscat is concerned. Here's the charge list documenting many of the ugly incidents surrounding a man dubbed by Martin Grainger as "the most hated man in football"
- Muscat ends the career of Charlton's Matty Holmes in 1998 with a vicious tackle. Holmes had to have four operations, with initial fear that his leg would have to be amputated. Holmes ended up needing skin grafts to his ankle and successfully sued Muscat in court for £250,000.
- In the Christmas of the same year, Craig Bellamy needed ten stitches in a knee wound at Christmas 1998 following a Muscat tackle in the Norwich's 2-2 draw against Wolves. Then-Carrow Road boss Bruce Rioch was so enraged he had to be taken from the dug-out to the away dressing room by his own coaching staff after attempting to remonstrate with a linesman who didn’t even flag for a foul. Bellamy was ruled out for four months.
- In January 1999, Arsenal’s Dennis Bergkamp claimed Muscat had elbowed him in the face during an FA Cup tie. Eight months later, Crystal Palace’s Matthias Svensson claimed Muscat had kicked him in the head during a Division One clash.
- In 2001, then-France coach, Roger Lemerre dubbed a tackle from Muscat as "an act of brutality" after he scythed down striker Christophe Dugarry in a friendly between Australia and France.
- In October 2010, Aston Villa midfielder, Ashley Young recounted when he was threatened by Muscat during his first professional match as an 18 year old. "Kevin Muscat said he would break my legs if I went past him," said Young. This meeting occurred as they were warming up for an encounter between Watford and Millwall back in September 2003. However, Muscat never got a chance to break Young's legs as he was sent off before Young came on as substitute for Watford.
Well there you go. I actually left quite a view unsavoury incidences out as my intention here is to illustrate the kind of footballer Muscat is. Let me be clear. In no way am I trying to cast aspersions on the man away from the pitch. I've never met Kevin Muscat. But his conduct on the pitch over a number of years shows that he is a unreconstituted thug who has no business in the game.
So let me offer hearty congratulations to Football Federation Australia who took prompt and appropriate action. In a disciplinary measure that our own FA would do well to pay attention to, they suspended Muscat for eight matches, which has ruled him out for the rest of the A-League season. It turns out the punishment has an unintended symmetrical karma about it, as the unconscionable challenge of Zahra has also ended his season as well.
I can only hope other governing bodies in football follow suit. We cannot control the individual actions of those in the game, but the legislators can make sure that there is a clear delineation in what is acceptable and what is not - the way Sky Sports have dealt with Andy Gray and Richard Keys this week being a good case in point.
Muscat was rumoured to be retiring at the end of the Australian football season (he's still eligible to compete in the Asian Champions League on March 1st). So how apposite that this act of violence on Zahra may be the last time we ever see Muscat on a pitch again. The fact that Zahra is regarded as lucky that he only needed surgery on knee ligaments rather than a broken leg speaks volumes. And hopefully, so have I. Kevin Muscat, you are a spineless coward. Good riddance.
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