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Talking kung fu with King Eric

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Dan Walker | 22:11 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

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Cantona reflects on his infamous kung fu kick on a fan in 1995

On Football Focus this weekend, you might be aware that we have an exclusive interview with Eric Cantona, a man never short of opinions.

As well as talking about his new role with the New York Cosmos, the mercurial Frenchman speaks openly about the moment that, for many, will be the defining moment of his career.

The kung fu kick he aimed at a Crystal Palace fan during a Premier League match in 1995 was rightly condemned and landed Cantona with a £20,000 fine and a lengthy ban.

When he first mentioned it as the "highlight" of his career, I thought he was joking because there was a smile on his face, but as he continued he said that he did it for "the people".

On the rare occasions that he has spoken over the years, Cantona has always said that he isn't, and doesn't want to be, a role model. He'd even go as far as blaming the media for making him into a hero.

But what is certain, is that when Cantona talks, people listen and however he presents his opinions they are sure to make headlines.

In a week when player behaviour is under scrutiny once again, it's interesting to hear Cantona's unique perspective on those events at Selhurst Park 16 years on.

The extended 10-minute interview can be seen in Football Focus on Saturday from 1215 on BBC One, and whatever you think of the man himself, it's well worth a watch.


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  • Comment number 1.

    "I did it for the people", "People have stress from their Jobs.. It's like a freedom"..

    "No, no, no. It was a mistake"

    Contradicts himself somewhat. Sorry Dan, I've always enjoyed watching him play football and score goals, I've never enjoyed listening to his words.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm a Liverpool fan so its hard to say it...this guy was fantastic.

  • Comment number 3.

    A true genius, on and off the pitch.

  • Comment number 4.

    Again in your blog you qualify the intro with "whatever you think of the man himself".

    You don't do this with other interviewees. What's the matter? Are you frightened of getting some flack over interviewing Cantona?

    As a footballer he was absolutely brilliant.

    As a human being he is even more interesting. Especially when compared with today's overpaid, self indulgent, self absorbed footballers.

    He's intelligent, articulate, artistic and an absolute one-off.

    I was at Selhurst Park at the time of the kung-fu kick and like most I was shocked at the time. Looking back, that incident turned out to be a defining moment in Eric's career and my life. He struck a blow for decency and individuality against the vicious, vile screams of the mob.

    Long live the King.

  • Comment number 5.

    The guy is a genius some people might say different but seeing him play for Leeds United no one comesclose in my lifetime anyway! The interview it's self was great because as he says he likes to joke about the past and that isn't what is focus is, his focus is the future! LEGEND

  • Comment number 6.

    What I loved about Eric was that he was uncompromising as one could be. He had principles, and above that he was not afraid to articulate them. The Cosmos could do far worse in the appointment of Cantona, and good luck to them, him, and woe betide any fan that says nasty things!

  • Comment number 7.

    We have so much to thank you for Eric, you showed the youngsters the way...maybe you retired too early but hey, I can't complain about what you helped us acheive, long live the king...

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the reason the blog is prefixed with the words "whatever you think of the man himself" is because he was a violent individual who was responsible for a number of violent incidents on the football pitch. The Crystal Palace incident is always highlighted, but there were several others of stamping on opponents and he got away with it because the media were daftly transfixed by him - as still, sadly, appears to be the case. In addition, it is also worth remembering that whilst he was brilliant in the Premiership, he never shone either in Europe for Man Utd, or for the French team. His very good record is tainted by his failure to control his temper and his failure to shine on the very biggest stage. Having said all that, his quote about the trawlers was genuinely inspired, and the fact that the media didn't or wouldn't understand it was astonishing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Can't condone it - it was wrong. BUT, why is it people think it's ok to go to a game and hurl abuse at players. People insulting players' families, and doing so right in front of their own children. I have never heard anybody be racist (although I'm sure it happens) because nobody around them would tolerate it. So why do people tolerate homophobia, why do people tolerate other froms of xenophobia, why do people tolerate these unhappy, dregs of society who seem to think it's fine to threaten, abuse and insult. It's not up to the likes of Eric, it's not up to the refereee, it's not up to the FA and it's not up to UEFA/FIFA. It is up to the fans themselves to stamp it out. Because the game is slowly spirally into disrepute (see Celtic v Rangers). The players have a duty to show the same discipline ont he pitch too.

    Abusive fans - chuck them out.
    Abusive players - yellow card for first offence, then a second for even one more word.

    Take the game back, I'm bored of the glamorisation of being aggressive.

  • Comment number 10.

    What makes me laugh are fans (at games) that comment on other teams players nationality when their team have players of the same nationality - madness

  • Comment number 11.

    When I switched on the TV that night and saw the kung fu kick I was really taken aback......for about a minute. And then I thought about it and I thought it was a fantastic thing that he did. I've never changed my opinion on that.

    If someone wants to verbally abuse another person it's their choice. But if you choose to do it you should expect a reaction - and Cantona reacted. Tough on the fan in my opinion. Good for Eric - and koudos to him for never backing down over it.

    Allee Cantona!

  • Comment number 12.

    4. At 07:41am on 4th Mar 2011, bobbynoble wrote:

    As a footballer he was absolutely brilliant.

    As a human being he is even more interesting. Especially when compared with today's overpaid, self indulgent, self absorbed footballers.

    I agree with the first bit. But he was paid plenty, was and still is as self absorbed, self indulgent and petulant as any footballer playing today.

    In many ways he was worse. At least Rooney, Cole, Barton et al try to keep their shenanigans private. Catona actually goes out of his way to inflict his acting and poetry on us.

  • Comment number 13.

    I live in France and Eric Cantona regularly appears in TV productions, and also in adverts of course. As well as having been an outstanding footballer he is also a very talented actor in a range of roles. In ordinary life also he usually has something extraordinary to say.

  • Comment number 14.

    Eric is Eric , you never know what he is going to do or say and that sums him up. Man Utd got the greatest kiss of life that fatefull day that Leeds let him go lol.
    Long live the king whose name will be sang forever more at OT.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm genuinely surprised by the number of comments here saying 'Cantona was right to do what he did at Selhurst Park'.

    Under no circumstances can it be right for someone to physically attack another person - particularly not with a flying kick while wearing football boots! Seriously - I can't believe people are condoning that!

    That said, I fully agree with JCB211 (point nine). The provocation and abuse suffered by footballers is shameful. Passion in football is what makes it so brilliant, but if you can't control your passion to stop it turning to hatred you shouldn't be at a game.

    Cantona was right to act in standing up to such unacceptable abuse but the manner in which he did so was completely wrong.

    As a footballer - incredible. As a role model? Completely flawed.

  • Comment number 16.

    Always love listening to Cantona, a great player like no other and I really enjoyed his performance in Looking for Eric too. Hope to see him back in England soon.

    Stringer Bell

  • Comment number 17.

    first of all i'd just like to say thank you to eric for all the great memories (including the kung fu kick)

    @ luigi - how can you possibly say that it is never appropriate for someone to react with violence. i know this is a football blog and i dont want to go too off topic but i'm sure even you would have a violent reaction if there right thing was said or the right strings were pulled. i know i certainly would. you say that he was right to stand up to the thug who hurled abuse at him but the way he handled it was wrong. Do you honestly beleive that brushing it off or dealing with it in a different way would have had any impact on the idiot abusing him? I certainly don't - i think he would laughed in his face. Instead due to the way Eric reacted he got his comeuppance and in the end people actually sypathised with Eric.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    9. At 08:42am on 4th Mar 2011, jcb211 wrote:

    "The game is slowly spiralling into disrepute"

    The game and fans are far better now that a few decade's ago - try not to be too dramatic. Yes, there is a way to go, but we'll get there and we are going in the right direction.

    As for Cantona, what a hero. I had a mug with Cantona on it that wasn't dishwasher safe. My dad, a Liverpool fan, stuck the mug in the dishwasher, and suddenly the mug wasn't a Cantona mug anymore. To this day I've not forgiven him.

  • Comment number 20.

    red_devil86: I'd completely understand a violent action if it meant protecting oneself or others from physical abuse, but verbal? No.

    Again though, no one should be allowed to give verbal abuse from the terraces.

  • Comment number 21.

    As a player he had few equals on the domestic scene. In Europe and internationals he was always too easy for cynical players to wind up and was too busy scowling to perform. As a man he entertains. It always amuses me to see his mixture of self-absorbed pretentiousness and self-effacing wit. His cameo appearances are always tinged with humour and if someone collated his one-liners and quotes it would tittilate (when caught playing away: "I love my wife... and other men's wives also").

    I couldn't actually condone assaulting the abusive fan - I have sons and I try to bring them up not to act like that. Like probably half the working classes in Britain I must admit that as an immature young man I'd probably have hit someone abusing my mum on the spur of the moment. The difference with Cantona is that the immaturity lasted an extra decade because of the fawning yes men who surrounded him (which is why he respected SAF all the more - someone who wouldn't fawn).

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Saw Dan previewing this on the BBC breakfast show this morning (about 8:40am if anyone wants a look at the iplayer)

    What shocked me was that Dan seemed to tower over all the other presenters on the sofa like some report from Liliput.

    So Dan, was it the camera angle, are you a giant among men or are the normal breakfast presenters vertically challenged?

  • Comment number 24.

    Never even got offered a part in the movie 'Shaolin Soccer' - that shows how poor his Kung Fu skills really are. And Eric is a silly, silly name.

  • Comment number 25.

    Not being a United or Palace fan I was curious as to who Paul Nixon was mentioned in a previous comment. After researching the story I am truelly shocked. How can BBC not pass comment or censure on a sportsman who cites an incident, that lead to the death of a supporter, as career highlight. Why is this not front page news? Do everyday peoples lives not count when worshipping at the feet of celebrity! Very poor Mr Walker!

  • Comment number 26.

    Shame on the BBC for giving this violent thug more airtime.

  • Comment number 27.

    I was born in 1984, and as a neutral observer (an Orient fan) to the top tier, I have to say Cantona was the greatest player I have ever seen. More than that though he was a footballer that had something interesting to say. In a generation of characterless professionals this is something to be applauded, no matter what ones opinions on that character happens to be.

    As for the comment on not performing in europe, after the ban onEnglish clubs in Europe, it arguably took a few seasons for any English club to perform to their best in the Champions league, and is hardly a fair criticism of Cantona.

    Josiah Bartlett

  • Comment number 28.

    What a legend! The man who dragged United to the level its at today. Take a bow son, take a bow

  • Comment number 29.

    I know all you Man Utd supporters think he's a hero but really he's nothing more than a thug.
    Someone died as a result of this guy's stupidity.
    What the guy supposedly said to him is disgraceful, granted but it doesn't excuse him kung-fu kicking someone with football boots on.
    I suppose at Old Trafford, the opposing team get a warm applause from the home fans do they?
    You're just a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    Interesting character and a catalyst for Man Utd's domestic success. However in Europe he was disappointing for both Leeds and Man Utd so when I see him placed so highly in polls of Man Utd's greatest player, I wonder whether they are voting for the personality or the player.

  • Comment number 32.

    What Cantona did is wrong there is no excuse for violence like that.

    However, there is not a football ground in the country where you do not hear week in, week out abusive language, homophobic chanting etc. Seriously this thuggish element in our game needs to be removed on and off the pitch.

    Please can nobody call this passion. It is not passion, it is morons hiding behind a mob mentality. The worse thing in football is that so often thuggish behaviour (By fans and players) is defended as passion.

  • Comment number 33.

    suffolk_east, what death would you be referring to? no one i've ever heard talk about cantona agrees with what he did, and you're clearly not listening to what he's said, as evidently he doesn't totally, he's just offering what goes through his head about it. what is sport, and football especially, without personalities taking part, who are willing to share themselves with the fans a bit, and understand what it means to them. football is nothing without its heroes and villains, the game will always have a place for characters as unique as this.

  • Comment number 34.

    If the guy doesn't want to be remembered as a legend, hero, icon or role-model, why does he remain in the public eye? Surely he is fully aware of the media storm he creates every time he opens his mouth, just as his actions on the pitch used to do the same all those years ago? Such an outspoken, opinionated (and egotistical) man surely still has enough self-awareness to know that the reason that people do hang on to his every word is that he already is an icon. Whatever he may say he certainly relishes publicity and his celebrity status, and if he didn't then he would surely keep a much lower profile rather than periodically giving narcissisitic interviews, spouting controversial garbage (or what groupies term 'philosophy'), or making films about himself. He talks about he doesn't dwell on the past, or cherish memories of his footballing days, but in another 15 years will we still remember him for his mind-blowing football talent and Gallic swagger, or for his ill-fated dive into superstardom and philanthropy? I think we all know the answer to that.

  • Comment number 35.

    The 'fan' involved wasn't a palace fan, he supported Fulham.

  • Comment number 36.

    yes we do, the first part of your comment summary, not the latter. he will always be remembered as controversial character, and whatever becomes of his 'dive into superstardom' no one will forget why he entered the limelight in the first place.

  • Comment number 37.

    I love 'exclusive' interviews! Its like no one has ever interviewed Eric before. While he is a touch enigmatic like Marlon Brando, he is hardly exclusive. I met him in Paris in a cafe and had an exclusive chat with him in 2008. That was exclusive. It was only me and him talking and I'm keeping what he said exclusive.

  • Comment number 38.

    romeormandalay, The fan that died was a Palace fan. Another one was critically injured as result of stab wounds.
    Ring any bells now?? Check the following link.
    The Semi-Final replay should've been postponed following this but, as Palace are not a "big club", our fans don't count.
    Shame on the BBC for giving this thug airtime.
    This guy should've been thrown out of British football as he was French football.
    Even the French had the good sense to ban him.

  • Comment number 39.

    Top Ten most red carded players in Premier League history.

    1) Richard Dunne: 8
    2) Duncan Ferguson: 8
    3) Patrick Vieira: 8
    4) Vinnie Jones: 7
    5) Roy Keane: 7
    6) Alan Smith: 7
    7) Andrew Cole: 6
    8) Nicky Butt: 6
    9) Eric Cantona: 6
    10) Boa Morte: 6

    Can anyone see a particular team in common here?

  • Comment number 40.

    An average footballer, who is considered as such abroad with his name being linked to failures in Europe and internationally, would be highly rated and even be hailed as "king" or "legend" by some only when playing in an average league like the English and for an average club like Manchester United.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    The arrival of players such as Cantona sparked a re-ignition of the English game post Heysel ban. The quality of football in that period had significantly dropped. This was evident that yes, Arsenal and Manchester United provided cup winners cup success in very much a "Cup Knockout" competition. But the English teams were so far behind in terms of quality at the new concept of Champions League Football.

    It was only in 1997 that an English teams got to grips with the competition. I recall Arsenal in 1998/1999 also struggling immensely.

    The standard of players at top clubs was quite poor, and the Arrival of Cantona, Ginola and others brought the league back into life.

  • Comment number 43.

    Eric Cantona.
    Sent off.
    "Kung Fooed" a spectator.
    Obviously missed the "fan" or would have been prosecuted.
    THIS is the stuff of heroes??????
    How pathetic!
    Lets get back to the Irish cricket team, the only thing "kicked" was the rear end of the Poms!

  • Comment number 44.

    Given that he was sent off in that match for a violent assault from behind on the Palace defender Richard Shaw (yes i was there that night as a neutral) is something that people who applaud him forget. stamping on a swindon player and other assaults show a disregard for other players. He was however a catalyst for making the young united team believe in themselves but compared with the contribution of peter schmeichel to their success i feel he was overrated. at the very top for france and also united in europe he could not quite do it. a genius against the average but against the best no. compared with best, law, charlton not in their class!! they did it at the very top.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think that the best thing about Cantona is that he left the sport on his own terms, when you see footballers hanging on to football careers and trying to drain every penny out of the sport as they haven't got anything else, Cantona just upped sticks and went when arguably he was in the prime years.

    There are a fair few cases of players across the years just leaving the sport Mark Ella in rugby union a great example, as there wasn't much left for them to conquer and I rate these as most likely the cream of sports people, if you have done it all in a sport what else is there left to do apart from drain the money, or the other is just not loving the sport you play.

    Cantona will always be "my" greatest player for United and although you can't compare his abilities to greats like Charlton, Best, Edwards, Giggs, Scholes, Law, Robson, et al, the one thing you can look at is his record and the fact that out of 5 seasons he was at Manchester United he was with the Premier League title 4 times and the other he was mostly suspended. At the age of 26 I can't talk about what happened with previous legends of the club but the feeling that Cantona gave was breathtaking.

    The other thing you have to note about him is that football has vastly changed, to say he stamped and kicked loads of players may be a fact, this shouldn't degrade his style or his ability, look at videos of when Best, Charlton and Edwards played, the sport was violent in todays terms and most players wouldn't last 30mins on a pitch.

    The other reason people like to interview Cantona is that he actually has a personality which appears to have been stopped in most Premier League players, he offers his opinion and not just some bland answers that most PL players are told to say.

    To link Cantona to the death of Paul Nixon is a tad unfair, although there are tedious links, there will always be gang mentality which hides in football, you only have to look at Glasgow derby to see that there are thugs that feel that because it can be passed off as passion and pride in their shirt, they can do what they want to anyone who doesn't follow the same team.

  • Comment number 46.

    Cantona is probably the most interesting footballer you are likely to come across. A genuis on the pitch and quite eccentric off it.

    No doubt he made some bad judgement calls when playing, such as the Kung Fu kick and the stamp on John Moncur of Swindon, but I would not call him a thug. He is one of the most passionate players and sometimes he let his emotions get the better of him, whether it be anger or frustration. Yes it is wrong, but its something we all do from time to time. It would be wrong to judge him solely on those mistakes.

    He had a brilliant arrogance but was still down to earth, one of the people.

    Legend, Long Live The King!!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    Cantona the man, was a hero to many fans as he was different breed of footballer, unique in many ways. Celebrity footballers nowadays would do well to take a note of how a man should be away from the field.

  • Comment number 48.

    I am ashamed to admit i didn't realise a fan had lost his life in an incident which had a link to Cantona's actions. It is a tragedy, whatever the circumstance, that any fan should lose their life attending a football match.

    There is no doubt Cantona had something "special" as a footballer, but like so many other sports stars who seem to be above others in terms of their sporting ability, this seems to lead to serious shortfalls in their behaviour both on and off the pitch.

    You can't condone his actions, no matter what the provocation. The verbal abuse that caused it can't be condoned either.

    #9 - couldn't agree more with your comments. Unfortunately this isn't just a problem in football, it's rife throughout society.

    No reason not to start taking a stand in football though - i agree with your proposal on the carding of players. You see Premiership stars clearly using foul and abusive language towards referees on a weekly basis and we wonder why it is then replicated throughout the country by young kids playing the game.

    The scenes from the Celtic vs Rangers game were a disgrace.

    It has to stop.

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't get it. Some of you say people should abuse players in the stands, that's not passion and it should be stopped.

    But when Cantona kicks and stamps players that's passion? Stop contradicting your-selfs.

    The guys IS a thug and always will be. It's a disgrace that the BBC has chosen to interview him about this event. RIP Paul Nixon.

  • Comment number 50.

    suffolk_east, i was never disputing the tragic death of a football fan. my point is that there are plenty of united fans and palace fans with opinions about the incident, but the vast majority have not involved themselves in violence leading to a death. most manage to separate what goes on on the pitch from their level of reaction when they meet in the street. if you're heading down that lie of thinking they you could blame football violence on any contentious issue on the pitch, or even refereeing decisions as the cause of hooliganism.

  • Comment number 51.

    Was Alex Ferguson lucky or a genius, did certain things happen to him during his reign that were like an angel on his shoulder...Mark Robins at Forest in the FACup...Sheringhams last minute equaliser in 1999 Champions League Final...we could go on and on but Cantona for £1m must be the transfer bargain of the 20th Century. Many players came over from Europe in the 1990's to light up the Premiership, a lot had reputations and didn't live up to them but it was the likes of Klinsmann, Ginola, Gullit, Zola, Bergkamp that made our league the best in Europe...Cantona was the catalyst, his aura stood out for everyone to see and he knew it, collar turned up, hands on hips beckoning the crowd like a gladiator...for me it him who started the Man Utd revolution not Ferguson. Someone once said you'll never win anything with kids, but with King Eric on the park he was their Pied Piper and they probably learned more in a season than they would have done in 5yrs if he hadn't have graced Old Trafford. 4 Premierships in 5 yrs and the only missed out cause he was banned is testament in itself, plus the League title at Leeds in 1992. He was arrogant but he was all flair and love him or hate him HE WAS THE BEST player in Europe in the 1990's by a country mile !!!

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

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  • Comment number 54.

    What is interesting about Cantona is that he is held in far higher regard in England for his ability as a footballer compared to how he is regarded off these shores (especially in France)

    You would be hard pressed to find a football fan in France who would even think to compare him with great French forwards such as Platini, Fontaine, Henry, Trezeguet, Papin etc.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    How disgraceful of the BBC to glorify this man for an incident that preceded the death of an innocent Palace fan at the FA Cup semi-final that year.

    Cantona's behaviour both ON and off the pitch that night mirrored the kind of behaviour that can be seen outside many city centre pubs on a Friday night.

    To call it a ‘career highlight’ merely shows he has never given a thought or care to the consequences of his actions.

    I have nothing but pity for those who consider the man a hero.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    I understand those who say that violence should never be condoned, but I disagree. If it helps stop 1/10th of the hatred and abuse hurled from the stands then surely it is worth someone getting kicked once? In fact kick me if helps highlight the problem. (Address available on request)

  • Comment number 59.

    I am flabbergasted that so many didn't know that the incident led to the death of a fan but it is apparent that Dan Walker probably didn't either, which for a journalist is shameful. If the interview is shown tomorrow I only hope that afterwards he puts it all into persepective by mentioning the tragedy, because at the moment the incident appears to be being trivialised somewhat. I will watch with interest (through gritted teeth, gripping the couch in anger no doubt). Do the right think Dan and treat the incident with the gravity it deserves. Please.

  • Comment number 60.

    Afternoon all. I thought this might spark some debate.

    Thanks for all your comments so far.

    I totally understand the fact that some Crystal Palace fans out there have a big problem with Eric Cantona, what he did in 1995 and what happened at the semi final later that year.

    To say that we shouldn't put out the interview because of that is not the correct repsonse in my opinion. The kung fu answers are one small part of the interview which is 10 minutes long and touches on a variety of subjects.

    There were a couple of comments about the 'exclusive' thing. You are correct. It is a little OTT and Cantona has done other interviews of course. I'm not sure there are any genuine exclusives anymore.

    I said "whatever you think of the man" because, as you can see, people have very different opinions about the bloke. For some he's a genius for others the ultimate villain. Whether you love him or have no time for him people want to know what he has to say and that makes for a good interview.

    I hope you enjoy the show tomorrow. It's not going to be a 'let's sing the praises of Cantona' programme but it will give you a chance to listen to one of the big names in football who rarely speaks so openly on such a variety of topics.

    See you soon.

    Mike Phelan

  • Comment number 61.

    The death of the Palace fan was terrible but some responsibility has to lie with the fan who started it all and ran down the stand to hurl the abuse at Eric. He was a disgrace and whilst not condoning the kick he got what he deserved! Eric was punished and that should have been that. Violence at games will always try and blame an event but each of us should take responsibility for our actions. There was bad blood due to Eric's kick but for anyone to think that fighting/stabbing is appropriate is ludicrous. Eric was not reponsible for the events at the semi final and to say so is misguided!

  • Comment number 62.

    An average player compared to many others that have played for Manchester Utd and who played in the Premier League at that time, his confused mumblings have always highlighted the size of his ego (larger than his talent IMO).

    And as posted above by others, I wish people wouldn't romanticize an incident that heavily contributed to the violent death of a fan.

  • Comment number 63.

    I always felt Cantona was a bit over rated in regards to his ability. He never seemed quite able to reach the heights when the pressure was on (close marking etc) but the influence he had on the team as a whole was immense. All good teams need a leader and he certainly did that becoming a focal point for everyone.

    He clearly over stepped the mark and a 8 month ban for kicking a supporter could easily have been a year or more. Wouldn't say that the death of the Paul Nixon could be attributed to Cantona though. As #50 says its like saying the ref was at fault for the fighting at the old firm. Some people just can't control themselves.

  • Comment number 64.

    As my wife Andrea said at the time of Cantona's kung fu kick in a letter published in The Independent (yes, proud husband here): "The real offence that has been committed here is that a gifted athlete, driven past the point of endurance, has been forced to choose between his passion for football and his self-respect. Football is in disrepute, and it is not Eric Cantona's doing."

  • Comment number 65.

    To blame him for someone getting killed at a different game at a different time is not right. The guy he king fu'd was a racist nasty little piece of work. I bought a T-Shirt that had a photo and a wanted poster printed on it with the words "Wanted for treason against the king" Ooh Ahh Cantona!!

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 51. At 12:50pm on 4th Mar 2011, Chris H wrote:

    it was the likes of Klinsmann, Ginola, Gullit, Zola, Bergkamp that made our league the best in him or hate him HE WAS THE BEST player in Europe in the 1990's by a country mile !!!


    Strange isn't it. Ginola was an international outcast, and a decent player in the French league without proving any real worth on the international scene.

    Zola was operating as a Winger for Parma and couldn't quite work his way into the side. Never a star for his country.

    Gullit was at the end of a very good player, but was by no means the player he was in the late 80's.

    Bergkamp was floundering at Inter, but quite rightly showed his skills as an excellent player without ever being a prolific scorer.

    It just makes you wonder, that during this period of say 1992 - 1998 what kind of impact would real stars have had on our league, they would have been phenomenal beyond recognition in the PL playing against the likes of Rob Newman, Steve Agnew, even the likes of Chettle and Teale at stronger clubs would have looked like donkeys had the PL been able to attract the likes of:

    Baggio, Moeller, Stoichkov, Romario, Batistuta, Michel

  • Comment number 67.

    Duncan Feguson went to jail for a silly head-butt on another player, nowere near as bad as Eric-s Kung-Fu kick, who only was banned for a few months......

  • Comment number 68.

    In the 92/93 season united lost the league to Leeds and were doing ok the following season without looking really convincing. Then they signed Eric. Suddenly everything started to fit together and they had a purposeful look to their play. He was like some kind of footballing lubricant that made the rest of the team work. United haven't looked back since. If they hadn't signed him maybe they would have got there eventually anyway, maybe they would have floundered and sacked Fergie. As a Liverpool supported I think I actually hate Cantona. Hate is a big and horrible word but I actually think I do hate him.

  • Comment number 69.

    One of my favourite moments as a Liverpool fan was spoiling his homecoming party, with Fowler (now THERE'S a club legend!) getting a brace in a 2 - 2 draw. All of the media seemed to forget there were 2 teams playing that day, and there were no away fans in the stadium because of rebuilding - who says it's one rule for United & another for every one else! He was a good player though.

  • Comment number 70.

    Eric Cantona, Paul Gascoigne, Gennaro Gattuso....
    Not the ideal behavers! But what a passion !
    One felt like that game actually does matter!

  • Comment number 71.

    To say that his actions were not responsible for the death is naive. Don't forget that he was sent off for kicking (his fault) and rightly or wrongly he got abuse just like any other player gets (yes even at Old Trafford!).
    No other player has reacted in such a way, and so becuase he reacted he was banned, because he was banned United supporters attacked Palace supporters at the semi-final and a husband and father was killed.

  • Comment number 72.

    A true legend of the game! But don't let his extraordinary answers baffle you into thinking the kung-fu kick was a strike for the people against hooliganism ... he's had 16 years to think up that answer. Luther Blisset and many before Cantona took much more abuse, but were strong minded enough to not react so petulantly. Striking a blow against hooliganism can be done better than assaulting a fan, he should have been criminally charged but was excused because he's a footballer and footballer's are special. Footballer's are not special, although you could argue Cantona was.

  • Comment number 73.

    So, a stupid fan insults Cantona, and the King reacts with a kung-fu kick. Which he admits is a mistake that caused a ban (8-9 months). Now, because of that, some United and Crystal Palace "fans" (I don't know you, but when I go to a match it's not to fight with other fans) fight before their match a few months later, and a person died because of that. The people to blame here are the so-called "United fans", not Cantona!

  • Comment number 74.

    I don't think you fully understand Eric, Dan...not that it is easy, he is talking about the subject from multiple angles, he is treating the subject playfully...when he says he did it for the people it is within the context of this general playfulness towards the subject and the belief that it is a wrong action...

  • Comment number 75.

    66. At 13:36pm on 4th Mar 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @ 51. At 12:50pm on 4th Mar 2011, Chris H wrote:

    it was the likes of Klinsmann, Ginola, Gullit, Zola, Bergkamp that made our league the best in him or hate him HE WAS THE BEST player in Europe in the 1990's by a country mile !!!


    Strange isn't it. Ginola was an international outcast, and a decent player in the French league without proving any real worth on the international scene.

    Zola was operating as a Winger for Parma and couldn't quite work his way into the side. Never a star for his country.

    Gullit was at the end of a very good player, but was by no means the player he was in the late 80's.

    Bergkamp was floundering at Inter, but quite rightly showed his skills as an excellent player without ever being a prolific scorer.

    It just makes you wonder, that during this period of say 1992 - 1998 what kind of impact would real stars have had on our league, they would have been phenomenal beyond recognition in the PL playing against the likes of Rob Newman, Steve Agnew, even the likes of Chettle and Teale at stronger clubs would have looked like donkeys had the PL been able to attract the likes of:

    Baggio, Moeller, Stoichkov, Romario, Batistuta, Michel
    Very good point. Batistuta at his peak would have have got 40 goals a season in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 76.

    71. But surely its the refs fault then for sending him off. If he'd stayed on the pitch it wouldn't have happened. Or the defenders; if he'd let him have more space he wouldn't have got frustrated. Or Fergies for picking him.

    I'm afraid we all have to take responsibility for our own actions.

  • Comment number 77.

    I always thought that the deal between Leeds Utd (Howard Wilkinson) and Man Utd (Alex Ferguson) for the sale of Eric Cantona had a touch of the Arry redknapp's! I would love to see the 'paperwork' for that transfer........

  • Comment number 78.

    @JamTay #75


    I'm trying to think of others. Even Uwe Rosler seemed a cut above the others when he first joined. You rightly say, Batigol would have notched 40 with ease.

    Between 1998-2004, The PL standard improved dramatically. It's no coincidence that the further into the 90's you got, the less domination and goals you found from the likes of Le Tissier, Fowler, Collymore, Ferdinand etc.

    In 1995, Nottingham Forest finished 3rd with a centre back partnership of Steve Chettle and Colin Cooper. In 1999 it was Chelsea with Marcel Desailly and Franck Le Boeuf. A vast chasm in class.

  • Comment number 79.

    mmmm.....a totally overrated footballer and from the evidence of this video a few centimes short of a Euro too I'd say!

  • Comment number 80.

    Cantona was a thug, but also a skilfull player. Unfortunately he's given too much airtime. To say that he did it for other people is ridiculous. He did for himself and he lacked self control in doing it, as he did with many of the other thuggish incidents in his playing career.

  • Comment number 81.

    #11 it's "allez", which is the present imperative of the verb aller meaning to go, not "allee", which is a noun which means street, among other things. That's unless you meant to refer to Cantona Street of course.

  • Comment number 82.

    I think it's pretty obvious what Cantona was saying. Obviously it's "wrong" to kick someone in the face and he could never publicly say otherwise, which is why he seems a little contradictory here. His point is that almost everyone has wanted to do this at some point in their life, and he was one of the few who actually dared to do it and faced up to the consequences. A lot of people watching respected him for that.

    It's not so much about whether he was "right" or "wrong", it's about being true to yourself. Eric Cantona was always true to his own beliefs and emotions, which is why he fell out with people, he retired early, why he refused to act differently as a role model and why he refuses to play the game in interviews. I think most of the people who are still angry about this incident would love to do what he did, and their anger probably stems from a frustrated acknowledgement of their own self-imposed social repression. There's a point in your adolescence when you realise you must sell yourself out, every day of your life, if you want to successfully operate within society. That's what being an adult is all about, but we all hate it deep down and we all wish we could escape it. Cantona, however briefly, did just that.

  • Comment number 83.

    Eric Cantona is a fool, great player although defintitely overtated thanks to his off the pitch profile and alot of blowing his own trumpet. But he talks a load of rubbish half the time even taking into account we hear it in his second language mostly.

  • Comment number 84.

    i have supported liverpool since i was 4 years old making that a quarter of a century... i pretty much revel in anti-manuism, and generally cant stand anything to do with them... except this guy! i bumped into him in cape town and in person he is every bit the 'rock star' he was on the pitch! i dont think there has been a player with more vision ever in the prem and will go so far as to rate him as the best footballer i have ever watched! yes, he never cut it for france but lets face it anyone with a personality is considered a bandit by the french! in spite of the kung-fu antics, i will always remember him as the man who ALMOST turned me into a united fan by virtue of his pure footballing magic... Long live the King as he most certainly IS!

  • Comment number 85.

    I hope that when you air his interview you give some time, not just a passing comment, to the chain of events that led to the death of Paul Nixon. Highlighting how ignorant morons who idolise a 'hero' take it too far. You are the BBC so therefore have a responsibilty to do it. So do it!! Do not join in with the misplaced idolatry of modern day footballers.

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    To TheArmBand (#39)

    Not really
    Andy Cole only had 2 red cards in 205 PL games for united
    Alan Smith had 1 in 61 games (5 of his were with Leeds)
    Nicky Butt had 4 in 270 games

    Cantona had a lot especially if you look at average games per red card (actually in PL was worse than Vinnie!).

    I took the stats from the PL website. (Interestingly though they only have eric down for 4 red cards. Though i'll accept the 6 given as it shows up in a lot of other places)

    Plus add in Frank Queudrue and Jon Hartson each with 6 reds and it don't look so bad

  • Comment number 88.

    For those blaming Cantona for the death of Paul Nixon, I find that entirely unfair.
    It is the responsibility of the thugs/idiots who claimed to be manchester united "fans" (I refuse to dignify hooligans by refering to them as actual fans).
    They chose to go out and attack a group of Crystal Palace fans months (not hours) after the incident. They were looking for any excuse to do this - had a palace player got sent off for fouling a manchester united payer they probably would have done the same thing and I hope that no one would be blaming the palace player for it

    For the record though
    (i) Cantona had no business drop kicking anyone for a verbal insult
    (ii) I agree with several others who have said that fans shouldn't be shouting abuse at opposing players. We're supposed to be there to support OUR team (whichever team that maybe) not abuse the other.

  • Comment number 89.

    This is comment # 88 and nothing from Andy Connor.

    I do not think Eric Cantona justifies the hype that has gone into this interview. Is hyping it up good to get viewers- undoubtedly. Was he an extra-ordinarily skilled footballer-yes, but Ronnie Biggs was a gifted bank robber. AM I SAYING CANTONA IS BIGGS? NO I'm just saying there is more to a man than raw tallent, and it should take more to generate interest and hype than talent and awful behaviour.
    I would like to hear the whole interview, but being overseas that might prove difficult. I am glad you interviewed him, but IMHO (and it is just that) for every interview with kung-fu, stamping self- idolizers we should have ten interviews with Alan Hansen, Gary Lineker, Peter Schmeichel and the likes.

  • Comment number 90.

    Crowd abuse is no different from bullying and for that one moment Cantona was a mirror reflecting back on our selfs, the viewer and it wasn't pretty sight. I'm not surprised that long term he looks back in retrospective at this as being a satisfying moment. It was a short term mistake from a footballing perspective as he was banned for 9 months and you could say that Man U would of won the double in that season if he was available but Cantona does not regret what he did as to him the Kung fu kick was a piece of art. I say art because he has gone on to show that is an artist in many other fields of work and thats the key with Eric, when he said "I did it for the people", "People have stress from their Jobs.. It's like a freedom" he is saying that from the view of Eric Cantona 2011 but the 1995 Cantona was fiery and instinctive. For a player to did what he did in an away ground says a lot about the man. It was his Howard Beale moment.... "i'm mad as hell and i cant take it anymore"

    When the incident took place it was highlight in some quarters at the time that black footballers had suffered racial abuse through out the years and had never lashed out. Players like John Barnes, Viv Anderson used their skill, courage and adversity to silence the crowds and dispel myths and notions. And there we have it, two methods of activism, one non-violent which was used by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi and then there is the violent confrontational method which was and still is being used by people such as Malcolm X (up to a point).

    I think time has shown which method has the long term effect.

  • Comment number 91.

    He carried out his kung fu kick in the family end of Crystal Palace. I am sure that he has taken just as much abuse from places like the Liverpool Kop, yet did not do anything like this there. The reason is simple, he would have been clobbered back, with interest. Ergo, the man is a yellow bellied bully and should have faced prison for his actions like any member of the public would have. We shouldn't marvel at this in anyway shape or form, or provide him with the platform to gloat, especially on a website funded by our licence fee.

  • Comment number 92.

    i do not see how this can be allowed. glorifying an event that,granted not directly, led to a father of 4's death is horrible. RIP Paul Nixon

  • Comment number 93.

    Now that is a kung fu kick!

  • Comment number 94.

    It has been long enough since he played for united so can say Cantona is great. Think he is overrated slightly as a player but he is a character who brought so much to the game. And that line in looking for Eric "it was a pass" brilliant.

  • Comment number 95.

    As a Palace fan who went to both the game where the kick happened and the FA Cup Semi Final and the Replay, it makes me very sad that this incident keeps being raked up and each time Cantona becomes more glorified whilst Simmons becomes more vilified. Don't get me wrong, Simmons was a nasty piece of works (who turned out to be a Fulham fan anyway), but nothing justified Cantona's actions that day - just look at the famous picture at the reaction of the normal, family supporters around the incident and you'll understand why.

    Cantona and Simmons were not responsible directly for the death in the Midlands, but it wouldn't have happened were it not for the kick. Palace and Man U fans had got on very well at the 1990 FA Cup final and subsequent games, the first time any real animosity came to bear was at this game. The atmosphere at Villa Park for the first game was one of the worst I have experienced in the 22 years I have been going to games. It seemed that every group of Man United fans was out to get us 'For Eric' and I'd never experienced anything like that before. I just wanted out. I understand that what happened was that fans from a coach were ambushed - and given that we'd attended by coach it could easily have been us that had been attacked.

    In that season I was going to every game, Home and Away, and upon returning I agonised for two days before deciding to go to the replay, that was crassly organised by the FA just five days after the original game. It was one of the most surreal and horrible experiences in my life, made even worse by Roy Keane's dreadful tackle on Gareth Southgate that happened right in front of me.

    Now we know that Cantona is proud of himself, it just makes me sick. But I never expected anything different from the man. He and Simmons were two peas from the same pod, really. But one could play a bit of football and the other was a Fulham fan that sadly chose to come to a Palace match.

    RIP Paul Nixon

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    WHAT? What part of my comment POSSIBLY broke the house rules?????? Which idiot is moderating here?

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    Firstly, to the fan that said that Cantona would only be regarded a god in an average team like United, I can oly assume that you are a supporter of a genuinely average team such as City or Liverpool, who, may I add have won far less trophies in the past 25 years than the ''average'' Manchester United. Secondly, had Cantona not graced the Premiership, we would have missed out on one of the greatest footballers ever to play in the English league. Unpredictable, Passionate, World Class, all factors in what made this guy THE greatest entertainer on a football pitch iof his generation, the fact that he was a flawed genius just adds to the appeal of this guy. He was and still is a God at Old Trafford, and your jealousy will never change that. If he had played in your club's shirt, you too would have hailed him a King. Eric, we will never, ever forget you! Long live the King! LUHG

  • Comment number 100.

    Find it strange that my comment is still, after 4 hours, is still being "considered"


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