There’s nothing like falling down the rabbit hole of a good conspiracy theory to help pass the time – and the world of football is full of them.
Whether you believe them or not, reading conspiracy theories is always good fun. We personally recommend looking up The Dyatlov Pass and Yuba County Five if you have a spare tinfoil hat.
Reddit user ‘blueballs’ kicked off a thread discussing the best football conspiracy theories. We’ve rounded up some of the best, excluding the incredibly libellous sections sadly.
Ronaldo at France 98
Kicking off with a stone-cold classic, Ronaldo was at the peak of his powers as the most exciting footballer in the world in 1998 and took the World Cup by storm, scoring four times and providing three assists to fire Brazil to the final against hosts France and subsequently collect the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player.
But just hours before the final was set to take place, the striker suffered a seizure and was initially excluded from Brazil’s starting XI in the team sheet submitted to match officials. He was later restored to the XI but was ineffective as France triumphed 3-0.
Theories ranged from suggestions Ronaldo had been drugged to Brail accepting bribes in return for the rights to host the 2006 World Cup. But the conspiracy theory that stuck accused Nike, who paid a record £105million to sponsor the team, of forcing the 21-year-old to play.
Desailly and Thuram discuss how to stop Ronaldo, ahead of the World Cup Final in 1998.
Desailly would later say that, during his time at AC Milan, Ronaldo was the only player who scared Maldini – "He said ‘you have to stay around me—I need your help. You have to stay close." pic.twitter.com/aXX0hpXyF2
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 16, 2019
A series of events so remarkable we dedicated a whole podcast to the episode. Spurs were set to pip Arsenal to fourth spot on the final day of the 2005-06 season, needing to match Arsenal’s result against Wigan Athletic in their own fixture with West Ham.
But their preparations descended into farce when the majority of their squad were awoken on the eve of the match with suspected food poisoning from a dodgy lasagna.
Arsenal’s squad were conveniently staying at a nearby hotel, prompting accusations of foul play, while Jermain Defoe pointed the finger at his former club, telling FourFourTwo in 2017: “I thought, ‘Something has definitely gone on here – one of the West Ham lads has done something to the food.’”
As Andy Reid told us while appearing on The Broken Metatarsal: “If it was a coincidence then it was a hell of a coincidence.”
Ultimately, Arsenal beat Wigan while Tottenham fell to a 4-2 defeat at West Ham, ensuring St Totteringham’s Day continued a little while longer.
We said we weren’t going to mention the really libellous stuff, but we enjoyed this one (and would just like to make clear it is definitely not true to any lawyers reading).
Take it away, erm, tarakian-grunt: “Nani hadn’t cleansed some PEDs from his system while on Portugal duty. Mendes leaked that there was going to be an upcoming drug test. Carlos Queiroz allowed him to withdraw from the training camp due to an unspecified injury, which meant that he didn’t have to get tested that week.
“As payback to Mendes, United bought Bebe for an inflated price with most of the fee going to Mendes.”
You know a signing is bad when people are making up conspiracy theories to try to explain it.
2002 World Cup
Byron Moreno’s performance while officiating Italy vs South Korea has led to suggestions the tournament was rigged in order to favour the co-hosts. Moreno’s later conviction for drug trafficking only adds to the batsh*t mentalness of it all.
1966 World Cup
We really enjoyed this one posted by Enchilada_McMustang: “England and Germany colluding to kick Uruguay and Argentina out in the 1966 WC quarter-finals. First of all Uruguay and Argentina’s representatives were invited for the referee selection in London, but when they arrived the selection had already been made with only the English and German representatives.
“Not only that, they picked a German ref for Argentina-England and an English one for Germany-Uruguay. And then both games were hugely controversial with the German ref infamously sending off Argentina’s captain Rattin for “verbal excess” and the English ref ignoring a blatant goal line handball by Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and then sending off two Uruguayan players.”
There’s an excellent article in The Guardian written by Simon Burnton on how South American teams were disadvantaged throughout the tournament here.
Steven Gerrard has admitted he found playing under Roy Hodgson “uncomfortable”, but did he miss a penalty at Blackburn on purpose to ensure Hodgson was sacked? We’ll leave this one to Redmen TV to delve into.
1954 World Cup
A university study in 2010 suggested West Germany’s triumphant side may have been boosted by a secret doping programme.
The great Hungarian team of Ferenc Puskas and co thrashed West Germany 8-3 in the group stage, only to lose 3-2 to the same opponents in the final.
“There are several strong indications that point to the injection of [methamphetamine] pervitin in some Germany players and not vitamin C as it was claimed,” said the sports historian and author Erik Eggers, who conducted the study as part of a team at Humboldt University in Berlin.
Among Eggers intriguing research is the wonderful line explaining why injections of vitamin C are unusual: “They could have just eaten an orange instead.”