On the 25th January 1995 Eric Cantona was sent off playing for Manchester United away to Crystal Palace. Clearly annoyed by the decision Cantona walked along the touch-line towards the dressing room to abuse from delirious Palace fans. One fan, Matthew Simmons, seemingly went a step too far and so the Eric Cantona kung fu kick was born.
The game wasn't covered live on British TV and we were still years away from live internet streaming. Only those who listened on the radio knew to expect something great when the TV highlights that night started. No one could have expect to see something as magnificent as the "Eric Cantona Kung Fu Kick". The kung fu name immediately stuck and quickly became part of football's lexicon.
Immediately the 'authorities' declared it a disgrace and the usual talking heads analysed the psychology behind it. Ex-pros told how it wouldn't have happened in their day and fans of other sports spoke about how it only ever happens in football. Lots of finger wagging and disapproving head shakes (think Hazard v Ball boy multiplied by one million). They never once discussed the most important part of the incident; that it was absolutely hilarious.
Pre-twitter and internet forums, Cantona was the most discussed subject in pubs and school yards throughout Britain and Ireland. He claimed Simmons insulted his mother "in the worst way". Simmons always denied this. Soon Simmons was accused of being racist and he was the subject of abuse from United fans after his address was published in fanzines. Cantona was initially found guilty of assault in court and ordered to spend two weeks in prison. This was appealed and he performed community service instead. He was banned from football for 8 months by the English FA. His press conference gave the timeless quote;
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."
Cantona returned after the ban and his legend had multiplied. Sure the English Premier League has seen many great goals, saves, comebacks, last second winners etc etc etc but can any moment top the Eric Cantona Kung Fu kick for pure jaw dropping drama? Can you imagine how the story would be covered now with Sky Sports News showing it on a 48 hour loop? Within seconds twitter would explode with everyone giving their opinions and within minutes every possible meme would be shred on Facebook and twitter.
Happy Birthday to the Eric Cantona Kung Fu Kick! 18 years old, and still awesome.