It seemed like a fairly innocuous altercation. As Sevilla sought a late equaliser, trailing 2-1 to Zaragoza in a La Liga game in early January 2007, Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano stretched in an attempt to keep the ball in play.
Defender Carlos Diogo came to block his way, but Fabiano’s efforts were in vain anyway. The ball rolled safely for a goal kick.
For Zaragoza, the game seemed won. He was wearing himself out, ready for an uneventful conclusion to a hard-fought contest. Then all hell broke loose.
It was a vintage season for Sevilla and Zaragoza. In the end, Zaragoza finished sixth in La Liga, qualifying for the UEFA Cup thanks in large part to Diego Milito’s 23 league goals.
Sevilla, meanwhile, went on to defend the UEFA Cup title they won the previous season and won the Copa del Rey with a squad that included Dani Alves, Jesus Navas, Renato and Freddie Kanoute as well as Luis Fabiano. .
At the start of this match, however, Sevilla were not only dreaming of UEFA Cup and Copa del Rey success, but of La Liga glory. They were at the top of the standings and determined to hold on to their lead.
Zaragoza, however, took the lead early – thanks to a strike from Carlos Diogo. That man Milito extended their lead 10 minutes after half-time but Sevilla came back, Luis Fabiano pulled one back in the 70th minute to set up a tense 20-final.
Zaragoza hung on and, as Sevilla grew increasingly desperate, Luis Fabiano slotted in for the ball as Carlos Diogo used his body to shield him.
It was the sometimes confrontational Fabiano who started the fight, apparently angered by something Diogo, an Uruguay international, had done or said.
There was speculation of bad blood between the South Americans, who had faced each other in Sao Paulo and River Plate, although both denied any lingering animosity.
The two players clashed, clutching their foreheads as the seething current of tension threatened to overflow.
Fabiano flirted with a head kick, pushing his head towards Diogo’s.
The first shot
Then came the explosion. After Fabiano grabbed Diogo around the neck, the latter snapped, nearly knocking his counterpart to the ground with a right-handed punch to the jaw. It was perhaps the only semi-competent moment, a strike that Tyson Fury might have even considered passable.
From then on, things got hilarious and amateurish.
The Sevilla man stumbled, struggling to regain his balance, surprised by the speed of Diogo’s reaction.
Things had degenerated even perhaps more than Fabiano had expected. With a comical look of surprise on his face, he prepared to retaliate.
The swing & miss
Fabiano’s response was to start swinging Diogo wildly, first with a right, then a left, then another right and another left. None of them have connected, so don’t expect Anthony Joshua to incorporate the windmill technique into his next fight.
Diogo, instead of just escaping Fabiano’s flailing arms, decided he could block them, and the result was two footballers throwing their arms erratically like in the middle of a moshpit.
Despite the genuine entertainment factor, no player would have been encouraged to pursue a career in boxing.
In total, from the first punch, Fabiano and Diogo had 16 seconds of scrap. They’d probably struggle to justify the pay-per-view, but it was still good value.
Things had, within seconds, descended into chaos. Fabiano’s teammate and compatriot Adriano was the first to interrupt, grabbing Diogo by the neck before being overwhelmed by a sea of orange and white shirts.
Players from both teams quickly crossed to break things up, while Fabiano and Diogo were taken wide by their teammates in an effort to calm them down.
Fabiano was quickly consoled by manager Juande Ramos, desperate to make sense of a player who seemed to have gone completely off the rails.
The referee, who probably only needed a very short time to think about his decision, held up red cards for the two, and they were kept at a safe distance as they walked towards the tunnel for the few remaining minutes of the match.
Both Fabiano and Diogo received five-match bans for the fight.
“I want to apologize to everyone who saw it,” Fabiano said after the dust settled. “It was a nasty incident but he stomped on me, then insulted me and attacked me and I had to defend myself.
“When I got home, my daughter said to me, ‘Dad, I saw you fight on TV and you shouldn’t fight.’ That’s what hurts the most. »
Diogo, meanwhile, blamed it all on the heat of the moment.
“Your heart rate is elevated,” he said. “It’s not the most appropriate but it happens and then when you’re cold you think differently. Let people watch the video to see how things went and who attacked first.
Although the incident initially appeared to be Fabiano’s origin, he later claimed that Diogo had said things that ‘could not be repeated’.
The referee, Alberto Undiano Mallenco, wrote in his match report: “I noticed that the player n°2 of the Real Zaragoza SAD team, Mr. Carlos Andres Diogo Ensenat, and the player n°10 of the Sevilla FC SAD team, Luis Fabiano Clemente, punched each other.
“Without being able to specify which of the two initiated the action, I showed the red card to both players.”
The bans have been served and both players have moved on, although Fabiano continues to play on the edge, with a characteristic tenacity in his game. Diogo, too, has always been a defender who took no prisoners.
Fabiano remained at Sevilla until 2011, scoring 106 goals in 229 appearances for the Andalusian club. His prowess in front of goal more than made up for his discipline issues.
He returned to Brazil after his successful stint in Spain, scoring regularly for Sao Paulo before retiring after a season at Vasco da Gama in 2017.
Diogo, meanwhile, made permanent what was originally a loan from Real Madrid to Zaragoza, staying at the club until 2011. He then played for Huesca and Belgian side Ghent, before returning to Zaragoza in 2014 and shortly after announcing his retirement.
Both players represented their countries and played at the highest level, so a brief skirmish probably wasn’t a highlight of their respective careers.
For everyone else, though, it’s still a hugely entertaining watch.
By Callum Rice Coates
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