The Solheim Cup was overshadowed by an argument over one moment in one match, one of the fourballs that had been pushed back to the final day because of bad light. Alison Lee prodded the ball to within 18 inches of the 17th hole and then stooped to pick it up, believing her short putt had been conceded, only for Pettersen to insist no concession had been made. The Norwegian claimed that she and her partner Charley Hull, who had already turned and headed to the final tee, giving Lee the impression her work was done, had therefore scored a decisive, match-winning point.
The incident led to tears – from both Lee and Hull – and all sorts of fury, to Zach Johnson labelling Pettersen “a disgrace to the sport” and to Laura Davies warning the incident, for all that it helped give Europe a 10-6 advantage before the decisive singles, would give the American team an unexpected motivational advantage.
“If Europe lose the Solheim Cup,” she warned, “there will be only one person to blame”. The Americans won the singles 8.5 to 3.5, and the trophy by 14.5 to 13.5. Pettersen, having insisted she stood “totally” by her decision later issued a fulsome apology for “putting the single match and the point ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf itself”.
The Mexico coach at the 2014 World Cup always looked a bit like the Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno – crossed, perhaps, with Patrick Star from SpongeBob SquarePants – and this year he revealed that he, like Ferrigno’s most famous role, has a bit of a temper on him, if not the mountainous muscles and the ability to turn green (though, talking of turning green, his encouragement on Twitter that his followers vote green in June’s Mexico’s elections, which was against his country’s code of ethics, left him facing the possibility of a 15-year prison sentence).
The month after those elections, in which the Greens ended up making significant gains, he led his team to glory in the Concacaf Gold Cup. That’s where the good times ended: two days later he was sacked for allegedly punching a television reporter, on the basis that – according to the Mexican FA’s president – “our values, our principles, are above any result”.
Herrera complained he had been the receiving end of “all manner of criticisms, offences and mockery of my family and my person”. The reporter, the abrasive and straight-talking – some might say controversy-seeking – Christian Martinoli of TV Azteca, whose long-running criticism of Herrera had led to the coach offering to take him outside after a press conference and “fix this like it should be fixed” – reported he had been looking away from the coach when “I suddenly feel a blow to the neck on the right side of my body. The next thing I see when I look up is [former Mexico player] Luis Garcia separating a madman who threw punches and kicks while I was insulted.”
Herrera apologised for “an attitude not becoming of a Mexico national team coach” but promised to “return as the same person”. He will return to football in January as manager of Club Tijuana (full name Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, making them perhaps the only major football team to include the full name of an unusual breed of dog – and a hot one at that – in their title).
Bari’s ball boys
José Mourinho called Leicester City’s ball boys “a disgrace to the Premier League” because they returned the ball too slowly for the then Chelsea manager’s liking while his team were on their way to a career-defining, chairman-faith-destroying 2-1 defeat, but it was as nothing compared with the behaviour of Bari’s as their reserve team eked out an identical result against Latina in November. This included throwing balls at Latina players as they prepared to take throw-ins and on at least one occasion sending a rogue ball into Bari’s penalty area while Latino were attacking.
Their behaviour was so bad that, with 10 minutes of the game remaining, play was stopped and the referee sent them all off, and the result was overturned with the away side being awarded a 3-0 victory.
The Bari president, Gianluca Paparesta, said: “We didn’t have to provide ball boys at all, but they were there to facilitate recovery of the ball as the pitch is surrounded by an athletics track” and that they were children, several of them only 10-years-old, and had merely been distracted and a bit clumsy.
A club statement sniffed that “we are constantly engaged in the promotion of sporting values and fair play”, and announced an appeal, which is yet to be heard. The Latina coach, Marco Ghirotto, sniffed that “all the ball boys behaved in the same way, which makes one suspect that they were following instructions”. Both clubs are doing sufficiently badly to make the result largely academic, though that only makes the manner in which it was allegedly achieved more puzzling.
The Australian’s 2015 is a tale of broken rackets and hefty fines, of abuse hurled at officials, ball boys, spectators and, on occasions, himself. His talent for argument-creation is such he had an on-court row with an official about putting on some socks, an act that at least superficially appears very hard to get in a huff about.
At Wimbledon he was a disciplinary whirlwind, appearing to deliberately throw a game, calling an umpire “dirty scum” (though he later insisted he “wasn’t referring to the ref at all there” and had directed the insult “towards myself”) and even being sanctioned for climbing a fence to watch his compatriots Lleyton Hewitt and Thanasi Kokkinakis – about whom more in a moment – playing doubles.
During a Davis Cup tie against Kazakhstan he shouted “I don’t want to be here”, lost, smashed a racket and then admitted, to no one’s great surprise, that “I didn’t think I was having that much fun out there to be honest”.
Then in August, during the Rogers Cup in Montreal, he told Stan Wawrinka that “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend”, leading to a hefty fine and a dressing-room dust-up. Still, he has boosted his ranking from 52 to 30 over the course of the year, so it’s not all bad.
Kokkinakis, meanwhile, twice needed officials to intervene during a match against the American Ryan Harrison in Cincinnati in August. “They are going to get hurt,” Harrison warned the two young Australians afterwards. “Wawrinka should have decked Kyrgios and I should deck that kid. I knew at 17, 18, 19 that there was a line that you don’t cross. These kids, if they keep thinking they can just come at people and instigate, someone is not going to be OK with that. The wrong guy on the wrong day, you never know what could have happened.”
In an attempt to attract more female supporters, Mossley designated their final home game of the 2014-15 season “Ladies Day”. By its end Jay Hart, striker for the visiting Clitheroe team, had been sacked for successfully attracting a female supporter and then, still at least partly clad in his club tracksuit, engaging in a sex act in the dugout, with footage of the incident swiftly uploaded to social media.
“It has brought the club into disrepute,” the chairwoman, Anne Barker, said. “We expect a certain level of behaviour and discipline, and that wasn’t it.” Hart’s side, for whom he was a second-half substitute, had lost the game 4-1.
“I’d had more than a few drinks, and I want to say I’m sorry,” Hart said. “I haven’t seen the girl since. I don’t have a clue who she is.”
To the game’s great discredit, Hart isn’t the only footballer to be sacked in 2015 after footage of players engaged in inappropriate sex acts appeared on social media. Leicester dismissed three players, James Pearson, Tom Hopper and Adam Smith, in June after they were filmed racially abusing a woman during a “goodwill” post-season tour of Thailand.
Chelsea’s snarling, menacing, vicious attacking Rottweiler has lost his teeth in 2015, his decline traceable to the night in January when he stamped on Liverpool’s Emre Can and Martin Skrtel in a Capital One Cup tie, earning himself a retrospective three-match ban. Before that moment he had scored 17 times in 19 English league games; since then he has been operating at approximately 35% of capacity, scoring six in 20 in the league, and one solitary additional goal in a further 10 appearances in cup competitions.
Not that he’s dropped the attitude, with a further retrospective three-match ban following in September for violent conduct against Arsenal – a match in which, according to the referee (at least until he got hold of the video), he did not commit a single foul – a hilarious dive when it would have been easier to score against Dynamo Kyiv in November, and some stroppy bib-flinging following his being dropped to the bench against Tottenham, with the Spaniard becoming the sulky embodiment of Chelsea’s decline.
In other we-didn’t-know-it-at-the-time, controversy-breeds-failure-for-a-striker news, Wayne Rooney was embarrassed when footage of him apparently being knocked out by Sunderland’s Phil Bardsley during a boxing match in his kitchen was leaked to the media in March, and responded with a hilarious themed celebration when he scored against Tottenham later that day, his 11th league goal of another reasonably prolific season. He has scored three league goals since, in 20 increasingly useless appearances.
Unnamed German show jumping steward
This year’s European Championships in Aachen doubled as Olympic qualifiers, adding extra weight to the burden of responsibility hanging on the shoulders of all those competing. In the end – with Holland, France, Germany and Sweden already qualified following last year’s World Equestrian Games – Great Britain, Spain and Switzerland landed the prized berths in Rio, with Ireland missing out after finishing behind the Spanish by the insanely wafer-thin margin of just 0.38 of a penalty.
In the team final the 2012 bronze medallist Cian O’Connor was the third of four Irish riders to perform, and he and his horse – the inappropriately named Good Luck – had cleared 10 fences when, on their way to the 11th, a member of the fence crew wearing a bright yellow T-shirt unexpectedly ran right in front of them before leaping into a flowerbed. Video footage confirms the incident was precisely as ridiculous as it sounds.
A distracted Good Luck went on to become the only horse to clip the 11th fence, that single mistake being in the end the difference between qualifying success and failure for the Irish team. They promptly submitted an appeal, lost it – the FEI ruling O’Connor should have stopped immediately if he was going to kick up a fuss – tried again, lost again and still kept trying.
“To have a show jumping team at the Olympic Games is very important for Ireland,” said the Horse Sport Ireland chief executive, Damian McDonald. “A freak incident occurred on the day which hindered our efforts. All we are looking for is fair play. We are convinced that if this incident had not happened, the Irish show jumping team would be going to the Olympics.”
Their final appeal was heard by the court for arbitration in sport in December, with a decision expected in 2016.
Boxing is, as ever, a magnet for some of sport’s more unusual characters, with the Birmingham welterweight Frankie Gavin described by a judge as “a role model for gratuitous violence in the full view of children” after he was involved in a bar brawl in May, the great Manny Pacquiao hit with a $5m class action by two American boxing fans – acting on behalf of “all persons who purchased tickets, purchased the pay-per-view event or who wagered money on the event” – after failing to disclose a shoulder injury before his fight with Floyd Mayweather.
Meanwhile in April an amateur boxing night in Maidstone descended into a mass brawl, complete with flying chairs, in the presence of the horrified local Liberal Democrat candidate, Jasper Gerard, who said it was “completely disgraceful” – he described the outbreak of hostilities as follows: “There was a stampede. I thought people were going to get food”.
And then there’s Tyson Fury, the only person whose behaviour this year is both impressive enough to earn him a spot on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist, and depressing enough to earn him a spot on this one. A Batman-costumed pre-fight press conference appearance and post-fight Aerosmith cover version were in themselves indicators of no more than eccentricity and a decent set of pipes, but then there was the range of ludicrous comments about women, homosexuality and faith that earned a British Boxing Board of Control summons and 139,000 (and counting) signatories on a petition to oust him from the Spoty running.
On the night he became world champion Fury’s father, convicted eye-gouger John, trilled that “we have changed the world”. Perhaps they’d be so good as to change it back again sometime.