20 moments of 2020: Maradona's death, Messi's transfer request, PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir players walk off in racism protest

A year like no other for football was packed with many memorable moments, some sombre, others celebratory

Powered by automated translation

The past 12 months have been like no other in the history of football.

The 2019/20 season was extended to late August as leagues crammed in postponed fixtures following a near global shutdown in March to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Football deserves a pat on the back for finishing that season, and the new one is almost a quarter of the way through as leagues attempt to finish on a regular schedule, with the postponed Euro 2020 finals now slated for the summer of 2021 to factor in.

There were some pretty memorable moments over the past 12 months, with perhaps the two most shocking incidences coming in the past few weeks.

Here are 20 memorable moments in football over the past 12 months.

FILE - In this June 29, 1986 file photo, Diego Maradona holds up his team's trophy after Argentina's 3-2 victory over West Germany at the World Cup final soccer match at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Carlo Fumagalli, File)
Diego Maradona. AP Photo

1. Diego Maradona's death

The beautiful game lost one of its greatest exponents on November 25 after Argentina legend Diego Maradona died at age 60. The 1986 World Cup-winning captain died of a heart attack at home in Tigre, Argentina, where he was recovering following recent brain surgery. His death led to an avalanche of tributes from the great and good of the football world, including his arch rival Pele, who said "one day we'll kick a ball together in the sky above". Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez declared three days of national mourning while thousands lined the route of his funeral procession in Buenos Aires as supporters clashed with police. Napoli, where Maradona enjoyed God-like status after guiding the club to a first ever Serie A title as a player, renamed their San Paolo home the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in honour of their greatest player.

TOPSHOT - Istanbul Basaksehir's Cameroonian assistant coach Pierre Webo, wearing a tshirt reading "No to racism", looks on during warm-up before the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 9, 2020. The group game in Paris, which was goalless at the time, was suspended when both teams left the pitch on December 8, 2020 after a touchline argument erupted when the Romanian fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu, appeared to describe Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, a former Cameroon international player, as "black", or "negru" in Romanian and will resume on December 9 where it left off, in the 14th minute, with a different set of officials.
Istanbul Basaksehir's Cameroonian assistant coach Pierre Webo. AFP

2. PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir players walk off

The Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir on December 8 was postponed for 24 hours after players walked off the field alleging that the fourth official used a racist term when identifying a black assistant coach. Players from the Turkish team were furious after assistant coach Pierre Webo was given a red card by referee Ovidiu Hategan, saying Sebastian Coltescu, a Romanian, had used a racial term to describe Webo, who is from Cameroon. The score was 0-0 when the incident took place about 14 minutes into the match at Parc des Princes. The match resumed the following day with new officials, with PSG going on to win 5-1 to top Group H. The result, though, was insignificant compared to the stand both sets of players took in a stand against racism. Given the walk-off was down to alleged racist abuse from a match official rather from fans in the stands has prompted a much-needed investigation from governing body Uefa.

epa08625650 (FILE) - FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, traditionally known as 'El Clasico', at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, 01 March 2020, re-issued 25 August 2020. Messi has sent a certified letter to the club  on 25 August communicating his intentions to leave the club.  EPA/JUANJO MARTIN
Lionel Messi. AFP

3. Lionel Messi's shock transfer request

An aftershock measuring 10 on the richter scale shook the football world at the end of September when Lionel Messi informed Barcelona he intended to leave the club. The Argentine said he had become disillusioned with the club's transfer policy and felt he had been made a scapegoat for the club's failures in both La Liga and the Champions League as well as a well-publicised row over wages during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak. To say the natives were restless would be an understatement. Fans took to protesting outside Camp Nou despite restrictions in place to combat the coronavirus. Messi would eventually rescind his request, saying he had agreed to remain at Barcelona to avoid taking on the Spanish giants in court.

TOPSHOT - Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the opening goal, his 100th goal for Portugal, during the UEFA Nations League football match between Sweden and Portugal on September 8, 2020 in Solna, Sweden.  - Sweden OUT
Cristiano Ronaldo. AFP

4. Cristiano Ronaldo scores 100th Portugal goal

Cristiano Ronaldo became only the second men's player to score 100 international goals when he fired home the opening goal for Portugal in September's Uefa Nations League match against Sweden. Ronaldo entered the match with 164 caps and 99 goals, scoring his 100th with a brilliant free kick before making it 101 Portugal goals later in the match. The Juventus striker is now just eight goals shy of Iran's Ali Daei's record of 109 goals.

West Bromwich Albion's Brazilian midfielder Matheus Pereira (L) 'takes a knee' in support of the No Room For Racism campaign ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on December 6, 2020.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications.
 / AFP / POOL /  Rui Vieira                          / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications.
West Bromwich Albion players take a knee. AFP

5. Players take a knee

A return to European football over the summer also saw the introduction of a near universal gesture with players taking a knee before kick off. The gesture to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement has been adopted by a host of sports in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white policeman in Minneapolis in May. The sights of players from all backgrounds sees football speak with one voice in its rejection of all forms of racism.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool holds the Premier League Trophy aloft along side Mohamed Salah as they celebrate winning the League during the presentation ceremony of  the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield on July 22, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Jordan Henderson of Liverpool. Getty Images

6. Liverpool win Premier League title

Not even a pandemic could stop Liverpool's march to a first English league title in 30 years. Jurgen Klopp's side sent records tumbling on their way to winning the Premier League, finishing 18 points clear of deposed champions Manchester City. The fact that Jordan Henderson and the rest of the Liverpool squad had their trophy presentation with no fans at Anfield in July wasn't the ideal backdrop but returning Liverpool to the top of English football means Klopp will go down as one of the Merseyside club's greatest managers.

TOPSHOT - Bayern Munich's German forward Thomas Mueller (R) celebrates with Bayern Munich's German midfielder Serge Gnabry after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. / AFP / POOL / Rafael Marchante
Bayern Munich players celebrate. AFP

7. Barcelona 2, Bayern Munich 8

It was the sort of scoreline that would have been scarcely believable had it been played on a PlayStation. Barcelona 2, Bayern Munich 8. Bayern were 4-1 up inside the opening half-hour at courtesy of two Thomas Muller goals and strikes from Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry. Bayern banged in another four in the second half through Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and a double from Philippe Coutinho, who was on loan from Barca. It was Barca's heaviest loss in 69 years, and the first time they had conceded more than five goals in a Uefa Champions League game. Quique Setien was given his marching orders three days later while Bayern went on to secure a sixth European Cup, beaten PSG in the final.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Second Leg - FC Barcelona v Napoli - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - August 8, 2020  General view inside the stadium during the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)  REUTERS/Albert Gea
An empty Camp Nou in Barcelona. AFP

8. No fans at the stadiums

The coronavirus pandemic forced a global shutdown of almost all sport, with the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga pulling down the shutters in March before resuming the season three months later. The sight of players used to playing to packed stands playing in front of empty stadiums jarred. It still does. There has never been a season like 2019/20 and the financial impact has yet to be truly felt. Supporters have only been allowed to return to certain grounds over the past week, although with massively restricted numbers.

NAPLES, ITALY - NOVEMBER 22: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of A.C. Milan celebrates after scoring their team's second goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AC Milan at Stadio San Paolo on November 22, 2020 in Naples, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan. Getty Images

9. Zlat's back

'Same Zlatan, different devil'. 'I never left'. 'God iZ back'. Just some of the memorable soundbites we were treated to after Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to AC Milan at the start of the year. But as he always does, he backed up his talk with performances, helping revitalise the Rossoneri's fortunes to such an extent they qualified for the Europa League. The Swede boldly claimed if he had been at Milan for the entire season they would have been champions. The 39-year-old shows no signs of slowing down and has already netted 10 goals this season to lift Stefano Pioli's side to the top of Serie A. Reuters

Soccer Football - Premier League - Norwich City v Crystal Palace - Carrow Road, Norwich, Britain - January 1, 2020  Norwich City fans hold up a banner regarding VAR after the match     Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  Please contact your account representative for further details.
Norwich City fans hold up a banner. Getty Images

10. VAR

Opening weekend in the Premier League seems a lifetime ago now. Back then (September 12) fans and TV analysts were full of praise for the refined version of VAR, the one that was supposed to eliminate any doubt in the game's interpretations of its own laws. That lasted all of 24 hours and the men at Stockley Park have been metaphorically pelted with eggs since. The most contentious issue seems to be what constitutes a player's arm and shoulder, with the men in black seemingly happy to ignore all biological norms. Players have complained they no longer understand what the rules are, which can never be a good sign of the game's health. The video assistant referee still needs fine tuning if it is to bring fans and players on board.

Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford during the UEFA Champions league group H football match between Manchester United and Istanbul Basaksehir at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 24, 2020. / AFP / Oli SCARFF
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. AFP

11. Marcus Rashford's activism

Marcus Rashford may be that rare breed of Manchester United player that is actually welcomed at places like Elland Road and Anfield. The young Englishman's campaign to feed hungry children in the UK has forced the British government to twice back down and extend free school meals to vulnerable children. Rashford's petition to end child food poverty topped a million signatures in October as thousands of cafes, restaurants and local businesses stepped in to support struggling families without access to free school meals over the half-term holiday. The 22-year-old striker knows from personal experience what it is like to grow up wondering where the next meal is coming from and made use of his campaigning skills and deft use of social media to gather support. For his efforts, he was recognised as a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2020.

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - FC Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund - WWK Arena, Augsburg, Germany - January 18, 2020  Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland celebrates scoring their second goal      REUTERS/Michaela Rehle  DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video
Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland. Reuters

12. Erling Haaland's goals

2020 proved a record-breaking year for Erling Braut Haaland. The Norwegian's impressive form for RB Salzburg earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund in January and he hasn't looked back since. His records this year include becoming the fastest player to score 15 Champions League goals, doing so in only 12 matches; scoring four against Hertha Berlin, which saw the 20-year-old break a 60-year-old Bundesliga record for the most goals (23) scored after 22 appearances in the league. Haaland became the first Bundesliga player to score five goals in his opening two matches, as well as the fastest player to reach that tally (56 minutes). He was named Bundesliga player of the month for January, despite playing less than an hour of football.

BELGRADE, SERBIA - NOVEMBER 12: David Marshall of Scotland celebrates with Leigh Griffiths of Scotland and Scott McTominay of Scotland and his team as they celebrate after their victory in the UEFA EURO 2020 Play-Off Final between Serbia and Scotland at Rajko Mitic Stadium on November 12, 2020 in Belgrade, Serbia. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Scotland players celebrate. Getty Images

13. Scotland clinch place at Euro 2020

Scotland ended their 22-year wait to reach a major tournament with a penalty shoot-out win over Serbia in Belgrade to secure their place at delayed Euro 2020. Scotland had gone through 10 failed qualifying campaigns since their last major tournament, the 1998 World Cup, and nearly threw away their play-off final against Serbia. Steve Clarke's team led courtesy of Ryan Christie's strike early in the second half in the rain in Belgrade, but Luka Jovic headed in to make it 1-1 in the 90th minute, forcing extra time. There were no more goals, and Scotland triumphed 5-4 on penalties as goalkeeper David Marshall saved Aleksandar Mitrovic's last spot kick, sparking joyous scenes of celebration in an empty stadium.

Soccer Football - Europa League - Group J - PFC Ludogorets Razgrad v Tottenham Hotspur - Ludogorets Arena, Razgrad, Bulgaria - November 5, 2020  Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. Reuters

14. Harry Kane reaches 200 goals

Harry Kane scored his 200th Tottenham Hotspur goal in just his 300th game for the club in their 3-1 Europa League win over Ludogorets on November 4. The England captain, who scored his first goal for the club back in 2011 against Shamrock Rovers, had to wait nine years to complete his double century. It seemed as though it would not be the 27-year-old's night in Bulgaria as he missed a sitter and then hit the post. However, he eventually found the net and headed home from a corner. Kane became the third Spurs player to reach the landmark and is behind only Bobby Smith and Jimmy Greaves in the club's record scorers list.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 First Leg - Napoli v FC Barcelona - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - February 25, 2020  Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso reacts  REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
Gennaro Gattuso. AFP

15. Reno Gattuso's heartwarming win

There was personal tragedy for Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso this summer when his sister tragically passed away after contracting Covid-19, shortly before his side’s Coppa Italia final meeting with Juventus. It was hard for any neutral not to root for him that night in June at the Stadio Olimpico and while the first trophy of his coaching career will have been no real comfort, it was nonetheless a heartwarming moment for one of Italy’s most charismatic figures.

Chelsea's Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring his side's third goal with teammates during the Champions League group E soccer match between Sevilla and Chelsea at the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Angel Fernandez)
Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud. AP Photo

16. Olivier Giroud's four-goal salvo

At 34 years and 63 days, Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud became the oldest player to score a Champions League hat-trick when he bagged all four goals in the Blues' Champions League win away to Sevilla on December 3. The Frenchman, described by his manager Frank Lampard as "the ultimate professional", was handed a rare start in Spain, but he sure made it count. His treble saw him become the oldest to do so in the European Cup since Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas in September 1965 for Real Madrid against Feyenoord. Giroud also became the first Chelsea player to score four goals in a game since his manager Lampard achieved the feat against Aston Villa in March 2010.

Jorge Luis Pinto. Courtesy UAEFA
Jorge Luis Pinto. Courtesy UAEFA

17. UAE managerial merry-go-round 

The UAE Football Association are well known for changing their managers, but going through two head coaches in less than 12 months with neither having taken charge of a competitive match has to be some sort of record. Serb Ivan Jovanovic replaced Bert van Marwijk in December 2019 with the aim of guiding the Emirates through their World Cup qualifying journey but had his contract terminated in April. Jorge Luis Pinto, his replacement, arrived in June amid much fanfare after his exploits guiding Costa Rica to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. The Colombian lasted a month longer than his predecessor before having his contract terminated having lost two and won one of three friendlies. To complete the managerial merry-go-round, Van Marwijk has agreed to return to the UAE dugout, almost exactly 12 months after leaving. Courtesy UAE FA

epa08275712 Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, a.k.a. Ronaldinho (C), leaves the Palace of Justice after appearing before Judge Mirko Valinotti, in Asuncion, Paraguay, 06 March 2020. The appeal to the "abbreviated procedural exit’ was granted by the Prosecutor's Office to Brazil's former soccer star Ronaldinho Gaucho and his brother Roberto after being cited for entering Paraguay with false passports.  EPA/NATHALIA AGUILAR
Ronaldinho. EPA

18. Ronaldinho arrested for forged passport in Paraguay

One of the more bizarre stories of an already unusual year involved the arrest of former Barcelona and Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho in Paraguay in March for holding a forged passport. The 2002 World Cup winner and his brother spent one month behind bars and another four detained in a luxury hotel in the capital Asuncion on bail. Both were released in August, and were ordered to pay $200,000 in damages. Ronaldinho had a glittering football career before his retirement in 2015. He helped Brazil to their fifth World Cup victory in 2002 and won the Champions League and two La Liga titles with Spanish club Barcelona, as well as playing for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (C) celebrates with his backroom staff, Manchester City's Spanish assistant coach Rodolfo Borrell (R) as City players celebrate their win after the English League Cup final football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Wembley stadium in London on March 1, 2020. - Manchester City won the game 2-1. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. AFP

19. Manchester City three-peat

Manchester City beat Aston Vila 2-1 to win a third straight League Cup at Wembley on March 1. Goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri put City in control before Mbwana Samatta reduced the deficit. It was the eighth piece of silverware of manager Pep Guardiola's reign.

Lee Dong-gook. AFP
Lee Dong-gook. AFP

20. Lee Dong-gook calls time on illustrious career

Veteran Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker Lee Dong-gook announced in October he was finally bringing the curtain down on an illustrious 23-year professional career after securing an eighth K-League title. The South Korean, 41, netted a record 228 goals in a career that began in 1998 with Pohang Steelers and is also the AFC Champions League’s record goalscorer with 37. Lee made his debut for South Korea in 1998 and he was a member of the country’s squad at the World Cup finals in France but was overlooked by Guus Hiddink when the country co-hosted the tournament four years later and reached the semi-finals, although he did feature again eight years later in South Africa. Lee appeared in more than 840 matches, at both club and international level, scoring 344 goals, both Korean records.