The Fairgrounds of the 16 Worst Football “Bad Boys”



Mysterious, unpredictable and anarchic - the fascination with bad deeds

Rivaldo (rechts) 2004 im Duell mit Xabi Alonso. Foto: Getty Images

Football has brought about many legends. Some shining, others not so much. Some perfect role models, some not so much. Good guys and rude boys. And while the shining stars with the polished image always adhere to something boring, the bad boys are like a magnet pulling you in. Mysterious, unpredictable and always a little bit revolutionary and going against the current. Simply anarchists, unrestrained and disorderly people, that don’t live their lives by the rules. The fairgrounds of the 16 worst football “bad boys”.

Conflict is just one of their basic settings. This can range from regular tantrums on the pitch, to bad fouls, violence towards referees, escapades out of the pitch with lots of alcohol and other drugs as well as criminal offences like fraud and brawling. Pure drama.

Many of the villains had story book beginnings in their football careers – then came the slip ups and at one point, the bad boys swerved totally out of lane. Drunk on the pitch, brawls in the evening after the match, dealings and wheelings with local drug cartels, kung fu performances in the stadium and food as a projectile.

We have summarised some of the “worst” boys in football history in this article, explaining a bit about their backgrounds and what makes (made) these 16 bad boys so interesting and exciting. The fascination with bad deeds, combined with their skills and special attitudes, that only few could afford to have.


From “crap happens” to silly and a megalomaniac

Eric Cantona - ein ganz besonderer Böser Bube. Foto: Getty Images
Eric Cantona - ein ganz besonderer Böser Bube. Foto: Getty Images

We will start with an Arsenal legend, that counterfeited money, owned brothels and imported eccentric porn after his career ended.

We will report on a Schalke striker, that spent more than 20 years in jail for bank robbery, breaking and entering, cocaine dealing and bodily injuries. We will have a look at one of the attendees of the World Championships 2018, an old Mexican, that celebrated his biggest success in Spain and acts as a godfather of the special way he did it.

We will report on a Premier League professional, that got on the totally wrong side of the law, but who also made an incredible come back. And we will describe how a superstar sometimes liked to switch the type of sport he was doing in the stadium, kung fu of a very special sort.

16 stories all in all, that are worth telling. With no moralising fuss and always with a twinkle in their eye… Everything looks more interesting in hindsight…

Fairground 16 – 14: From “Sneaky Pete” to the Criminal Willi From the Ruhr Area

16. Peter Storey – the Arsenal legend

Peter Storey - Nationalspieler und Arsenal-Legende. Foto: Getty Images
Peter Storey - Nationalspieler und Arsenal-Legende. Foto: Getty Images

Peter Storey began his career in FC Arsenal’s youth team. In 1961 he became a part of the Gunners. 4 years later he debuted as central defense against Leicester City. A great Start.

Shortly after, “Sneaky Pete “became a regular player in London and due to this he was retrained to be a defensive midfielder. He won the UEFA-Cup with FC Arsenal in 1970 and also helped win the EFL Championship and the FA Cup once each. In 1977 he transferred to FC Fulham for £10.000. After only one year with Fulham he ended his active career. He played 19 times internationally for the English national football team. He debuted in 1971 against Greece.


1 × EFL champion with FC Arsenal: 1971

1 × English FA-Cup winner with FC Arsenal:  1971

1 × Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winner with FC Arsenal: 1970

That all sounds like a clean and organised career. But maybe the money just didn’t stretch far enough, for Storey to keep up the lavish lifestyle that he lived as a professional football player after he stopped playing. And how could he?

Taxes were also incredibly high in England in the 70s. In the year of 1974, the top income tax rate rose to 83%, which was the highest since the second world war. This was applicable to everyone who earned more than £20.000 and could be combined with a supplementary charge of 15% on “unearned” money (investment and dividends) adding up to a total of 98% for the marginal tax rate. In 1974 this hit around 750.000 people. Storey had a second career of a very special sort and this career choice led him off the straight and narrow. After his career ended he spent most of his time as a brothel owner, car thief, and importer of eccentric porn, as well as a forger of gold coins and bank notes. In 1980 he was arrested for forging coins. Three years in jail. Today the ex-national player is a taxi driver.

15: Mickey Thomas – money launderer and “woman trafficker”

Ein quirliger, kleiner Stürmer - Mickey Thomas. Foto: Getty Images
Ein quirliger, kleiner Stürmer - Mickey Thomas. Foto: Getty Images
Mickey Thomas played for Manchester United and Chelsea London and led an extravagant life.

First, he became famous, then he had to spend a long time on the down low. He trafficked women in the dark into changing rooms under the Stamford Bridge and was put into prison for 1.5 years for money laundering. “I still have problems, financial problems,’’ Thomas told an English reporter before continuing: “My life has had some highs and lows. I was a kid growing up on a rough council estate, we didn’t have much money and I was thick. I couldn’t spell – even my own name – so writing off for trials was hard. I had demons in my system.” Mickey Thomas showcases the somewhat typical person in the professional scene of the 70s and 80s of the 20th century.

He had a bad education, didn’t earn enough during his football career to be able to do nothing for the rest of his life, a wish to keep living with the same high standards that such a professional has, no chance of earning money in media or as a commentator or expert. Thomas summarised it like this later in life: “John Neal (trainer of FC Chelsea from 1981 – 1985) understood I had demons in my system. I used to hate walking the streets. I felt intimidated.

Although I came over happy, boisterous and cocky, I wasn’t. That was a front. On the opening day of one season for Wrexham, against Walsall, I had an outstanding match, but I couldn’t handle the pressure. I walked out. John found me and brought me back.’’ Today Thomas is a sought-after “after-dinner speaker”, a story teller. His standard gag: „So Roy Keane’s on 50 grand a week? Mind you, I was on 50 grand a week until the police found my printing machine! “


14. Willi Kraus – The criminal striker from the Ruhr area

Willi Kraus war ein guter Stürmer. Foto: Imago
Willi Kraus war ein guter Stürmer. Foto: Imago

Willi Kraus was born in the middle of World War 2 (on the 1st May 1943). He died on the 19th October 2008. The striker started out on FC Schalke 04’s youth team. He played there together with Stan Libuda among others.

Contrary to him, Kraus didn’t make it into the first team immediately, he played for the Dutch team Go Ahead Eagles Deventer for a year in 1963/64. After that he switched to Tennis Borussia Berlin, with whom he won the regional league of Berlin, but just lost in the play-offs for the national league. In 1966 Kraus returned to Gelsenkirchen to his original team Schalke 04. He became an important and well-known player in the national leagues in 1966/67 and 1967/68. In 36 national league matches he scored 16 goals. After he lost his football licence because of theft, he played for Eintracht Gelsenkirchen in the west regional league for one season in 1968/69. After the he ended his first career.

Football career

1962–1963: FC Schalke 04

1963–1964: Go Ahead Eagles Deventer

1964–1966: Tennis Borussia Berlin

1966–1968: FC Schalke 04

1968–1969: Eintracht Gelsenkirchen

Then his second career started. This was a career that didn’t need a licence or any additional training. This was because it consisted of bank robberies, breaking and entering, dealing cocaine, physical injuries and much more.

Though Kraus wasn’t great at this career either, as he got caught regularly by authorities. He spent more than 20 years in prison. Teammates looked back on the striker with a mixture of dismay and wonder. “In training camp Willi used to hide a pistol under his pillow”, Günter Herrmann remembers, national player in the 60s and a teammate from FC Schalke 04.


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The Fairgrounds of the 16 Worst Football “Bad Boys”

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