FIFA World Cup moments: When Frank Rijkaard spat on Rudi Voeller at the 1990 World Cup

Modern football fans will probably remember the 2006 World Cup for the famous imagery of mercurial midfielder Zinedine Zidane headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi in the chest.

Football fans from a generation before that incident will probably have a similar memory from the 1990 World Cup.

In this visual sequence in question, there's West Germany's Rudi Voeller walking contemplatively, hands on his waist, after being fouled by Dutch midfielder Frank Rijkaard just as the latter, angry at being shown a yellow card, runs in from behind him to spit in his hair.


It was the perfect moment to sum up what was a fractious match to begin with.

Inexplicably, Voeller was shown a yellow card even as he was protesting being spat at.

In a free-kick a few minutes later, Voeller went to the ground ostensibly to avoid colliding with the on-rushing goalkeeper. But Rijkaard, incensed by the fact that he would miss the quarter-final even if the Netherlands progressed due to the yellow card, rushed to Voeller, who was still on the ground, and twisted his ear and stamped on his foot while castigating him for diving. In the ensuing melee, the duo got sent off. Rijkaard spat on Voeller again while walking off. West Germany went on to win the last-16 encounter 2-1 before going all the way in the tournament. They beat Argentina 1-0 in the final.

The German media branded the Dutchman with the nickname "Llama" for his spitting, but the incident left a black spot on his legendary career.

He later apologised and the duo even appeared in an advertisement together with the proceeds going to charity.

When the din died, Voeller told FourFourTwo in an interview: "Of course it wasn't nice what Frank Rijkaard did but the match should have continued for me. I still can't understand why the referee sent me off and I guess he will take it to his grave. He wanted to make an example of both of us so that the situation would calm down — which did work. There was some venom before between other players but, you know, it's always problematic between Germany and Holland."

Rijkaard meanwhile said: "That day I was wrong. There was no insult (from Rudi Voeller). I always had much respect for him. But I went berserk when I saw that red card. I talked to him after the match and I apologised. I'm very happy that he accepted. I have no bad feeling about him now. We even posed for a very funny advert together years after."

To read about other FIFA World Cup moments, click here.

Updated Date: May 25, 2018 19:37:50 IST