FOOTBALL FOCUS – Eric Cantona admits kung-fu kick was a mistake but it felt great
WHENEVER Eric Cantona speaks about football the legendary Manchester United maverick is guaranteed to make you stop and think – and the latest insight from the controversial Frenchman is another classic.
Eric the King, always the master orator who boldly goes where no other sportsmen would dare, has done it again with a rare analysis of his infamous kung-fu kick.
Speaking in an exclusive interview on BBC’s Football Focus, Cantona recalls his moment of madness at Crystal Palace in the mid-90s by admitting it felt great to lash out at Eagles supporter Matthew Simmons, who was hurling abuse at him.
“It is a dream for some people to kick these kind of people (hooligans) — so I did it for them…so that they are happy,” said Cantona, who went into a rage when he was walking off the pitch after being red-carded for kicking Richard Shaw during a League clash at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995.
Cantona responded by leaping over an advertising hoarding before planting his right foot square into Simmons’ chest as thousands of stunned fans looked on in horror.
Despite admitting his actions were a big mistake, Cantona reckons he did it to please his fans!
“It’s a kind of freedom for them — so they speak about that incident because they felt something special physically'” Cantona told Dan Walker on BBC’s Football Focus.
“Maybe it was a different feeling. It is a great feeling — but different.
“I have seen so many players scoring goals and they know what that feels like, but this one — a player jumping and kicking a hooligan — it’s not the kind of thing you see every day!”
Cantona, 44, conceded: “It was a mistake but that’s life — that’s me. You either take it or not. I’m strong enough to come back.”
Cantona, fined £30,000 and banned from football for eight months over the incident, added: “I don’t care about the past — it’s full of great memories but I don’t want to think about them.
“I want to look forward. I played for France 45 times and don’t have any shirts — not even one. You can feel very quickly a prisoner of your past. I prefer to be free and think about tomorrow.”
But he reserved special praise for United boss Alex Ferguson, under whom he won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups in a five year spell at Old Trafford before retiring from the game in 1997.
Cantona said: “Alex Ferguson is one of the greatest managers of all time.
“He’s been at the club for more than 20 years with different generations of players.
“He’s a great psychologist — he adapts himself to all generations of players — he’s a kind of genius.
“I spent my best years as a footballer — between 26 and 30 — at Manchester United, one of the best clubs in the world.
“It had the best players, one of the best managers — so I was lucky to spend my time there.”