Five of the worst sporting sicknesses to make an impact

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Football News

The England cricket team was struck down by a stomach bug last week ahead of the crucial third Test against South Africa that began on Thursday. Fortunately, the situation did not affect England's performance too badly as they wrapped up victory in three days to win the series against the number one ranked Test side in Johannesburg.

Alex Hales and Nick Compton survived scares of being too unwell to feature while Stuart Broad was also picked despite spending a lot of time off the field on the opening day due to the illness - how pleased the selectors must now feel given the English bowler's stunning second innings performance.

In light of the illness that hit the camp, it is worth looking back on some of the most high-profile sporting sickness incidents.


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1. Tottenham Hotspur 2005/2006 sickness incident

Going into the last game of the 2005/2006 Premier League season, Tottenham Hotspur were set to finish fourth and secure a Champions League spot if they matched Arsenal’s result.

The night before the match, the Spurs team and staff checked into the Marriott Hotel in West India Quay, the normal choice when playing against opponents West Ham. Just as May 6 turned into May 7, and having eaten a buffet laid on by hotel staff, Spurs players began to fall ill.

Key players including Robbie Keane, Michael Carrick and Edgar Davids were among up to ten to have contracted some form of bug. Martin Jol’s men went on to lose 2-1 while Arsenal overcame Wigan 4-2 to secure their spot in Europe’s highest club competition.

It was initially put down as food poisoning, with conspiracy theories surfacing that a hotel staff member was an Arsenal fan. However, a Health Protection Agency-led investigation into the Marriott kitchen’s food storage, preparation and cooking facilities and techniques ruled this out.

Nevertheless, when the same fixture came around the following season, the club unsurprisingly opted to stay at a different hotel.

2. New Zealand rugby team before 1995 World Cup final

Two days before the highly anticipated 1995 Rugby World Cup final between host nation South Africa and New Zealand, illness struck the All Black camp. Around half the squad were suffering from sickness and diarrhoea, with winger Jeff Wilson famously throwing up on the Ellis Park pitch and having to be replaced.

Coach Laurie Mains famously blamed the issues on ‘Suzie’ the waitress, accusing her of poisoning his men ahead of the final. Mains also claimed to have hired a private investigator to look into the matter. All Blacks manager at the time, Colin Meads has since put it down to bad milk, although there has been no official explanation that got to the bottom of the riddle.

The match became etched in history when Nelson Mandela presented the Webb Ellis Cup to Springbok skipper Francois Pienaar following South Africa's victory after extra time. The fact they pushed it so close is a feat surprising to many considering the All Blacks’ pre-match issues.

3. Gary Lineker poos himself on pitch at 1990 FIFA World Cup

Ex-England striker and current Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker suffered an embarrassing bowel problem on the pitch during a match against Ireland at the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

Lineker, contracted to Spurs at the time, admitted that he had felt unwell at half-time. After putting his team ahead after eight minutes, he elected to continue and was forced to relieve himself on the pitch in front of more than 35,000 people in Cagliari.

Lineker overcame his sickness to lead the line in the final two group matches, ensuring England progressed to the knock-out stage as winners of Group F.

Although Lineker’s illness did not have as larger impact as those above, it certainly went down in history as one of the funniest.

4. Almost any person to come into contact with Rio’s Olympic waters

In July 2015, Associated Press published a story describing the waterways that will be used by swimmers and boaters in the 2016 Olympics as ‘filth’. In August of the same year, 15 members – four staff and 11 athletes - of the United States rowing squad fell ill after participating in a test event in the waters that are said to contain raw sewage.

In the same month, German sailor Erik Heil, who competes in the 49er class, was also sick after taking part in an event at the venue. He cited the alleged contamination of the water as the reason why he required treatment for infections.

On at least three occasions, thousands of dead fish have washed up near the Olympic waters where rowing and canoeing courses will be held, adding to concerns. As a result, the Singapore Sailing Federation has announced that its competitors will be administered seven different vaccinations as part of a precautionary plan to prevent athletes contracting infections and illnesses while competing.

Only time will tell as to whether Rio de Janeiro officials can clean up the water in time to prevent the estimated 1,400 athletes that will be competing in and around the water from also succumbing to sickness.

5. Ronaldo before the 1998 FIFA World Cup final

Brazil’s Ronaldo and eventual Golden Ball winner was surprisingly omitted from the initial team sheet ahead of the 1998 FIFA World Cup final against France, sending the media and fans into a frenzy.

Coach Mario Zagallo left his main man out of the eleven, only to restore him just 30 minutes before kick-off after he had declared himself well enough to start.

Rumours surfaced seeking to explain his preliminary absence. First reports stated an ankle injury had rules him out. Then, it was a purported to be a stomach bug. Finally, team doctor Lidio Toledo announced that Ronaldo had suffered a convulsion during the night and had been rushed to hospital.

Medical officials carried out tests on the forward, including on his heart and nervous system, before confirming he was fit to play.

A tired-looking, sub-par Ronaldo had little impact on the match and was outshone by France’s Zinedine Zidane, who inspired his team to a 3-0 victory with two headed goals at the Stade de France.

Who knows what would have happened had Ronaldo been 100 percent fit and able to link up with Rivaldo and Bebeto as he had done so well during the earlier stages of the tournament.

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Tottenham Hotspur
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