Wed, Feb 21, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bad boy Bellamy in trouble after golf club incident

AMERICAN REVOLUTION Liverpool's new owners seem unlikely to tolerate the sort of shenanigans that saw Craig Bellamy hit a teammate with a golf club


Newcastle United's Steven Taylor, center, is held back by goalkeeper Steve Harper as he is confronted by Liverpool's Craig Bellamy during their English Premiership League soccer match at St James' Park in Newcastle, England, on Feb. 10.


Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy added a new twist to the problem of soccer violence last week when he attacked a teammate.

Yes, a teammate.

The Wales forward allegedly hit John Arne Riise in the legs with a golf club while Liverpool was in Portugal at a training camp preparing for a Champions League match against defending champion FC Barcelona.

Bellamy faces a fine of ?80,000 (US$155,000) and an uncertain future with the 18-time English league champions, who were recently taken over by a pair of US businessmen.

If teammates whacking each other with golf clubs after a night out isn't absurd enough, consider the reason for the fight -- they were arguing about a karaoke competition.


The news of the fracas definitely wasn't music to the ears of George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks, Liverpool's new US owners.

The pair supposedly heard about the fight in Portugal and ordered Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez to issue a statement saying that players who misbehaved would be punished.

"We will take disciplinary action and fine any of them who are found to have breached club rules during our stay in Portugal," Benitez said in Sunday's statement.

Bellamy, who has a history of losing his temper, looks to be the first casualty of the dictum -- something not exactly alien to him.

When he played for Newcastle in 2004, Bellamy threw a chair at assistant manager John Carver. He was then heavily fined for calling manager Graeme Souness a liar in 2005.

Bellamy has also spent some time in court. In 2003, he was charged with three racism offenses after a night out in Cardiff, Wales. He admitted to using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior and was fined ?750.

The charge of "racially aggravated" abuse was dropped.

Late last year, Bellamy was cleared of assaulting two women in a nightclub.

But Bellamy can't be singled out as the team's lone troublemaker in Portugal. Other Liverpool players, including Jerzy Dudek, Jermaine Pennant and Robbie Fowler, were also said to have been drunk and acting up.

There have been worse crimes committed by professional athletes, however, and plenty of unruly behavior has come from overly aggressive sportsmen over the years.

Teammates have fought before in the English league. Newcastle players Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer exchanged punches on the field during a game in 2005.

Bowyer was later suspended for seven games and Dyer banned for three. The team also fined Bowyer.

Gillett and Hicks are no strangers to pugnacious players -- both own NHL hockey teams. But spending ?218.9 million for a group of players who hate each other isn't something they're likely to tolerate.

And they shouldn't, because soccer -- and Liverpool -- has had an ugly enough past when it comes to violence.

At the 1985 European Cup final at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, 39 people were killed when Liverpool fans charged their Juventus counterparts and a stadium wall collapsed.

Four years later, 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the FA Cup semifinal match against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium.

Hooliganism in soccer hasn't been confined to just Liverpool, of course.

On Feb. 2, 38-year-old policeman Filippo Raciti was killed by rioting fans after Catania played Palermo in the Italian league. That incident led to the suspension of league play for a week and security measures that have forced some teams to play in empty stadiums until standards are met.

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