Metal Prison Doors

Doing Time: Footballers That Have Spent Time in Prison

Once upon a time, Quincy Promes had the footballing world at his feet.

Having broken through the youth ranks impressively at Twente, the winger was linked with moves to a number of European giants including Juventus.

Somewhat bizarrely, Promes chose Spartak Moscow as his next destination, but in four-and-a-bit seasons with the Russian outfit he bagged 66 goals, won the Premier League title and earned a first call-up to the Netherlands national team.

Spells at Sevilla and Ajax confirmed Promes’ talent but also opened the door on a controversy that will likely end his football career at the fairly tender age of 31.

An incident at a party saw a men stabbed in the knee, and it was only as more details were revealed that it became apparent that Promes was the attacker and his brother was the victim.

After a court case Promes was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of assault, and while the player’s agent has indicated that he will appeal, worse could be to come with the Dutchman also charged with alleged drug trafficking.

It will come as no consolation to him, but he’s not the only high-profile player to have served time behind bars….

George Best

Bottle and Drink Close Up

For those that were lucky enough to see him in full flight for Manchester United, George Best is considered to be one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots.

But he had his demons, as has been well documented, and at the end of his career in 1984 things started to unravel for the Irishman.

In one such episode, he was found guilty of drink driving and assaulting a police officer, before failing to answer to his bail conditions. Best was sentenced to three months in jail, of which he served two at Ford Open Prison.

Eric Cantona

A four-time Premier League winner (who also won the old First Division), Eric Cantona was a fantastic footballer.

And yet, unfortunately, when his name is mentioned most fans of a certain age remember one specific incident: the time he karate kicked a Crystal Palace supporter.

It was an episode that would see Cantona banned from football for nine months, while he served two weeks of a prison sentence that was eventually lessened to 120 hours of community service.

Duncan Ferguson

Gavel Against Scotland Flag

Former Everton striker Ferguson was known as a hard man on and off the pitch, with four convictions for various assaults.

But he became one of the few players in English football to be criminally punished for an incident on the pitch, with his headbutt of Raith Rovers’ John McStay while playing for Rangers considered serious enough for him to be reported to the police.

Ferguson would serve 44 days for assault in a Glasgow prison – but claimed he was only sentenced to imprisonment because the judge supported a rival team.


Brazilian Passports and Flag

Although the actual details of his alleged ‘crime’ are sketchy to this day, Ronaldinho spent five months in prison for his part in supposed passport forgery.

It’s thought that the Brazilian legend was arrested when he and his brother entered Paraguay with false passports, and he was forced to serve a period of house arrest that would last five months.

If they had been convicted of fraud, the pair could have served as long as five years, but Paraguayan authorities decided they had been punished enough and sent them packing.

Rene Higuita

One of the most unusual imprisonments in football involved Rene Higuita – the Colombian goalkeeper perhaps best known for his ‘scorpion kick’ against England.

Nicknamed ‘El Loco’, Higuita has been embroiled in all sorts of shenanigans over the years – but none quite like the kidnapping scandal he played a part in on behalf of infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Another drug baron, Carlos Molina, was involved in a war with Escobar, which led to Molina’s daughter being kidnapped. Despite being employed as a professional footballer at the time, Higuita agreed to act as a go-between and even paid the ransom money for the release of Molina – pocketing $64,000 (£50,000) for his efforts.

But in Colombia, profiting from a kidnap is illegal, and so Higuita would spend seven months incarcerated for his efforts.