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Red Card Or Yellow? Goalkeeper Sent Off For Urinating During Match

When it can't wait until the game's over, what's a footballer to do?
Vanessa Berberian
Getty Images
When it can't wait until the game's over, what's a footballer to do?

In the final minutes of an English soccer match on Saturday, something odd happened: Salford City's goalkeeper was given a red card, for no obvious reason.

Max Crocombe, a 24-year-old New Zealander, was sent off the pitch, and neither team knew why.

"Red Card! Crocombe see red for something off the ball. No one has a clue what has happened," tweeted Salford.

A minute later, the opposing team, Bradford Park Avenue, offered some clarity: "We can confirm that Crocombe has been sent off for urinating during the game. We are not joking."

"He was told by the steward twice not to do it and he went ahead and had a pee," Bradford Park club secretary Colin Barker told The Associated Press. "He went to the side of the stand as I understand it. I didn't actually see it but the referee definitely sent him off for it because he was alerted to it by his linesman."

Crocombe apologized on Twitter after the game, which Salford won, 2-1. The teams play in the sixth tier of English football.

"I was in a very uncomfortable position and made an error in judgement which spoiled a great win," Crocombe wrote. "My intention was never to offend anyone and I'd like to apologise to both clubs and both sets of supporters and it won't happen again."

And the red card might not be the only sanction for Crocombe: Barker says a fan made a formal complaint to the police.

Other footballers have made similar game-time decisions and gotten away with it.

Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann got the urge during a 2009 Champions League game. He ran behind his goal and peed against an advertising board, barely making it back in time to defend against an attack by the opposing team.

Luckily for Lehmann, the referee didn't see his deft maneuver.

"I thought he handled it very expertly," Stuttgart's director of sport told The Guardian. "It was a tricky situation. He could hardly run into the dressing room while play was going on and it reminded me of the Tour de France — sometimes there are simply no options."

In an oddly fascinating look at how athletes deal with one of the most basic of problems, ESPN called urine "perhaps the most influential and disruptive liquid in sports."

We don't disagree. But wouldn't a yellow card be more fitting?

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.