Eric Cantona is a former French soccer player who played professionally from 1983-1997. Though his controversial behavior earned him enemies on and off the pitch, he paved the way for Zinedine Zidane to lead France to its first World Cup and is credited with revitalizing the English soccer club Manchester United. He is also a film and stage actor.
Cantona was born in Marseilles (though some say Paris) in 1966 and began playing soccer for his local team, SO Caillolais. He began his professional career with Auxerre’s youth team in 1981, making his professional debut two years later. In 1984, Cantona went on hiatus from the sport to complete mandatory national service, and returned to Auxerre in 1986. The following year, he was fined for punching a teammate in the face–only the first of what were to be many disciplinary issues throughout Cantona’s career.
Though a talented forward, Cantona began fighting during and outside of games with anyone who crossed him. In 1989, he kicked a ball directly at spectators during a match; soon after, while on loan to Montpellier, he threw his shoes in a teammate’s face. In 1991, Cantona left French clubs on the advice of his therapist to join the English club Leeds United and, later, Manchester United (though he still played for the French national team). But his disciplinary issues continued, as Cantona threw a ball at a referee in the same year and spat at a fan the next.
His performance on the field was still excellent, but in 1995, Cantona was convicted of assaulting a fan after a match. This earned Cantona an international ban for what the Football Association called “a stain on our game.” By the time the ban was lifted, Cantona had been replaced on the French national team by Zinedane Zidane, but he went on to captain the Manchester United team until retiring in 1997.
Awards & Championships
- 1988 – Division 1 Champion (Marseille)
- 1989 – Coup de France (Montpellier)
- 1990 – Division 1 Champion (Marseille)
- 1991 – Football League First Division (Leeds United)
- 1992 – Premiere League Champion (Manchester United)
- 1993 – Premiere League Champion (Manchester United)
- 1993 – Football Association Cup (Manchester United)
- 1995 – Premiere League Champion (Manchester United)
- 1996 – Premiere League Champion (Manchester United)