Marseille defender Patrice Evra was sent off after launching a karate-style kick at one of his team supporters before Thursday’s Europa League match against Vitoria Guimaraes.
Evra, 36, was engaged in a heated exchange with a group of fans from an area reserved for around 500 Marseille supporters in Portugal before aiming a head-high kick at one of them, an AFP reporter observed.
Some Marseille fans had managed to get out of their section of the stands and force their way to the touchline barriers where they were reported to have harangued Evra at close contact.
Stewards at the ground quickly intervened to break up the trouble, with Evra, who was originally listed as a substitute, ordered to return to the dressing room by the referee.
The incident immediately brought back memories of another act of kung-fu kick madness by a French footballer.
In January 1995, Eric Cantona, playing for Manchester United, launched a flying kick at a Crystal Palace supporter at Selhurst Park who had jeered him after he had been sent off.
Cantona’s assault led to a nine-month ban handed down by the English Football Association.
According to football statisticians Opta on Thursday: “Patrice Evra is the first player to be sent off before the start of a match in the history of the Europa League”.
Europe’s second-tier tournament replaced the Uefa Cup for the 2009-2010 season.
Evra, also a former Manchester United star, has received heavy criticism for his performances this season and lost his place in the team to on-loan Aston Villa left-back Jordan Amavi.