The year 2018 saw some great sporting events across the globe, with France lifting the FIFA World Cup after 20 years and the cricketing world gave multiple memories. However, the controversies were no less.

Here is a list of the biggest sporting controversies of 2018.


1. Nike's Colin Kaepernick advertisement

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Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick appeared as the face of Nike's advertisement celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 'Just Do it' slogan. Kaepernick is the NFL player who led the kneeling movement during the US National Anthem protesting the police killings of some unarmed black Americans. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, was the tagline of the Nike advertisement. As it went viral, people even burnt their Nike merchandise as a mark of protest against featuring Kaepernick as the face of the advertisement.


2. Mithali Raj's left out of World T20 semi-final

Mithai Raj's name was conspicuously absent from the World T20 semi-final line-up and while India went on to lose the match to England by nine wickets, it was the start of a bigger controversy where the veteran cricketer alleged coach Ramesh Powar of bias and discrimination. The ODI skipper also wrote a letter to BCCI, explaining the nature of happenings in West Indies - where the tournament took place. Powar and Mithali had a spat on social media too. Powar’s contract as the coach ended and T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur urged BCCI to re-appoint him, it did not happen. WV Raman was named the new coach after BCCI interviewed candidates for the job.


3. Rape allegation against Cristiano Ronaldo

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After winning the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Juventus over the summer. However, Ronaldo was accused of raping a US-based former model Kathryn Mayorga in 2009 when the two met in Las Vegas. Though the Portuguese footballer's lawyers have termed what happened between the two as 'consensual', a certain document in the hands of German publication Der Speigel claimed otherwise.


4. Australia’s ball-tampering scandal

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In perhaps one of the biggest cricketing scandals of all time, Australian cricketers Steve Smith and David Warner were found guilty of planning deliberate alteration of the cricket ball, with Cameron Bancroft being the doer. The incident took place during the third Test in Newlands as cameras caught Bancroft using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball. Smith and Warner were given bans of 12 months each while Bancroft was handed a nine-month suspension.


5. Mohammed Shami-Hasin Jahan case

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India fast bowler Mohammed Shami's wife Hasin Jahan shared some WhatsApp chats of her husband accusing him of adultery. While the charges of extra-marital affairs were mere beginnings, the pace bowler was also accused of corruption, physical and mental abuse and a lot more. The growing controversy had forced the BCCI to withdraw the central contract to the bowler. A thorough investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit got Shami cleared of the corruption charges and earned him back a place in the BCCI contracts.


6. #MeToo moment: BCCI CEO Rahul Johri accused of sexual harassment

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In the #MeToo campaign, the Indian cricket fraternity was left stunned as the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri was accused of sexual harassment by not just one but two separate women. A three-member independent panel was assigned the responsibility of getting a conclusion into the matter. Johri was eventually cleared of the accusations, with the Committee of Administrators (CoA) report terming them as fabricated and manufactured.


7. Virat Kohli's 'leave India' comment to fan

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The Indian skipper caused a major controversy as he asked a fan to leave India and live in some other country for not liking Indian cricketers. In a video, Kohli was reading a few messages from social media, with one of them being about a fan disliking him and other Indian cricketers. As the fan claimed he liked to watch South African and Australian teams more, the 30-year-old advised him to go live abroad if he didn't like watching any of the Indian cricketers.


8. Serena Williams’ infamous spat with referee in US Open final

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While Naomi Osaka became the first tennis player from Japan (male or female) to win a Grand Slam title by beating Serena Williams in the US Open final, the match is best remembered for the American tennis star's spat with the referee over Serena seeking tips from her coach during the match. While the referee Carlos Ramos penalised Serena, the latter went on to accuse him of sexism alleging that the same would've never happened to a male tennis player. Serena even accused Ramos of being 'a thief' as he deducted a point on seeing the tennis player break her racquet in frustration.


9. Female Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg being asked if she knows how to ‘Twerk’ during the ceremony

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As Luka Modric bagged the 2018 Ballon d'Or, ending Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's duopoly, the inaugural Women's Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg was asked if she knows how to twerk by presenter Martin Solveig. Although Solveig later apologised to Hegerberg clarifying that he only meant it as a joke, even tennis star Andy Murray commented on the controversy calling it 'unreal' sexism.


Rape allegation against Soumyajit Ghosh 

Table tennis player and two-time Olympian Soumyajit Ghosh was accused of raping an 18-year-old girl after promising to marry her. A complaint was lodged with the police against Ghosh and his family members in Bengal's Barasat on August 6. Ghosh was put under provisional suspension and dropped from India's Commonwealth Games squad.  

Ghosh, who is an Arjuna awardee and India’s youngest-ever national champion, was booked under section 376 (rape), section 417 (cheating), section 313 (causing miscarriage without woman's consent) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act.

Ghosh denied the allegations, saying that the accuser has been blackmailing him after their relationship ended. Ghosh later married his accuser four months after his career nosedived because of the crisis. On Sunday, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) revoked Ghosh's suspension.


Neymar's play-acting during FIFA World Cup 2018

While Brazil were battling Mexico in a bid to reach the quarter-final of the World Cup, Neymar was lying on the sidelines when Miguel Layun ran to him to fetch the ball.

As it turned out, Layun mildly stepped on Neymar’s right ankle and the Brazilian acted as though someone had run a tank over it. He cried and cried while jumping around in agony, something that totally angered former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

“It's annoying to watch, the way he tries to force cards. It seemed like he was dying, I thought he'd be put on a stretcher, then in an ambulance and never seen again,” said the former Denmark ‘keeper.

Schmeichel was triggered by the fact that Neymar was awarded the Man-of-the-match award for his goal and assist – something that will reflect badly on the kids watching the game.

"My God, Neymar even won the best player award against Mexico. For me, FIFA should have looked at how he behaved in the game. I cannot find any other way to describe it as really unfortunate.

“Gianni Infantino the FIFA President was in the stadium – they have to look at what was happening.

“I appeal to FIFA. It's not something we want to see in football. We have the VAR, we have to be spared these simulations. It attracts so much attention and all the kids are watching. It's not good, it's not what we want in football.”

Neymar’s play-acting resulted in several memes on the internet and the Brazilian stars subjected to trolls online. However, he later defended his actions.