Daniel Eon’s Unwise Leap into the Abyss

The Darwin Awards is a project that recognises outstanding contributions to human evolution by individuals who self-select themselves out of the gene pool through their own unnecessarily foolish actions. If there is a non-fatal equivalent in the world of football, the nominations should be handed to players who put themselves out of action by dint of faintly ridiculous, self-inflicted injury. Picking up a strain playing Playstation, dropping bottles of salad cream or aftershave on feet, poking themselves in the eye with aircraft boarding-passes or using an electric drill to drain a blood blister with predictable results – these actions do not reflect well on the intelligence of the footballers culpable of such wanton idiocy.

BTLM would like to put forward for consideration to this list the name of 1960s French goalkeeper Daniel Eon. He’s not a well-known player outside his native land, but he’s certainly one who deserves his place in the pantheon of players who picked up the most avoidable of injuries.

Eon was first-choice keeper of long-standing with French club Nantes during their rise to prominence under coach José Arribas. He was a steady presence between the posts as Nantes were promoted to the top division in 1963, became national champions in 1965 and successfully retained the Ligue 1 title the following year. Known for his safe rather than spectacular style, Eon struggled to capture the imagination of successive national team managers and stood third-choice in the international hierarchy behind Marcel Aubour and Pierre Bernard.

With the 1966 World Cup looming and Lyon’s Aubour suffering a major lapse in form, national trainer Henri Guerin selected Eon for his first appearance in a Moscow friendly against the Soviet Union. The debutant performed brilliantly and by helping France to a confidence boosting 3-3 draw cemented the possibility that he might be first-choice in England the following month.

Before thoughts could turn fully to the World Cup, a single round of the French championship remained. Nantes had already wrapped up the Ligue 1 title and travelled to Cannes with a different target in mind. With 33 goals to his name already, the club’s international striker Phillipe Gondet had the all-time divisional goalscoring record for a single season in his sights. That record was held by Marseille’s Gunnar Anderson with 35, meaning Gondet required a hat-trick in that last fixture to set a new benchmark. Nantes duly won 6-1 and Gondet scored three of them, an event wildly celebrated by everyone in the Nantes party.

When the forward scored his all-important third goal in the 72nd minute he was mobbed by the entire Nantes team and coaching staff. Having started furthest away from the celebrations, Eon arrived last to the party and, running at pace, launched himself with some gusto on top of the large huddle. After a half a minute or so the group began to disperse and the players made their way back to their positions for the restart. One player remained on the ground and it was not Gondet, the hero of the hour and the one who had disappeared under the mass of bodies in the first place.

Unfortunately for Daniel Eon his celebratory leap of faith into the unknown took him through a gap in the middle of the group and crashing to the ground. The keeper was carried off on a stretcher in agony and flown to Paris to see a specialist who diagnosed a torn Achilles tendon. Eon would be in plaster for a month, unable to train for a further two and would, of course, miss the 1966 World Cup.

Daniel Eon would recover to get another chance with France the following spring when he was selected for a couple of international friendly defeats in Paris, but his time had passed by then. Saint-Etienne keeper George Carnus had become the undisputed French number one and Eon would not get a look in again. His club career at Nantes ended prematurely too with another injury forcing his retiral two years later at the age of just 29.

Amidst the celebrations that followed the 1993 English League Cup Final Replay, Arsenal’s Steve Morrow was hoisted on the shoulders of teammate Tony Adams and then unintentionally dropped, breaking his collarbone in the process. In our footballing Darwin Award classifications, duly file these incidents involving Morrow and Eon next to each other in the STUPIDLY EXUBERANT OVER-CELEBRATION category.

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