In association football, a.k.a. soccer, a straight red card – which, of course, results in instant dismissal from the field of play – may be issued by a referee for various reasons including, but not limited to, serious foul play, violent conduct and deliberately denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Indeed, the history of the game is awash with accounts of players who received the proverbial ‘early bath’ almost before their feet had touched the ground, or the pitch in this case.
As recently as September 18, 2022, for example, Nice centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo hit the headlines when dismissed after just nine seconds of the Ligue 1 clash with Angers at the Allianz Riviera. The visitors went on the attack straight from the kick-off and when Todibo, adjudged to be the last man, tripped rival striker Abdallah Sima referee Bastien Dechepy had no choice to issue the fastest red card card in Ligue 1 history. For the record, Angers won 1-0, despite having Sofiane Boufal dismissed for a second yellow card just after the hour mark.
Nine seconds is roughly the time it takes to tie a shoelace, but still seems like an eternity when compared with the fastest red cards ever. Two players have the dubious distinction of being sent off after being on the pitch for no time at all, at least not officially. The first of them was Jamaican international striker Walter Boyd, who enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame when playing for Swansea City against Darlington in Division Three of the English Football League at Vetch Field on November 23, 1999. Following the award of a free-kick, Boyd came on as a late substitute, but immediately elbowed an opponent and was dismissed, for violent conduct, before play had restarted.
The second ‘instant’ red card was issued, under similar circumstances, in an explosive Premier League match between Reading and Sheffield United at the Madejski Stadium on January 20, 2007. The recipient was Sheffield United midfielder Keith Gillespie who, like Boyd, came on as a substitute and, like Boyd, elbowed an opponent before play had restarted, earning him his marching orders after precisely zero seconds, officially.