Seven shocking sports resignations and retirements

Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA President amidst continuing corruption claims (Source: Flickr).
Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA President amidst continuing corruption claims (Source: Flickr).

Sepp Blatter’s resignation from the FIFA presidency was met with shock as well as glee from many in the world of football. His announcement marks the end of his highly controversial 17-year tenure as the head of football’s governing body. As the most recent FIFA corruption scandal rumbles on, I took a look at some other resignations that shocked the sporting universe.

Sir Alex Ferguson

(Source: Mike Thomson, Flickr)
Sir Alex Ferguson (Source: Mike Thomson, Flickr).

The most successful manager in British football history delivered the earth-shattering news of his retirement to the Manchester United faithful on May 8th, 2013. While it was perhaps obvious that Ferguson was approaching the twilight of his managerial career, there were no immediate signs that pointed to him leaving the Old Trafford hot seat.

The fiery Scotsman went out on a high, winning the Premier League title in his final season in charge meaning he won 36 trophies during his time at the club and 49 throughout his career.

Bjorn Bjorg

Bjorn Bjorg in 1979 (Source: Wikipedia).


Bjorg is considered throughout the tennis world as one of the greatest players ever. A six-time French Open winner, five-time Wimbledon champion and four-time US Open winner, the Swede has a trophy cabinet most could only dream about. Not only that, but he played in some of the best matches of all time and played a significant part in making the men’s tour the money-spinning sport that it is today.

Despite dominating the sport from the 1970s through to the 1980s, Bjorg delivered a bombshell in January 1983. He was only 26 and had won the French Open as recently as 1981, but after losing to John McEnroe in the US Open final that same year, the writing was on the wall. Whereas current players would have continued, Bjorg barely played during 1982 and despite protests from McEnroe, announced his retirement from tennis.

Bjorg retired without ever winning the Australian Open that would have allowed him to complete the career Grand Slam.

CM Punk

CM Punk deep in thought while in a WWE ring (Source: Flickr).
CM Punk in London as part of the WWE World Tour (Source: Ed Webster, Flickr).

Many may not class professional wrestling as a sport, but as a fan of WWE I believe CM Punk’s spectacular resignation deserves a place on this list. Punk (real name Phil Brookes) was a main event star and enjoyed the longest WWE Championship reign of the modern era. However, he felt continuously hard done by and this eventually boiled over at the 2014 Royal Rumble.

It was no secret Punk was fed up with part-time Superstars such as The Rock and Batistia returning and being automatically given a place in the main event of WrestleMania – especially as Brookes had done everything that was asked of him by WWE. The Royal Rumble was the final straw as a returning Batista defied the odds and won, giving him the opportunity to wrestle for the WWE title at WrestleMania.

Punk never appeared on WWE television again and despite the company claiming he was taking a ‘sabbatical,’ it soon became clear the superstar had quit. The straight edge Superstar then made it public that he had retired from wrestling at the mere age of 35. All the details were finally revealed on Colt Cabana’s podcast late in 2014, where Punk explained he was being forced to compete with injuries and was not being given sufficient time to recover. Despite being a top merchandise seller and fan favourite, he was frustrated at being constantly overlooked. It was also revealed that Punk was served his termination papers by WWE officials on his wedding day.


Pep Guardiola 

Pep Guardiola (Source: Thomas Rodenbücher, Flickr).
Pep Guardiola (Source: Thomas Rodenbücher, Flickr).

Guardiola’s Barcelona team will always be considered one of the best club sides in football history. During his four year tenure the Catalan Giants experienced an unparalleled level of success, winning 14 trophies including two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles. He left the Nou Camp as the most successful coach in Barcelona history.

With the La Liga out of reach during the 2011/12 season and a 2-2 all draw with Chelsea knocking his team out of the Champions League, Guardiola announced his resignation three days later. He stated his decision, which sent shockwaves throughout Spain, was mainly a consequence of fatigue.

Florence Griffith-Joyner

Flo-Jo at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games (Source: Eurosport).
Flo-Jo at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games (Source: Eurosport).

Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo-Jo) was the sweetheart of US track and field and won triple gold (100m, 200m and 4x100m relay) at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Her world record times, set during the same year, of 10.49 seconds in the 100m and 21.34 seconds for the 200m still stand today. However, after that career-defining 1988 season Flo-Jo was dogged with accusations of drug abuse.

Her physique was said to have significantly changed in 1988 and this coincided with her running much faster than she had previously managed. She took 0.47 off her 100m time and 0.67 from her 200; despite undergoing strenuous drug testing that season she still faced claims of doping.

Out of the blue she retired from athletics after her 1988 Olympic triumph. Coincidentally, the next season was the first where mandatory random out of competition drug tests took place. She died in her sleep ten years later from an epileptic seizure and her husband insisted she be tested for steroids in order to clear her name. However, there was not enough urine left in Joyner’s body for an accurate sample to be taken.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan doing what he did best (Source: Basket Streaming, Flickr).
Michael Jordan doing what he did best (Source: Basket Streaming, Flickr).

Michael Jordan had just won a third NBA title with the Chicago Bulls and was a five-time NBA MVP,  but in 1993 he decided to quit basketball to take up baseball.

It was made clear that Jordan’s decision stemmed from wanting to honour his father, who was murdered earlier that year. It was his father’s request that he play professional baseball, which Jordan did but ultimately failed at.

This was just one of three retirements, after he returned in 1995 to lead the Bulls to three more titles. Jordan returned to the NBA again after his second retirement in 2001 to play for the Washington Wizards.

Johan Cruyff

Johann Cruyff in action for the Netherlands (Source: Eurosport).
Johann Cruyff in action for the Netherlands (Source: Eurosport).

Perhaps the greatest Dutch player ever, Cruyff helped the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup Final where they lost 2-1 to Germany. He may have been on the losing side, but he still won the FIFA Golden Ball for being the best player at the tournament. During his international career he scored an impressive 33 goals in just 48 matches and helped his country qualify for the 1978 finals in Argentina. However this would be his last act in an orange shirt after he suddenly announced his retirement from international football.

The rumours were that Cruyff was against the political dictatorship that was in place in Argentina and consequently decided to call it a day. Conversely, it turned out that the real reason for his retirement was that Cruyff and his family had been the subject of an attempted kidnapping in Barcelona the previous year.


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