Sunday 27 May 2018

Gareth Bale's UEFA Champions League Goal: A Short Discourse on the Bicycle Kick

Gareth Bale’s ‘bicycle kick’ is being touted as the most spectacular goal in the history of the European Champions’ League tournament.

Maybe it is.

The ‘overhead’ or ‘scissors’ kick as it is alternatively termed is a manoeuvre that requires great physical dexterity and timing if it is to accomplish its desired objective. That objective may relate to its use as a defensive measure or to score a goal. It is something which, according to Herman Schwameder, a German scientist, is based on “instinct, a lot of courage -and a bad cross”.

Among the great players to whom the the technique has been famously linked are the Brazilians Leonidas and Pele. The West German striker, Klaus Fischer, all but made it his signature goal in the 1970s.

Although Leonidas, the top scorer of the 1938 World Cup, is often credited with ‘inventing’ the kick, its origins lie further back in time. But tracing its origins to South America appears to be sound. Oral history indicates that Afro-Peruvians performed the bicycle kick or Tiro de Chalaca (Chalaca strike) in matches involving British sailors and railroad employees. And Chilean footballers such as Ramon Unzaga and David Arellano became adept at executing the kick in the early 20th century.

It can be argued that every goal utilising the bicycle kick is a ‘great’ one whether scored on a recreational ground or in a football stadium. What separates one from the other has to do with the occasion, the time that it occurs during the match and the acuteness of the angle from which it is scored.

In Bale’s case, his foot could have connected with the ball at an even more ‘comfortable’ location, he had just come on as a substitute, and he was playing in the final of the world’s premier club competition.

So maybe it is the greatest bicycle kick goal in the history of the tournament or even the greatest goal bar none.

Or not.

In recent years, Wayne Rooney’s goal during a Manchester derby, Ronaldo’s in a Champions’ League match against Juventus and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s long range strike against England all stand in contention for any form of honorific.

But one thing all may be able to agree upon is, to misappropriate George Orwell’s words, all bicycle kicks are spectacular, but some are more spectacular than others.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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