With the eagerly anticipated Ballon D’Or fast approaching, so too is the less established Puskás award. The title for best goal is something that requires much more thought than you would initially think and although the award itself is given to the ‘most aesthetically pleasing’ is this all that should govern our choice? We know when we see a good goal, and we definitely know when we see a great one. But with the endless amount of ways you can go about putting the ball in the back of the net, who’s to say that a certain one of these is more beautiful than another?
Is the epitome of goal scoring prowess encapsulated by the technical perfection of a sumptuous bicycle kick or Zlat taekwondo back-heel? Can the goal of the year come in the form of 45 yard howitzer which is “still rising” as it hits the back of the net which it almost always nearly breaks? Or should the delicacy, intricacy and audacity of a teasing 20 yard chip be the benchmark to which we judge all the others? It’s not as if there is some complex algorithm that takes into account distance, power, possibility, elegance, deftness, part of body; the list goes on.
This article therefore is simply a celebration of the goal in all its glory and in it I will be looking at the contenders for this year’s award in the hope of finding the answer to one of the most debated questions of the modern age: what is the best way to score a goal? Expect an unrelenting use of multipartite polysyllabic poeticism and puns (it sounds so good you have to admit) and seductive description as if it were a 50 Shades of Grey spin-off. After all, a sensational goal is to a football fan as a Channing Tatum nip-slip is to a 15 year old fangirl, and thus deserves to be lathered up just as he often is.
Let’s kick things off, the most appropriate way to start an article about football, with probably the most well known type of ‘good goal’. The x-amount-of-yards-screamer. Most commonly executed with one mighty swing of the boot, the screamer/belter or thunderbolt has always been both a frequent occurrence and a well received one in the footballing world, especially due to its ability to assume many different forms, including the volley and free-kick. The power generated and the distance (20 + yards to fulfil the necessary criteria) is what marvels us the most. The capability to strike a ball so hard and so true the likes of which many a football enthusiast/amateur of the game can only dream of replicating. However, the more important aspect of this type of goal is the reaction it inspires, as it is this reaction I believe to be the cause for its name. As we witness the ball sail through the air, what starts off as a small grunt of hope blossoms into crescendoing screams of pleasure – not too dissimilar to from those found in the bedroom – topped off with an inaudible roar interspersed with made up adjectives punctuated by swear words and finished with one last display of disbelief, ‘F**k me’ being the operative way to do so.
Many of this year’s contenders fit into this bracket, Cahill and Kasami scoring goals that resemble the famous Van Basten, which itself has gone down as one of the best goals ever. Whilst Stephanie Roche’s and James Rodriguez’s efforts are also orgasm-inducing, especially with the added wonder of impressive ball juggling and control before both rifling the ball in to the top corner. Cahill’s goal especially provoked the reaction I described, word for word in my case, and the video above (minus the swear words due to being on national television) shows the screamer conquers all who bear witness to its greatness.
Next on the list is a goal far more quaint in both its appearance and the way it is received. Despite its appearance, the cheeky chip over the keeper is not to be confused with the lob – although Puskás contender Hisato Sato’s looping effort is no less impressive – and is the owner of a proud history, the likes of Cantona and a Bergkamp serving up the finest examples. Puskás nominee Marco Fabian has now added to this rich catalogue of excellent goals and demonstrates, in complete contrast to the x-yards-screamer, the finesse and craft often associated with this particular style of goal, something also reflected by the way in which we celebrate it.
Some may, myself included, let the odd groan slip, but for the most part, when we see a ball nestle (another word synonymous with this type of goal) into the back of the net, rather than let out an almighty roar/moan, a more gentlemanly approach is the accepted custom. We tend to sit back, applaud, and then find ourselves questioning reality, asking ‘No he didn’t? Did he?’ a thought punctuated quickly after with the phrase most commonly formed of the word ‘cheeky’ followed by the swear word of your choice. The chip will always hold its place among the great goals in football, purely for its elegance, and if we are to think in terms of beauty as the award does, then the chip is surely a hot favourite. However there is also a sadistic side to our enjoyment of this type of goal, a Schadenfreudean element, as the beauty of the chip is often accentuated by the helplessness of the goalkeeper victim to it, gazing and/or scrambling as the ball sails gracefully over his head.
The final goal I will slowly undress with words is one that helps complete the summary of all Puska nominees for this coming year, and is one that holds a dear place in my own heart. The flair goal. Bicycle kicks, Zlatan specials and all other anomalies that cannot be pinned down to a specific type. These goals defy all possible explanation and leave us in a state of wonder, disbelief and in need of a second pair of pants. When we see an airborne player we cannot help but admire. There is an innate human desire that longs for the ability to fly and in scoring these goals we come closest to achieving this dream; defying gravity for a small moment in time with the added spectacle of doing so to score a goal. I personally can’t think of anything more magnificent. The flair goal often represents what we deem impossible, it is a display of the ultimate skill and in most cases is limited to only a select elite within the footballing world. A select few that not only have the flexibility in their hamstrings, a luxury which I can personally vouch is an underrated one, but also the colossal pair of testicles needed to even consider attempting such ludicrous efforts.
There is one man who’s testicles are certainly of this gargantuan size, a man who has become famous for his ability to conjure up the impossible making it look dead easy in the process. Zlatan Ibrahimovic finds himself a contender for yet another of these awards, and with his previous winner, the sensational overhead kick against England, combining flair and the x-yards-screamer into one single piece of brilliance, this year’s effort is one of pure genius; tapping into his taekwondo background and executing an exquisite back heel perhaps more suited to a combat scene in House of Flying Daggers than a football pitch, but beautiful all the same.
The remaining three contenders also fit into this category, which if you had not already realised is my personal favourite, and they too ooze audacity and eccentricity. Robin Van Persie’s header in the World Cup is not only made brilliant by the magistral pass of Man Utd teammate Daley Blind, but the diving nature of the header as well as its looping arc means this goal exudes spontaneity and unorthodoxy, necessary attributes of any flair goal worth its name. The final two contenders, Diego Costa and Camilo Sanvezzo both take flight in potential neck breaking fashion, contorting their bodies mid-air to score wonderful examples of the overhead and bicycle kick respectively, fully deserving their place amongst this year’s goalscoring elect.
Of course these goals do not represent all possibilities and all ways to score a goal, and there is certainly a wealth of other options that should be considered. However, I think it is best to avoid a 5000 word article (as much fun as it would be) and therefore choose to stick with those nominated. This is not to say that the great team goal should be dismissed. Arsenal’s goal against Norwich had many weak at the knees, so weak in fact it found its way onto a particularly infamous website in the process. The solo effort and the act of dribbling past the entire enemy team from within one’s own half is equally as noteworthy; a feat expertly demonstrated by Argentina legend Diego Maradona and his modern day reincarnation, Lionel Messi.
Yet, if anything, the simple fact that this article could soon become a novel illustrates just how hard this question is to answer. The Puskás award, as already mentioned, celebrates the most beautiful goal scored, and although this may be an easier task, picking between those shown in the article is a decision I do not envy having to make. In fact, it’s a practically impossible one. The pure abundance of goals that have been scored, as well as the endless amount of ways in which they have been done so, does not even take into account context or scoreline. A World Cup winning goal is surely better than a training ground rabona, or isn’t it? I know what I think, but I’ll let you be the judge…
The rabona is always the best.
If you didn’t watch as you went through, all nominees can be found here on the FIFA website.