Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Art Of The Bicycle Kick

Throughout the ages, the words "bicycle kick" have been synonymous with visions of Peter Crouch, defying gravity in the way his long, spindly legs hung in the air on a magical Champions League night at Anfield, with Dimitar Berbatov controlling the ball on his thigh before rattling home a superb shot, and with Pele, producing the most stunning of goals on the world's biggest stage. In the wake of Wayne Rooney's stunning winner in this morning's Manchester derby, IFTH looks at the art of the bicycle kick.

From moments of glory on the school playground, to dramatic winners on the grandest of stages, the bicycle kick has contributed to moments of magic for fans and players alike, around the world. However, what makes the bicycle kick so interesting, is not just the stunning goals which it has lead to, but the furore which surrounds the very derivation of the technique. Many attribute the invention to Pedro Calomino, a legendary Argentinian striker of the early 1900s, while others claim that the first ever bicycle was performed by Chilean, Basque Roman Unzaga. Comically, former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis also claims to be the architect of the move, despite being born ten years after the first accounts of its existence.

Whoever invented it, one thing all connoisseurs of this most difficult maneuver can agree on is that any player skilled enough to even attempt this feat must be either prodigiously gifted, or prodigiously arrogant. For those who have successfully scored a bicycle kick, a place in the history books, but for those who fail in their endeavors to successfully convert from an overhead kick, a place in the type of humorous video compilations commonly found on Youtube. While most professional footballers are probably capable of pulling off the bike, some are certainly better known for it than others. Klaas Jan Huntelaar earned the title "Bicycle King" after a series of successful efforts while playing for Ajax, and Dimitar Berbatov has proved to be one of the masters of the art during his time at Manchester United. One man also capable in this department is former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, the only man who could possibly make an overhead kick look ugly. Yet another capable performer of the trick is Brazilian/Italian striker Amauri,who recently, scored a bicycle kick on his debut for new club Parma, placing him in a minuscule group of players who have successfully converted bicycle kicks on their debuts.

Though all bicycle kicks, or tijeras, as they are known in Spanish, are special, the ones which have been scored at key moments of big games will always be valued above the rest. This season in the Premier League, Manchester United supporters have had the pleasure of watching both Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney produce successful overhead kicks in two different games, both fraught with rivalry. While Berbatov's kick put United two nil up at home against Liverpool, Rooney's was, if possible, even more important, in that it gave Manchester United a late 2-1 victory over city rivals, and fellow title chasers, Manchester City. Rooney's goal wasn't the first late bicycle kick to be seen in English football though, as several years previous to that derby effort, a Tim Cahill overhead gave Everton a 1-1 draw against Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge.

The bicycle kick holds an extraordinarily rich history, one that will surely be further complemented by Manchester United's current number 10's strike. One hopes that world football's most adored move will continue to thrive even after the enthusiasm generated by Wayne Rooney's goal dissipates.


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