25 Jun /18

Bicycle Kick

Bicycle Kick – Word of the day – EVS Translations
Bicycle Kick – Word of the day – EVS Translations

There is a great deal of controversy over the invention and the name of one of the most beautiful manoeuvres in associated football. The bicycle kick, also known as overhead kick or scissors kick in the English language, is without a doubt one of the most spectacular performances to be seen on the play field. The nature of the kick is best described by the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano  in his book Soccer in Sun and Shadow, where he claims that the first football player to use the move in an official football match is the Basque-Chilean Ramón Unzaga back in 1914: “Ramon Unzaga invented the move on the field of the Chilean port Talcahuano: Body in the air, back to the ground, he shot the ball backwards with a sudden snap of his legs, like the blades of scissors.”

And while some experts do agree that the kick’s invention should be attributed to Chile, other argue that Chilean football players imported it from Peru, seeing it at matches between teams from the Chilean port of Valparaiso and the Peruvian port city of Callao, where, indeed, the kick was first performed during games between local players and British sailors and immigrants (who introduced football to South America) at the end of the 19th century and refereed to as tiro de chalaca (chalaca shot, the Callao shot).

Whether invented or imported, the acrobatic manoeuvre spread beyond western South America thanks to Chilean footballers and Unzaga, in particular, during the first editions of the South American Championship, to later debut in Europe when the Chilean forward David Arellano memorably performed the move during his club’s 1927 tour of Spain, and the impressed Hispanic fans instantly named the bicycle kick – la chileña (from Chile).

The chilena, in its variation of a scissor kick in swimming, was first recorded by an English sport media when in 1902 The New York Athletic Club Journal reported on the abilities of the first nationally prominent swimmer in intercollegiate competition: “Schaeffer is also a master of the art of using the scissor kick to propel one’s self when swimming”. Whereas, the first official media to report on the kick during a game of associated football became The Chester Times (Pennsylvania) when in 1930 wrote that: “It was the steady striding of McKniff and Hollowell rather than the bicycle kick of Hickey that decided the issue.”

And then came the time of the Black Diamond, or the Rubber Man, the Brazilian forward Leônidas da Silva who first used the bicycle kick on 24 April 1932, in a match between Bonsucesso and Carioca, to later perform it at the France 1938 World Cup (where he came out as the top scorer) leaving the referee puzzled whether the kick was within the rules or not.

“Before me there was Leonidas, who was the first to use the bicycle. When I was young, I practised it and became good but it wasn’t rare. In Brazil, all the kids were trying it when I was young.” Those words belong to Pele, the player who brought the bicycle kick to international acclaim, starting with scoring a bicycle goal in 1965 at a friendly match at Maracana stadium, followed by his 1968 iconic overhead kick against Belgium, that left the footballing world stunned, and yet, out of his 1,283 scored goals only 3 are bicycle kicks.

Bicycle kicks are not uncommon, but, naturally, due to the high level of skills required, their success rate is quite low. Back in April, a successful bicycle kick performed at the Champions League quarter-final by Christiano Ronaldo was declared by the player, himself as “probably the best” of his entire career, and as “the best in the history of football” by some fans, while other vote for Zinedine Zidane’s winning overhead kick against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League Final.