By Tony Farkas
Near the end of December, Sky Sports News holds a “Goal of the Year” contest in which the viewers vote for the best Premier League Goal from the previous twelve months. The 2011 contest was rendered irrelevant by Wayne Rooney’s overhead volley against Manchester City at Old Trafford on February 12th. Like any blues supporter, I am accustomed to soul-piercing late winners by United. They usually bring on emotions which range from disgust to outright despair as in the case of Paul Scholes stoppage time winner at City of Manchester Stadium in the spring of 2010. Scholes goal came after United had not created a legitimate scoring opportunity for at least a half an hour. Rooney’s goal, on the other hand, was so spectacular that I was left somewhat stunned for the rest of the match. The usual despair never came. I could only mentally react as Ya Ya Toure literally did after the final whistle when he embraced Rooney, delicately palmed the back of his head with one hand, smiled and gave Rooney a gentle shove as to say, “I can’t believe you just did that?” The whole affair gave me cause to contemplate the skill involved in accomplishing what Wayne Rooney did.
In the mid to late 1970’s, my hometown had a soccer camp every year in the absolute dead of summer. Aside from the heat and the fact that one or two NASL players usually turned up, my main memory of the camp were reel-to-reel films. Primarily to get out of the heat for a short time, films were shown containing South American Lads demonstrating techniques which required outrageous skill and had little relevance to the game of seven and eight year olds. The films were my introduction to what was referred to in the parlance of the time as a “bicycle kick”.
Goals from overhead volleys normally come from one of two basic scenarios. Although both types are relatively rare, the slightly more common of the two normally involves a deflection, poorly hit clearance or header which creates a ball moving slowly, yet upwardly for a short distance away from the goal. A high profile example of this type of goal was scored by Klaus Fischer for what was then known as West Germany against France in the 1982 World Cup semi-final in Spain. It came from the high looping header of a teammate who was positioned on the end line. Fischer was positioned just outside the six yard box directly in front of goal when he launched himself into the air and struck the ball past the French keeper. The goal is famously remembered not only due to the magnitude of the game, but also because it was scored in the one hundred seventh minute in the second period of extra time to erase a two goal deficit. West Germany would go on to win on penalty kicks to complete their remarkable comeback.
The second scenario involves a faster moving ball with a lower trajectory which is usually supplied from a teammate’s cross. When timed well, as in the case of Rooney’s goal, the result is breathtaking. American fans will recall that Marcelo Balboa had tremendous skill at hitting this type of shot. His exploits in this realm included an effort in the 1994 World Cup Finals against Columbia which came within a razor’s edge of hitting the post. Probably the most famous example of this type of strike comes from the world of fiction. Pele’s overhead volley in the 1981 movie Victory gave viewers a sense of his capacity for acrobatics. Rooney’s goal surpasses the others mentioned in that it involved a relatively fast moving ball which was slightly deflected. This, of course, meant that he had less time to adjust to the flight of the ball than on a normal cross. The skill and timing it took to hit the ball squarely is unfathomable.
Although the goal was deflating, the typical Manchester derby despair was held at bay by the shear magnificence of the moment. For those of you City Fans who experienced the despair, take heart and recall how the French must have felt on that sultry Spanish afternoon in 1982. Can you imagine achieving a two goal lead in a thirty minute extra time period of a World Cup Semi-Final only to be drawn level by an equalizer from an overhead volley? It doesn’t get worse than that.