The bicycle kick, also known as an overhead kick or scissors kick is considered among the most athletic, spectacular manoeuvres that it is possible to execute on the football field, and while it has probably been responsible for more air shots than any other strike, a sweetly struck overhead is often a thing of beauty – especially when it hits the back of the net! Unbeknownst to some, the bicycle kick is as fascinating as it is spectacular, and in this feature, we present three of the most interesting facts from history up to the modern day.
The Bicycle Kick Isn’t Brazilian
Of all of the great footballing nations around the world, Brazil is most closely associated with the bicycle kick and most believe that the move originated on Brazilian fields. In individual terms, Pele is particularly well-known for his overhead kicks even having been quoted over the years as saying that they were particularly difficult, even for him! While the move was unquestionably originated in South America, the inventor of it was almost certainly either Chilean or Peruvian depending on who you talk to although the Brazilian association will never disappear completely – the kick is even known as the brassespark or Brazilian kick in Norwegian!
According to Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, the kick was first used by Ramon Unzaga in 1914, a naturalised Chilean who moved to the country from Bilbao, Spain in 1906. The move was used frequently by Unzaga in both the 1916 and 1920 Copa Americas both in attack and defence leading many to accept its Chilean origin. However, Argentine journalist Jorge Barraza disagreed claiming that the bicycle kick originated in Callao, Peru, among players of African descent who frequently played football with British sailors.
Today, both Chile and Peru lay claim to the move with the former calling it la chilena, and the latter la chalaca after the local name for Callao residents. An integral part of the sporting rivalry between the countries, it is a disagreement that may never be solved but it does eliminate Brazil from the equation!
Two of the Nine Puskas Award Winners are Bicycle Kicks
The FIFA Puskas award was established in 2009 to celebrate the most beautiful goal scored that year and while the award itself may be named for a player that was more closely associated with raw power as part of his goal scoring exploits, there can be no denying that anyone that scored 84 goals in 85 international matches, not to mention 512 goals in a 528 match career is the perfect individual to be celebrated by such an award.
Any bicycle kick goal is going to be in with a chance of winning the award but the two players that have earned it with the move are at vastly opposing ends of the footballing spectrum. The first is none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a living legend of the game that celebrated the opening of Sweden’s new stadium back in 2012 with an overhead kick from outside the box that helped the Swedes to a 4-2 victory over England. Still playing at Manchester United, his most athletic days may well be behind him, but he is almost certainly still good for a goal.
Two years later, the 2015 award was won by Wendell Lira with a bicycle kick that finished off a well-worked Goianesia move against Atletico-GO and set Goianesia on the way towards a 2-1 win. Lira was a free agent when he was announced as part of the Puskas shortlist, although he was signed by Vila Nova within weeks of the announcement before beating a certain Lionel Messi into second place and winning the award outright with 46.7% of the votes. No longer playing, Wendell Lira retired from football following his release from Vila Nova in May 2016 at the age of 27 to focus on his new career as a YouTube star and professional FIFA video gamer.
An honourable mention must go to Wayne Rooney for his bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011 which, while voted the best Premier League goal of all time in 2012 ahead of strikes from Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, could only manage third place in the 2011 Puskas Award behind goals from Neymar and Messi.
The Bicycle Kick Inspired a Video Slot
The bicycle kick’s status as a legendary move in the sport was perhaps cemented more than ever when a company called Yggdrasil Gaming released a slot named Bicicleta to tie in with Euro 2016. Nodepositbonus.co.uk, a UK no deposit bonus review portal reported that half a dozen such games were released around the event, but names like Football – Champions Cup and Euro Golden Cup lack the flair and finesse of Bicicleta.
With no sign of any games named Panenka or the Blanco Hop on the horizon, we are, with tongue firmly in cheek, going to take this as confirmation of the bicycle kick’s position as the ultimate skill move.
Incidentally, Bicicleta may be the Spanish word for bicycle, but it is only widely used in reference to football in English, with Spanish speakers calling it the tijera and tijereta, which translates as scissors.
That is of course, assuming that the Spanish speakers in question are not natives of Peru or Chile.