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Journalism of Courage

Football has fun, frenzy — and a flourishing array of new words. How many do you know?

Do you know what is Panenka? Or Rabona? Do you know how these terms came to be? Check out how much you score here.

rabona, Panenka, Cruyff Turn, phrases from football, wordly wise, indian expressAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain performing a rabona while warming up for Arsenal on August 17, 2012. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

While the world is savouring the best that soccer (popularly football but different from American football) can serve, it is good to remember what one of its greatest heroes, Danny Blanchflower, had to say about football: “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”

Blanchflower, who played for Barnsley FC, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspurs and earned 56 caps for Northern Ireland, was ranked in 2009 by The Times as the greatest ever Spurs player. Exactly 50 years after he said this, his words remain on target.

Football is about fun and frenzy, and on-field flourish of demigods who make the spectacle a treat worthy of gods. By stretching physical endurance and body suppleness, football heroes have left an indelible print on the game’s jargon and with their ingenuity of feint moves and tricks have set examples for others to follow and very often take forward.

While for fans around the world, expressions like ‘tiki-taka’, ‘nutmeg’ and ‘park the bus’ may have by now become easily understood, there are coinages that bear the mark of their creators till date. Here are five of them.

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The Panenka is a particular style of taking a penalty kick devised by Antonin Panenka, a Czech player, during the 1976 European Championship final against Germany. He scored the winning goal by gently lifting the ball in the middle of the German net. Since then, the Penanka has been frequently employed by many to beat the goalkeeper and refers to a spot kick that is chipped softly into the middle of the goal anticipating the goalkeeper diving towards one side of the goal.

We owe the Cruyff Turn to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. A routine salvo in his arsenal, it was first noticed by spectators during a match against Sweden in the 1974 World Cup in Germany when he faked to pass the ball before dragging the ball in the opposite direction and heading into the penalty area catching the defenders unawares.

The Rabona looks like more of a show-off move but has been used with deadly effect. It has the capability of confusing the defender completely. It is a way of kicking the ball whereby the kicking leg is almost wrapped around the standing leg. Though there is no consensus on who used this trick for the first time, it is believed that the first Robona was performed by Ricardo Infante, an Argentine, during a club-level match in 1948. The name stuck because Argentine magazine El Grafico put a picture of Infante scoring the goal and captioned it: Infante played hooky. Rabona in Spanish means to play hooky or play truant.


Then there is the Flip-flap, attributed to Brazilian Rivelino. The trick was invented during the 1970 World Cup. It is done by using the stronger foot, moving the ball one way pretending to go past the opposition in that direction before being whipped back using the inside of the foot. It is also referred to as the akka or the elastico.

And talking of tricks, how we can forget the one for which even the God lend a hand? Diego Maradona, the master of dodge, introduced a technique to make a shot by using one foot to stand on the ball, spinning over it in order to shield it away from the opponent and then using the other foot to drag it away from him. The technique is called the Marseille Roulette. However, French striker Yves Mariot and midfielder Zinedine Zidane are its two other claimants.

So, as we have already partaken of Richarlison’s sublime back-flip, Aboubakar’s lovely lob and Messi’s mesmerizing left-footer, we have all the reason to salivate for more. Maybe we will get a couple of those evocative football terms by the end of FIFA World Cup 2022.


Wordly Wise is a weekly column by Amitabh Ranjan published every Saturday in the Explained section. Please tweet your feedback to @ieexplained

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 14:43 IST
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