Nothing in football looks more graceful, elegant or beautiful than a well timed and well executed overhead kick.
A perfectly timed sliding tackle and an acrobatic flying save come close but an overhead kick sailing into the top corner of the net is a glorious thing.
However, these may become a thing of the past if some people in the governing body get their way. These, let’s call them anti-football officials, want to ban pretty much everything that can be considered dangerous in the game.
The powers that be would even like to ban contact tackling. If they had their way you could only win the ball by interceptions or stealing the ball from in front of the player in possession.
It’s a far cry from the 1950’s when there were the likes of Nobby Stiles patrolling the field. By the time we got to the 1970’s players like Stiles were given nicknames such as ‘Chopper’ or ‘The Enforcer’ because they were tough tacklers. The governing body felt that finesse players, such as Best, Marsh and Hoddle needed protection from full blooded tackles and slowly but surely tackling is more about precision because the consequences are a booking.
While I bemoan at the passing of the ‘hard man’ of football some things have improved because of tougher rules. In the ‘old days’ you could snap a players legs in two as long as you won the ball. Later on that was changed to ‘as long as you got the ball first’ and these days it doesn’t matter how you go about breaking a player’s legs, it’s somewhat frowned upon.
So what could possibly be wrong with the overhead kick? Much like its relatives, the bicycle kick and scissor kick, it’s the neccessity to have a high boot that is causing the powers that be to choke on their sashimi.
They would basically like to outlaw feet being over waist height, I think if they had their way football would be like snooker in that, when striking a ball, one foot has to be on the ground.
The problem is that the ‘high boot’ law is open to interpretation. A high boot in itself isn’t an offence as things stand. If everyone on the field decided to play the game in a John Cleese style it would be perfectly okay, up until you came into the vicinity of another player.
The high boot is only a problem if it might cause injury or hinder another player from … well … playing!
Versus Everton we saw Damien Delaney penalised for a high boot. Had the Everton player not been there then no foul would have been given. Later in the game we saw Yannick Bolasie attempt an overhead kick which went wide of the goal but this was perfectly allowed because no defenders were near him,
I presume that they knew how
rubbish capable he is executing an overhead kick so felt he’d singlehandedly be able to take care of attack and defensive duties at the same time.
But we’ve all seen over the years players score an overhead kick with defenders close by, be it the Wayne Rooney goal versus Manchester City or Zlatan versus … well, pick any team! We’ve also seen referees blow for a foul plenty of times in that same situation though, at the time of writing, I’m struggling to think of a situation where a goal was actually scored and a foul was given.
Usually a foul is given after the attacker either misses the ball completely or the end result is something akin to a conversion in rugby that the free kick is awarded out of sympathy and spare the blushes of the crumpled and embarrassed mass on the turn.
So if a high boot is an offence, how high is too high? What is waist high for Scott Dann is about stomach high for Dwight Gayle. The law can’t be applied evenly. How can it? It’s a stupid law to try and ‘tighten up’ yet it won’t stop them!
Take the following goal as an example. It’s an overhead kick by Christian Benteke playing for Liverpool against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
I’ve looked at the goal a few times and came to the conclusion that had it not been for the United player
being a coward taking avoiding action then this goal wouldn’t have been allowed.
When the ball is headed out to Benteke the United player could see what was going to happen and he could have made an attempt to head the ball, quite possibly getting a block on it, but he didn’t feel like getting a ball or boot in the face. Had he done so then he’d have won a free kick and LVG might still be in charge of United today … okay, maybe not.
So are overhead kicks the work of genius by the attacker or really cowardice by a defender? If you like, a cooperation between attacker and defender.
Which brings me to my next question. Is it better to have a ‘good’ defender like John Stones or a brave defender who might not be as good, such as a Damien Delaney or, dare I say it, John Terry?
While I dislike Terry, he has put his head into the path of a boot on more than a few occasions, preventing goals. On at least one occasion he was knocked clean out and landed face first on the turf. Dislike him as I do, I have to admire his heart.
It’s a tough call but there is definitely a link between being a brave defender and lack of good looks!
So, in conclusion, I think an overhead kick is a work of cooperation than a solo wonder goal.