untung99.biz: René Higuitas scorpion kick is a thing of beauty so lets debunk it

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The existential crisis for football writers is real as we approach week four without our subject matter. All of us – even the most experienced Sunday Supplementers (your Winters, your Samuels, your Liews), have done “I miss football” and “Does it matter anyway?” We do and it kind of does. So what now?

Like a manager desperate for a result at any cost – perhaps you revert back to old tactics, your Wilsons analysing the influence of 1920s Hungarian tactics on Dave Bassett, your Delaneys and all your Harrises giving their mentions another hammering by questioning Middle East states buying Premier League clubs.

My fallback, as Barry Glendenning politely puts it on the Guardian Football Weekly podcast, is “What I did on my summer holidays” journalism, perhaps something about my dad and my childhood and amateur football. It resonates – other people have dads, play football and were, at one point, children.

Maybe it’s time to accept the inevitable and trot out some transfer rumours. How many of us will sleep better tonight if we speculate where Jack Grealish, Declan Rice and Donny van de Beek might be in six months? As long as it’s outside – and permitted – that will surely do.

It’s too early for “What isolation has taught me”, given many of them are already in people’s drafts, and sports journalists should make a collective solemn vow never to publish them. Really, you just need a column to go in off your backside and then they’ll start to flow.

One alternative, for all of us, is to completely reinvent ourselves. After all, no one can see you and the only thing we’re really concentrating on is trying to avoid people walking directly towards us. If it doesn’t work, no one will remember and you can blame it on the lockdown.

So here goes. For too long now (not that anyone would notice) I have been avoiding confrontation, trying to keep gainful employment by just offering inoffensive platitudes and harmless nostalgia. Well not any more. I’m here for clicks and retweets. Here to cause controversy for the sake of it. The 5G conspiracy theorist of football. Here to expose what the mainstream media – excluding Eamonn Holmes, of course – have tried to hide from you for years. In footballing terms that means taking something good and exposing it as somehow fraudulent.

It’s 6 September 1995. A meaningless England friendly against Colombia at Wembley. We all know the moment. René Higuita’s scorpion kick to clear Jamie Redknapp’s overhit cross. A moment so extraordinary it ranked 94th in Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Sporting Moments in 2002, above Arthur Ashe winning Wimbledon and one place below Zola Budd’s and Mary Decker’s collision in 1984.

But Higuita’s scorpion kick was a fraud. I know. I was there. Not many of us were. As Richard Williams wrote in this paper: “If there were in reality even half the officially reported number of 20,000 spectators in the stadium it would be a surprise.”

It was my second England game, and my second goalless draw after watching a stalemate with Norway the previous year when Dennis Wise filled the troublesome left side and Steve Bould played his last game for his country. Anyone who was at that game would be forgiven for being put off international football for life.

There were first starts for Nicky Barmby and Steve McManaman, while Redknapp got his debut. It turned out to be John Barnes’s final outing in an England shirt. That should be the story of this game when we look back. A man who scored that goal at the Maracanã, who gave us hope where there had been none against Argentina in ’86, who had to put up with vile abuse for much of his international career.

René Higuita in action for Colombia against West Germany’s Jürgen Klinsmann at the 1990 World Cup. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

But it is Higuita’s game. In the Guardian in 2007, the brilliant Marcela Mora Y Araujo said: “His scorpion kick in a friendly against England at Wembley is of undeniable wow status, and… served to position him in fandom psyche as one of the most entertaining players ever to grace the pitches.”

David Ospina talked about it on the eve of the 2018 Carabao Cup final: “We were delighted … we talked about it a lot. It was great he did it at Wembley, too. For us Colombians, Higuita is a really important figure, it’s nice that he is remembered here for something special.”

After the game, Higuita said: “It’s the sort of thing only one person can do. I have a massive repertoire but I don’t plan them ahead.” I beg to differ, René.

“Goodness me!” exclaimed Ian Darke in commentary. “Have you ever seen anything like it in your life from a goalkeeper?” Well yes I had. For the entire warm-up. Over and over and over again. Scorpion kick after scorpion kick after scorpion kick. When it happened in the game, I remember thinking: “I’ve seen that before, about 25 minutes ago.” And it was offside and the ball from Redknapp was so perfect you wonder if he was in on it – there’s your 5G mast right there.

You may ask whether this really matters? Why can’t we just have fond memories, even if it means we can’t handle the truth? It’s also quite obvious now that in attempting to move away from my “What I did on my summer holidays” Fisher Price school of journalism, I have drawn upon a story quite literally from my summer holidays.

And while we’re here, I should point out that even if Higuita did see the linesman’s flag, and even if he did practise the move, so what: it’s still some feat to pull that off and make clean contact. So I take it all back. What a glorious “I was there” moment.

So (leans back in chair) perhaps that is what isolation has taught me. There will be no reinvention in lockdown. Not for me, not for you, not for René Higuita. Those of us lucky enough to emerge from this will come out pretty much the same as we went in. If that means living off a split-second acrobatic jump, then you are probably winning.