Wednesday, 23 April 2008

It's a funny old game

The big talking point in the world of football today was the own-goal expertly nodded in by Liverpool's John Arne Riise in yesterday evening's Champion's League semi-final against Chelsea. The reaction to that goal has, at times, been quite ridiculous. Riise has been given a real slating in most quarters; one commentator on a well known sports radio show even suggested that Riise should never be allowed to play for Liverpool again.

Really?! The own-goal was an honest mistake. Mistakes happen in football, they always have, and they always will. The fact that Riise's error came in the fifth minute of injury time and handed Chelsea a vital away goal makes it most unfortunate for Liverpool and their fans. However, when it comes to high drama, the timing and the manner of the equaliser could not have been any better. Moments like that serve to remind me how much I love that side of the game. When Riise headed into the roof of his own net it really made me laugh. Not because I have anything against Liverpool or against Riise, but just because it was so damn funny.

The overreaction in today's press totally misses the point; football is funny. That's why we go back week in, week out. That's why we pay our hard earned money. Fantastic if it is a great game with some cracking performances and wonderful goals, but add a bit of slapstick or farce and then I really feel as if I've been entertained.

So hats off to you Riise, that moment alone last night made the viewing even more enjoyable. We all make mistakes, and he will get over his. He is a good enough footballer to pick himself up and put the blunder to the back of his mind. But for someone to suggest he should never play for the club again is absolute lunacy. The more blunders the better.

This evening's post is therefore made up of some random recollections from the dark recesses of my memory. In no particular order, some things that have made me laugh whilst watching our beautiful game, incidents that made me laugh so much I struggled to breath.

1. That penalty miss. This is one I've seen on television so many times. A player (in yellow) runs up to take a penalty, stubs his toe just behind the ball and the ball trickles a few feet and the buffoon limps away clutching his leg. Not sure who the player is or which team he is playing for. One thing I do know; it was absolute quality. David Beckham, eat you heart out. In fact, you can see it here.

2. The farcical throw-in. Step forward George Frederick Berry, Welsh international, born in Germany. Whilst playing for Peterborough United (in 1991, at Gillingham, I seem to recall), Berry takes a throw for the POSH. It goes all of ten yards and out of touch again for a Gillingham throw. Berry had us rolling in the aisles. I reckon he couldn't do that again if he had tried a thousand more times. He played only thirty two games for the POSH. I wonder why...

3. That free-kick against Zaire. One of my earliest football comedy memories. The 1974 World Cup. Brazil have just won a free-kick against Zaire. Zaire line up a wall on the edge of their own penalty area. Brazil place the ball for the kick, the referee blows his whistle. At which point, one of the Zaire players in the wall sprints fully twenty wards to the ball and boots it away. Magnificent. A serious lack of understanding of the rules. The referee failed to see the funny side and booked him. Spoilsport.

4. That famous lob. It is the 1995 European Cup Winner's Cup Final between Arsenal and Real Zaragoza. With the game delicately poised at 1-1 in the dying seconds, Nayim picks the ball up just inside the Arsenal half and clouts the ball towards Seaman's goal. With Seaman frantically back pedalling, the ball flies over the mustachioed one into the net. A forty yard lob in the last minute of injury time. Prior to Real Zaragoza, Nayim had played for Tottenham; a Tottenham fanzine entitled "One Flew Over Seaman's Head" was soon being sold on the streets of North London.

5. The guy who scored an own goal with his nose. The guy in question was Chris Brass playing for Bury against Darlington, and this is probably my favourite. Deep in his own penalty box, he attempts to clear a cross with an overhead kick. Except he slams the ball into his own mush for a gloriously spectacular own-goal. He broke his nose in doing so. Ouch. Take a look for yourself.

Yes, this is a beautiful game. But it can be damn funny as well.

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