The one-footer

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

AL­FREDO DI Ste­fano, Diego Maradona, and Ar­jen Robben, past and present stars of the beau­ti­ful game, are all de­light­fully one-footed.

Di Ste­fano, the famed ‘Blond Ar­row’ of the all-con­quer­ing Real Madrid teams from the 1950s, the mag­i­cally skilled Maradona, and Robben are all among the best ever in their po­si­tions, and Maradona is some peo­ple’s pick as the best foot­baller ever. They are ex­am­ples of suc­cess with­out match­ing skills on both feet.

The mer­cu­rial Dutch­man Robben is no­to­ri­ously right-footed, too. Yet, be­cause of his speed of thought, he is won­der­ful to watch, and, for de­fend­ers, hard to con­tain.

At lower lev­els, be­ing one-footed is a foot­balling dis­abil­ity. Too of­ten in the first round of the In­ter-Sec­ondary Schools Sports As­so­ci­a­tion (ISSA)/FLOW Man­ning Cup wing men and flank play­ers would lose op­por­tu­ni­ties for quick shots and first-time crosses be­cause the ‘wrong’ foot was on the ball. By the time the ball was put on the good foot, the op­pos­ing de­fence in most cases had re­cov­ered.

As Ja­maican foot­ball seeks higher ground, the de­vel­op­ment of rounded play­ers has to take cen­tre stage. Whether they play in at­tack, de­fence, or mid­field, rounded play­ers of­fer their coaches more.

Those who rank the Brazil­ian Pelé above Maradona cite Pelé’s sub­lime skills with both boots, his un­earthly drib­bling and con­trol, and his head­ing as the full pack­age.

That de­bate has raged for decades, but one thing is cer­tain: young play­ers will ben­e­fit from be­ing taught all the skills he or she will need to be re­ally good.

By the way, in the games I saw, the head­ing skills dis­played in the Man­ning Cup first round were mod­er­ate. As a rule, the de­fen­sive head­ers were bet­ter than those in­tended to score goals.

QUAL­I­FY­ING GOAL

Iron­i­cally, it was a de­fender, Ian ‘Pepe’ Good­i­son, who headed the goal that clinched qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Ja­maica to the 1998 World Cup in a mem­o­rable 1-0 win over Mex­ico at the Na­tional Sta­dium.

Thank­fully, all those who coach high school teams are re­quired to be cer­ti­fied by FIFA, the gov­ern­ing body of foot­ball. That reg­u­la­tion is in force for prep school teams. In time, this will en­sure that good foot­balling habits are in­stilled at the ear­li­est stage pos­si­ble.

Some be­lieve that tal­ent over­comes all ob­sta­cles. In ath­let­ics a few years ago, it was felt that many very tall boys would fol­low the 6’ 5” Usain Bolt into the 100m and 200m with great suc­cess. How­ever, be­cause Bolt is so spe­cial, the next flight of ex­tra-tall and su­per­fast sprint­ers is hard to find.

The truth is that work, and not tal­ent by it­self, con­quers all. With qual­i­fied coaches teach­ing good fun­da­men­tals, the chance of Ja­maican play­ers hav­ing rounded foot­ball skills is far bet­ter.

Along with the de­vel­op­ment of bet­ter play­ing fields and the cre­ation of a Ja­maican play­ing phi­los­o­phy that is used by all na­tional teams, the foot­baller who can use his right foot as well as his or her left foot is a na­tional as­set.

Prac­tice still makes per­fect. Per­fect prac­tice, di­rected by good coaches, can make Ja­maican foot­ball even bet­ter.

I

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