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Jan 17, 2013

The art of rabona

After Wiyam Amashe scored a stunning rabona for Maccabi Haifa, we pay tribute to the technique with a selection of stunning efforts.

Ricardo Infante (ESTUDIANTES v Rosario Central, Argentinean Primera Division, 1948)

The Argentina international Ricardo Infante, a prolific striker with Estudiantes, is credited with creating the technique when he scored the final goal of a 3-0 win over Rosario Central in 1948, firing home from 35 metres. It was a goal "so outlandish", the Clarín newspaper reported, "that both the beaten keeper and the game's referee did something uncommon: they ran to him to acknowledge it with admiration".

However, as Infante told journalist Walter Raino on the 50th anniversary of his strike, his effort did not receive the credit it might have warranted. "It is a goal that did not have the impact it deserved," he said. "At the time, we lacked the television and print media to cover every game."

Only one reporter, from the now-defunct La Plata paper El Argentino, was able to relate the magic moment, and El Gráfico, an Argentinean magazine, that week diverted its praise to a simple headed goal from Ruben Bravo. However, it was the same magazine that afterwards produced a cartoon of Infante as a student titled "El infante que se hizo la rabona"*, and his goal gained greater recognition through its coverage in a book by Ricardo Marelli, a doctor with the famous Estudiantes team of the 1960s.

* The title was a pun based on his name - infante refers to a youth - while hacerse rabona was a contemporary term in Argentina for skipping school, which, it would appear, is being used in this sense to imply the forward had done something tricksy. You can view the cartoon, minus its title, here.

Giovanni Roccotelli (ASCOLI v Modena, Serie B, 1977-78)

Though Infante is now recognised as the technique's creator, the absence of press coverage at the time allowed Ascoli winger Roccotelli to popularise the skill, and in Italy the move was referred to as the cross alla Roccotelli.

He gave the technique its debut to provide an assist for Claudio Ambu to head home at the near post during a 3-2 win at home to Modena in January 1978. As La Stampa reported at the time: "On 57 minutes, Roccotelli tried it again, but this time Ambu was not expecting it and arrived too late to head into the empty goal."

Roccotelli - who said "in every game the fans begged me to do it" - later told La Gazzetta dello Sport that Pele, who also made use of the skill, had paid tribute to his efforts.

"A long time ago, Pele was in Italy, and he ended up talking about incrociate ['to cross something']," he said. "I swear that, at one point, he said: 'I know that there was an Italian who was good at the rabona, a guy with a moustache'. He was talking about me - who else? - and you cannot imagine what that meant to me."

Diego Maradona (NAPOLI v Torino, Serie A, 1985-86)

Maradona turned a Serie A encounter with Torino in Napoli's favour when he produced a spectacular rabona assist for Gigi Caffarelli to head home for 2-1 in an eventual 3-1 victory.

Unfortately for the Argentine, all the post-match press coverage was dominated by an incident later in the game: "El Diego" missed a penalty for the first time since his arrival in Italy in 1984. The press coverage afterwards from La Stampa and La Repubblica made no mention of his rabona, and in the mixed zone afterwards the superstar was quizzed all about his miss before eventually cutting short the interviews.

Even so, Maradona - who also produced a rabona assist for Argentina - would come to receive due recognition of his work that day. Renato Zaccarelli, who had been playing for Torino, told the Naples-based Il Roma in 2007: "Diego could produce moments of extraordinary invention. What he did against us was just a small part of his repertoire. It was spectacular - something we had never seen... maybe in training, but no one had the courage to do it in a game. Can you imagine the boos if you failed? But he was a natural, and did it with the utmost simplicity, as if it were the easiest thing in the world."

Claudio Borghi (Palestino v COLO-COLO, Chilean Campeonato Nacional, 1992)

Former Argentina midfielder Borghi, a World Cup winner in 1986, was one of the rabona's most prolific practitioners. "For me, it was a case of turning a defect to my advantage, as I never had a good left foot," he told FIFA.com. "The beauty of the trick is that opponents don't see it coming so you can put the ball pretty much where you want. Like anything unpredictable, it causes problems for opponents."

His most famous uses of the trick, however, did not actually result in goals. In a Chilean league match for Colo-Colo, he used it to set up Hugo Rubio, whose sideways scissor kick cannoned back off the crossbar. Colo-Colo won the game 3-1 nonetheless.

A rather more unfortunate use of the rabona had occurred earlier in 1992. During a 2-0 defeat to Universidad de Chile - which saw Colo-Colo reduced to seven men and their opponents to ten - Borghi had seen a penalty saved by Sergio Vargas. When the rebound came to him, he attempted a rabona and failed. "The thing everyone remembers is the rabona against Vargas," he said in a recent interview with Ferplei. "The bad is always remembered before the good."

Dave de Jong (VFL OSNABRUCK v Greuther Furth, DFB-Pokal, 2005-06)

Third-tier Osnabruck secured an upset in the DFB-Pokal in August 2005 as Dutchman Dave de Jong netted a stunning equaliser to force extra time in their game at home to 2. Bundesliga side Furth. De Jong's goal came in the 83rd minute - immediately after the visitors had gone 2-1 ahead - with the defender's 'Überkreuzschuss' leading to an eventual 10-9 win on penalties.

"It's intuition," De Jong said afterwards. "Really, I've been doing this since I was eight years old. I learned to do it on the street and then you come into this situation, and the ball is there, and you think you can't reach it with your left foot, so I just did it like that."

Andres Vasquez (Orebro SK v IFK GOTHENBURG, Swedish Allsvenskan, 2007)

After scoring his first top-flight goal with a rabona from the edge of the area, this 19-year-old Gothenburg midfielder suggested in an Aftonbladet interview that he would call the technique "a Vasquez".

He continued: "It was instinctive. I had a quick look and saw that the goalkeeper was off his line... I've done it a few times in training and with friends. Goalkeepers in the Allsvenskan will be wary of it now, though."

In an interview with the paper later in the year, after the goal had been voted the finest in Sweden that year, he stressed it had not been a misplaced cross and added: "It was like I had magic in my feet. I felt that I could do anything - that nothing was impossible."

Ivan Bolado (Espanyol v RACING SANTANDER, La Liga, 2007-08)

Youngster Bolado ensured he took the headlines with his rabona goal deep into injury time in Racing's 3-0 demolition of Espanyol in March 2008, prompting AS to speak of a certain "great future".

Unfortunately, injuries hampered his career, and he was sent to Segunda Liga side Elche in the summer, but that did not stop him taking his place in the spotlight: in November that year, he came off the bench to provide a rabona assist for David Fuster in a victory over Salamanca.

Afterwards, he told La Verdad: "I have to say that this pass was much better than the goal I scored in this way against Espanyol. The pass for David Fuster was perfect, although I have to say David controlled it perfectly and finished it spectacularly, so credit goes to him."

Peter Madsen (Sonderjyske v BRONDBY, Danish Superliga, 2008-09)

Experienced forward Madsen put the gloss on a demolition of hosts Sonderjyske as he collected a cross at the far post and made space for the rabona to put his side into a 6-0 lead in the 87th minute of the teams' league encounter. "It was a bit special," he told his club's official website. "It's not the kind of goal you score every day."

Angel Di Maria (BENFICA v AEK Athens, Europa League, 2009-10)

Argentina winger Di Maria has earned himself something of a reputation for his proficiency in the art of the rabona, and he set up a goal using the technique for current employers Real Madrid in a friendly encounter with Guangzhou Evergrande.

More memorable, though, was the second of his two goals for Benfica as they secured top spot in their group in the 2009-10 Europa League with a 2-1 victory over AEK Athens. "As I only use my right foot for walking, I wanted to go for goal like that," he explained afterwards.

Manolis Skoufalis (PAS GIANNINA v Ethnikos Asteras, Greek Football League, 2010-11)

Perhaps the most striking of all the entries on this list, skilful winger Skoufalis provided a rabona assist for forward Dimitris Sialmas' stunning overhead for the second goal in a 3-0 win over Ethnikos Asteras in the Greek second tier.

Asked about the goal afterwards, Skoufalis told sport.gr: "It was not something we had practised at all. It was completely spontaneous for me, just as it was for Dimitris, and the end result was this goal."

Matias Urbano (UNION SAN FELIPE v Union La Calera and UNION SAN FELIPE v Iquique, Chilean Primera Division, 2011)

Argentinean striker Urbano became an internet sensation in August 2011 when he netted decisive rabona goals in successive games. First, against league leaders La Calera, he connected with a cross from the left wing to fire into the far corner for the equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

"It is difficult to score like that, but I tried it and with luck it went in," he said afterwards. "It got us a draw so I am happy. Being in the international media has made me and my family proud."

The following week, he netted a brace to secure a 2-1 win over Iquique, with his first goal another rabona. Later in the month, he provided a rabona assist in a 2-2 draw with Audax Italiano.

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