David Beckham of Real Madrid takes a corner kick in a match against Olympique Lyonnais on September 13, 2006 in Lyon, France. Photo: VCG
The language of football is not always a shared one. For example, what is known as a “nutmeg” in England is a “petit pont” (little bridge) in France and a “panna” in the Netherlands (from the Surindamese word for “gate”).
The variations are are many. From local words for egg in North Africa and the Middle East, to watermelon in Cyprus and sausages in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, in Chinese it’s the more literal “chuandang” (through the crotch).
Such differences are expected so it’s always nice if a word catches on across the wider football world. Everyone knows what a panenka is: the chipped penalty named after Czech striker Anton Panenka. Similarly, with the Cruyff Turn even if Johan Cruyff was not the inventor of his eponymous move – merely the 1974 World Cup was witnessed by millions on television.
The term “Olimpico” is making its way into that global bracket and it is about time. The first-ever goal scored directl from a corner was done so in 1924 not long after the laws of the game had been altered to allow such a thing. That honor is credited to Billy Alston, a player in the Scottish second tier, but it was not until October of that year when the goal was given its moniker.
Argentina challenged their neighbors and Olympic champions Uruguay to a pair of friendly matches and the second of those, which had to be replayed after being postponed, saw Argentina’s Cesareo Onzari beat Uruguay goalkeeper Antonio Mazzali at his near post. Buenos Aires reveled at the audacity of the goal and of beating the gold medalists with the press dubbing it a “gol olimpico.”
There have been many more over the years. Zico, Diego Maradona, Juan Roman Riquelme, Mario Basler. The list is endless and includes the game’s great and good.
But they are not limited to the game’s biggest names: Several have been scored by players whose names are not known outside their own household. Italian footballer Massimo Palanca claims to have scored 13 over his career, the highlight of which was helping Catanzaro to a midtable finish in the Italian top flight.
Nine was the number of goals scored from corners by Dejan Petkovic, the Serbian-born footballer whose career was spent mostly in Brazil.
Argentine player Ernesto “Cococho” Alvarez scored eight olimpico goals for Colombian side Deportivo Cali, two of them coming in one league game. He and teammate Nato Torres scored one olimpico each in a Copa Libertadores game.
Uruguay’s Alvaro Recoba scored six throughout his career. The former Inter Milan player was a dead-ball specialist and saw no reason not to go for goal from the corner.
Germany’s Bernd Nickel managed four goals from corners – and got one from each corner of Eintracht Frankfurt’s stadium. To put the icing on the cake, the first of these came against Bayern Munich and the legendary Germany international goalkeeper Sepp Maier. Nickel managed to pull off his feat of scoring from every corner of the ground because he also took corners with the outside of his foot. That is a technique that has been employed by many other players over the years.
Roberto Carlos is one such player, netting in that fashion when with Brazilian side Corinthians in 2011. The former Real Madrid, Inter and Brazil left back was famous for his dead-ball ability and often used the outside of his boot to devastating effect.
It’s a technique common in Brazil and Corinthians know to their cost. Ceara’s Leandro Carvalho scored with the outside of his boot to salvage a last-minute draw against the Rio giants last month.
Across the world at Wycombe Wanderers, Joe Jacobson was scoring two olimpicos in a game against League One rivals Lincoln City. The Welshman had to wait for one of the goals from a corner to be confirmed as his but it was eventually decided he had two olimpicos as part of an all-set piece hat trick.
Former Blackburn Rovers winger Morten Gamst Pedersen is reported to have claimed that he scored six olimpico goals in a single game when he was a youngster.
Other set-piece specialists who also scored from corners include Carlos’ sometime Real Madrid teammate David Beckham and international compatriot Ronaldinho. Like Carlos, the pair scored later in their careers. Beckham scored from a corner while in the MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy, while Ronaldinho was back in Brazil after his European adventures. Thierry Henry did much the same when he scored for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS.
Celtic player Charlie Tully once scored one before the referee demanded he retake the kick as it was not in the corner – Tully duly scored again. The Northern Ireland international had scored one against England earlier in his career and is one of six players to score from a corner against the Three Lions.
Colombia’s Marcos Coll scored an olimpico at the 1962 FIFA World Cup and he did it against none other than the goalkeeper still considered by many to be the greatest of all time: Russia’s Lev Yashin.
Meanwhile Megan Rapinoe became the first player to score an olimpico at the Olympics. She netted for the US Women’s National Team against Canada at London 2012. The US would go on to win the semifinal 4-3 and go on to claim the gold medal too. Rapinoe initially thought it had gone down as an own goal but was delighted to find out the olimpico was hers – even if it was accidental.
She didn’t even claim it at the time, she explained. “I actually thought that it was an own goal. I didn’t really mean it but it’s pretty cool though when it comes to being the first to do it in the Olympics from both males and females.”
As the old football adage goes, they all count, whether you mean them or not. When it comes to the record books some even count more than others.