scissors kick

Bicycle kick

A bicycle kick, chalaca, chilena, overhead kick, or scissors kick is a move in football (soccer), which is made by throwing the body up into the air, making a shearing movement with the legs to get one leg high overhead to reach the ball (in original head height), which gets kicked backward over the player's head. Besides association football, bicycle kicks are occasionally seen in Australian rules football and are also used in the game of Sepak takraw, a sport played in Southeast Asia. In association football, the difficulty of the move has Pelé describing the kick as "not easy to do".


The common English name comes from the two legs that look as if they are pedaling a bicycle, with one leg going forward to the ball and the other backward to create an opposite moment. In Latin America and Spain, the overhead kick is commonly known as either , chalaca, or chilena. Non-Spanish Europe knows the name by a series of different names. For instance, the German name Fallrückzieher (falling backward kick) emphasises the sacrifice of the player falling on his back, with a variant named Seitfallzieher (sideways falling kick) for a similar move to reach a volley ball sideways. Moreover, some names attribute the kick to a specific nation such as in Norway the move is known, in Norwegian, as Brassespark (Brazilian kick).

There are two major situations where the bicycle kick would be useful in a game situation:

  • When a defender is desperate to remove the ball from near his side's goal, but he stands facing the goal and with his back to the direction he wants the ball to go, and the ball is bouncing around and thus difficult to control.
  • If a striker has his back to the opponent's goal and is in the opponent's penalty area or nearby, and the ball is bouncing at head height.

Performing a bicycle kick can be quite dangerous when performed incorrectly. The main aspect to remember when executing a bicycle kick, is to brace yourself with your arms as you land back on the ground. One should also keep in mind that the difficulty of the move makes it unanticipated and, therefore, the player runs the potential risk of getting kicked seriously injured by other players such as the defenders of the opposing team.

Attributions of invention

There are different attributions of invention in different parts of the world for this popular move. The kick itself has been part of football gaming for a long time, but it is hard to control the ball to make a directed shot. Generally, recognized players tend to be those that have made the move during national or international tournaments in an official association football match. For example, Ramón Unzaga Asla, a Spanish-Basque-born midfielder playing for Chile in the 1910s and 1920s, and Leônidas da Silva of Brazil from the 1930s (making a 6-5 win over Poland in the 1938 game in Strasbourg) are often cited. Nonetheless, the invention of the kick is controversial as different countries have different proposals on how and where the move was invented, and players that have performed the move have often attributed it to someone else. For instance, in Peru the move is attributed to the players of Callao and it is often told that they invented the move when playing with English sailors in the late 1800s. The account from Chile attributes the invention of the kick to Ramon Unzaga in the southern Chilean city of Talcahuano and as the first person to make the move in an official football match. Leônidas da Silva attributed the invention of this move to another Brazilian player, Petronilho de Brito. In Italy, the invention is usually credited to Carlo Parola, even though Silvio Piola made a win over Germany with this move in March 1939, before Parola started his professional career. Additionally, former Aston Villa Chairman Doug Ellis claimed in his autobiography that he was the inventor of the overhead kick although he has no record as an active player during said times and would have been playing football at the times after the other claims. Each of the countries that have developed their own theories of invention also have their own particular way of referring to the football move.

Brazilian claim

In Brazil, Leônidas da Silva (also known as the "Black Diamond" or "Rubber Man") born September 6, 1913, is credited with having invented the bicycle kick even while himself claiming that it was first performed by a colleague. It is reported that his first bicycle kick was performed in 1932 while playing for Brazil in a national friendly. The move, which Brazilians named bicicleta, combined with his acrobatic abilities and the dexterity of his movements won Leônidas a national spot as Brazil's first major superstar. His football skills won him world recognition as he helped lead Brazil to a third place spot in the 1938 FIFA World Cup.

Chilean claim

In Chile, Ramón Unzaga Asla a Spanish Chilean is attributed as the person to first invent the move while playing for his club and to first perform it during an international football match playing for Chile. Born 1894 in Bilbao, Spain, who in his teens emigrated to Chile with his parents, created the kick during a 1914 club football match in El Morro stadium of Talcahuano. At the time the move was labeled la chorera and though not scoring, received wider recognition after playing for Chile in the inaugural South American Championship (Copa America) of 1916 (hosted by Argentina) and 1920 (hosted by his adoptive country Chile). According to this account, the move was noticed and named "la chilena" by a group of Argentine journalists when Unzaga repeated the kick on various occasions during the tournament held in Argentina and when Chile hosted in 1920.

Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano writes in his book a commentary on the history and politics of football titled El fútbol a sol y sombra (Football in Sun and Shadow) that the move was invented by Ramón Unzaga while playing in the Chilean port of Talcahuano. Galeano and other sources include that Spanish journalists labeled the move "la chilena" when in 1927, Chilean club team Colo-Colo conducted a European tour and Chilean player David Arellano exhibited la chilena in various friendlies with club teams from Spain; such as in the cities of Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and Valladolid. In late 2006 Federación de Fútbol de Chile president and FIFA delegate Harold Mayne-Nicholls completely denied the existence of the chalaca and added that the chilena was invented in the Chilean city of Talcahuano in 1914.

International recognition

International sports media in Spanish such as ESPN Deportes regard the move as a "chilena", in reference to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa logo and in other news articles. FIFA the international governing body of association football through their official website recognizes the term "chilena" in articles such as a June 16, 2008 Spanish language publication when describing a goal that is made during a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying match. Univision, the Spanish-language television network in the United States names the move a chilena or a media chilena. Early 2006 had Major League Soccer's (MLS) official website in the Spanish language releasing the results of an online poll that awarded the best goal of the decade as a chilena in that leagues competition. In late 2007, El País daily newspaper from Spain headlines that Julio Baptista had scored a goal in the form of a chilena and with the article including that it was reminiscent of one scored by Hugo Sanchez while playing for Real Madrid. CONMEBOL's official website also makes reference to a goal that was scored in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying match naming it a chilena. The Associated Press an American news agency lists the move as a chilena in a 2008 news article. Fox Sports en Latinoamérica an owner to the rights of Copa Santander Libertadores and Copa Nissan Sudamericana describes the chilena being used during a Copa del Rey match in the Spanish La Liga. Peruvian websites have also made references to a media chilena or chilena being performed during matches. El Comercio Peru's oldest newspaper uses media chilena during a sports article.

Italian claim

In Italy, the story as to how the bicycle kick was created by Carlo Parola goes back to the years before he became an association football player. Parola was born in Turin and was an avid fan of bicycles and racing. His young years were dedicated to biking and he became a rather prominent biker. Still, the conditions of his family forced him to enter work in the Fiat factory in order to provide some more income. During his spare time he would enter football games with his fellow workers and, ironically, a scout for the Juventus team, which was owned by the owners of the factory, saw him play decided to recruit him for the team. Carlo Parola was 18, the year 1939, and soon he would become one Italy's greatest players. The Juventus, a club based in Turin, would become widely popular in part thanks to the skill of Parola. The famous rovesciata, or bicycle kick, would make a wide recognition in Italy during a football match between the Juventus and Fiorentina. The score of Carlo Parola helped Juventus win that day, and the whole crowd in the stadium felt amazed at what they considered "the feat of the world. Parola's move won him wide recognition in Italy, and one historian once remarked that Parola had made the rovesciata "almost as popular as the pizza" in the country. Parola would do this move a series of more times, and the rest of Europe would soon receive word of this player. The fame of Parola turned so large that he was invited to join a team composed of European players that was to face the English football team, and his participation in the team was well-received by the media that covered the event. World War II would take a large toll on the European sports, and Carlo Parola's golden time to shine was cut short by the European conflicts. After the war, a now older Parola would only keep the memory of having popularized a move in Europe that to this day makes him a popular icon in Italy.

Peruvian claim

See also for more information: Football in Peru

The Tiro de Chalaca (Spanish for Chalacan Strike), commonly shortened to chalaca, is the name given in Peru (and other Latin American nations) to the bicycle kick as the move is thought to have been invented in the last half of the 19th century in the Peruvian port of Callao, which at one point was considered a main port of commerce in the Pacific Ocean prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. In said port, according to the idea supported by the works La Difusion del Futbol en Lima and Sport in Latin America and the Caribbean, football was introduced in the 19th century by English sailors that practiced and taught the people of Callao sports such as association football. People who support the idea that during these early days of football in Peru the bicycle kick was created, including football star Teofilo Cubillas, hold the belief that the bicycle kick was indeed invented in the Peruvian port city of Callao and attribute the move to a Peruvian player from the port. Among these supporters, Jorge Barraza, a journalist from Argentina and chief editor of CONMEBOL's magazine, is perhaps one of the current most prominent speakers in favor of the claim that the bicycle kick was invented in Callao.

Barraza explained, in an article published by El Comercio, that according to his investigation, ancient testimonies and oral traditions tell that during a football match among British sailors they invited Chalacos (people from Callao) of African origin to come and play the game with them in order to fill the necessary 22 players for the sport. The investigation of Jorge Barraza concluded that during one of the games a Chalaco made the bicycle kick that surprised several among the crowd (which was filled with European and Chilean sailors) and led to the creation of the "chalaca. Also, he reached the conclusion that Chileans and Peruvians had also played several games due to the trips from the Chilean port of Valparaiso to the Peruvian port of Callao. He adds that Chileans themselves at first called the move "chalaca" and that "Peruvians are the only ones who never called it 'chilena' because they had already seen the move and given a name to it. During 2008, Colombian newspaper El Pais interviewed Jorge Barraza and he confirmed his stance by confirming he found part of his information from an old book and added that the move was "copied" by Chileans and that the name "chilena" was not created by Chileans but rather that it was given to Chile by people from Argentina. Although Barraza provides no exact date for the games between Peruvians and Englishmen, according to William H. Beezley, Linda Curcio-Nagy, and Linda Ann Curcio, in their book entitled Latin America Popular Culture, the oldest recorded football match between Peruvians and Englishmen so far found occurred in the late 19th century, in June 24, 1894. Still, the game in which the move was allegedly invented could have been even older than that as Jorge Basadre, a famous Peruvian historian, found what is thus far the oldest record of a football match in the Lima-Callao area of Peru to have been organized by Englishmen of the Lima Cricket and Football Club for a game between Chalacos and Limeans played in August 7, 1892.

Nonetheless, aside from all this controversy, Peru's historic bicycle kick figure is often noted to be the Alianza Lima (former Sport Alianza) player Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva made international appearances such as in 1933 when Alianza Lima made a tour in Chile and, with fellow Peruvians such as Teodoro Fernandez, delighted the audiences with their skill and defeated a series of important Chilean clubs of that time such as Club Deportivo Magallanes, Santiago Wanderers, Audax Italiano, and Colo-Colo. In Peru, Alejandro Villanueva is often remembered as one of the finest exponents of that nation's association football and as the player that amazed the crowds with his bicycle kicks which the people of Lima at first thought was his invention when he executed it in 1928, called it "tiro caracol" and, later, upon learning of its roots in Callao, once again called chalaca. For this, although several other Peruvian football figures have also made bicycle kicks, Villanueva remains a famous sports figure in Peru.

International recognition

The legacy of the chalaca' lives on to this day as various nations aside from Peru, especially those where Peruvian clubs held their international tours priorly mentioned, have called and still call the move chalaca. Also, international recognition has began to be awarded to the Callao claim of origin by organizations such as El Pais Newspaper from Spain and important figures of the association football world. Teofilo Cubillas, an association football star of the 1970s, has asked the Peruvian government to seek international recognition for Callao and its invention of the bicycle kick. Meanwhile, Manuel Burga, president of the Peruvian Football Federation, stated that he would promote a campaign in order to show that the bicycle kick is an acrobatic move that has its origins in Peru. In Colombia and in Ecuador, a nation that also holds a historically important port (Guayaquil), the term chalaca is also used to refer to the bicycle kick. During an interview done to Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita (the player that invented another popular football move known as the Scorpion Kick) referers to the bicycle kick as chalaca. Furthermore, Colombian newspaper El Pais, a leading newspaper company of Colombia, makes constant reference to the term chalaca in their sports articles. CONMEBOL, in their official website, made citation to a move by Hugo Rodallega as a "media chalaca. Bolivia's El Deber mentions the chalaca in an article done about the Copa Libertadores 2004. In North America, Panama's website Futbol Extremo (winner of the Arroba de Oro and named as the "best sports website") used the term "media chalaca" to refer to a goal made by Mauricio Molina. The weekly newspaper Washington Hispanic servicing the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area makes mention of the "chalaca", in reference to a move done by Colombian player Hugo Rodallega. In Europe, the British made a reference to the chalaca as a Spanish-language way to refer to the overhead (or bicycle) kick.

Different denominations


External links

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