Drama with the Dead Ball

April 17, 2008 at 9:54 pm (Rajib Sarkar, Sports)

Last Sunday’s English Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal had a couple of magical moments for me. And both were conjured up with a dead ball on the ground!


First, Emmanuel Adebayor bundled in one (did it come off his arm?) for the Gunners. Just six minutes later, the Red Devils equalized through Christiano Ronaldo’s twice-taken penalty kick. It was not the exquisiteness of the shot that was the highlight. It was Ronaldo’s supreme confidence in executing an action replay of a free-kick which was disallowed. Within seconds, Ronaldo, who was largely marginalized during the rest of the game, produced an encore, demonstrating once again how to glide a ball into a sublime trajectory. 


The second magical moment came when Owen Hargreaves’ free-kick (with Ronaldo playing a decoy) curled the ball over the wall and made it dip into a kissing distance from the left post, reducing Jens Lehmann into a helpless bystander.


Poor Lehmann! He didn’t do too badly under the bar otherwise. Blinding beauty of some free kicks can leave the very best in business stunned and stupefied.


Much greater terror had struck the German goalkeeper’s immediate predecessor in Arsenal, David Seamen during England’s encounter with Brazil in the semi-final of World Cup 2002. Ronaldinho’s free-kick taken from 35 meter was fantasy football at its finest.  Not only the ball went over Seamen’s head, this piece of wizardrdy dazed and demoralized David Beckham’s (himself, a fine dead ball artist) entire team.


How could Ronaldinho send a stationery ball with that precise amount of spin, drift, pace and elevation, sailing yards through wind, past coiled up bodies, over heads and shoulders huddled together , ultimately to rest at a precisely defined landing point? Did God himself navigate the flight?


This is what makes free kicks so fascinating!  Here is a moment where stillness is allowed to triumph over motion.  Modern power football is about relentless kinetic energy. While all the frenzied pace is about creating space, it is only when you are awarded a free-kick,  the space becomes yours to freeze.


Only during  a free -kick, the spectators can witness a duel between pre-meditation (striker) and pre-sentiment (goalkeeper).  A vision of beauty and grace is given a chance to be wrought out of choking pressure. As if, in a sudden twist,  focused tautness  transforms the intense physicality of the game into a silent prayer.  


On a football field, nothing can bring out the play between life and death better. 


– Rajib Sarkar.





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