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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Foot of the Angels


Rob Rensenbrink enjoying in a 1969 match in opposition to England.

by Laurent Bellaiche 

Each  12 months, Worldwide Left Handers Day falls on August 13. Such an occasion is crucially wanted to beat not less than three prejudices. The primary is  the truth that we live in a world the place many instruments are made for right-handed individuals, as a result of lefties solely comprise about 10% of the world inhabitants. Examples of such instruments embody scissors, utility knifes, security cutters, tape measures, drill bits and so forth. Second, the phrase “left’’ has usually been used to explain failures and even demonic energy. For example, the French expression “avoir deux mains gauches’’ (to have two left fingers) characterizes a slipshod particular person, and the left hand has been related to the satan. Equally, the phrase “sinister’’ originates from the Latin phrase sinitro, which suggests “on the left-side’’; to be contrasted with “dexterity’’ that refers to abilities and charm, taking its origin within the Latin phrase “dexter’’ that interprets as “on the appropriate facet’’. The third prejudice could also be unintentional within the sense that the quantity 13 in August 13 is by itself thought of unfortunate or unworthy of honors. One could  recall that Judas Escariot was the 13th particular person to sit down on the Final Supper or that the final grand grasp of the knights templar, Jacques De Molay, was arrested and tortured on Friday, October 13, 1307 (which is probably going the origin of the curse related to Friday the 13th).  

The 2001-2002 season of Michael Ballack when he was sporting jerseys with the quantity13 on his again additional emphasizes such an inclination for unhealthy luck. Along with his workforce of Bayer Leverkusen, Ballack completed second within the Bundesliga behind Dortmund by a single level, additionally misplaced the ultimate of the German cup (the DFB-Pokal) in opposition to Schalke 04 by the rating of 4-2 and was moreover defeated 2-1 within the remaining of the champion’s league by the Actual Madrid of Roberto Carlos, Figo, Zidane and Raul. To make issues even worse, Ballack obtained a yellow card within the semi-final of the 2002 world cup in opposition to South Korea, which prevented him from enjoying the ultimate with Germany in opposition to the Brazilian workforce of Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo (the actual one, as Mourinho as soon as stated); remaining that was gained 2-0 by the Auriverde.

A younger Diego Maradona enjoying for Cebollitas

It’s the robust perception of the writer that the aforementioned prejudices must be put to relaxation. For that, I intend to show (with generally unimaginable unhealthy religion) that left ft altogether with the quantity 13 could be a supply of heavenly pleasures and grandiose victories, by making the most of particular info from probably the most stunning sport ever created and performed, aka soccer. How to try this? A superb begin might have been to say the unreal left foot of Lionel Messi and the belief that he arrived at Barcelona on the tender age of 13. Additional proof might be  that one other leftie of Argentine citizenship who can be thought of to be among the finest soccer gamers of all time was making extraordinary accomplishments when he was 13.  El Pibe de Oro (higher often known as Diego Armando Maradona) was realizing the unimaginable feat of successful 136 successive video games together with his youth workforce of Argentinos Juniors, nicknamed los cebolitas (the little onions), at that age. These little onions seemingly generated plenty of tears, both of despair from their opponents or of pleasure from the followers who had the pleasure and honor of seeing Diego Armando and his younger teammates in motion.

Nonetheless, it’s  vital to maneuver from South America to Europe, to completely recognize the complete energy of left ft, and notably for a 13-year-window starting from the 1974-1975 to the 1987-1988 season. The European Cup Winners’ Cup’s competitors throughout that interval  is an apparent selection as a result of successful a cup amongst nationwide cup winners will be thought of  the holy grail of cups. Isn’t it? In some instances, I’ll even go additional by discussing groups and gamers that succeeded to elevate the European Supercup (in opposition to the winner of the European Champion Golf equipment’ Cup) after having introduced dwelling this European Cup Winners’ Cup.

This journey begins with the invention by European spectators of a workforce coming from the Soviet Union, Dynamo Kiev, coached by the legendary Valeriy Lobanovskyi and enjoying within the 1974-1975 European Cup Winners’ Cup. The star participant of that stunning collective machine was a lefty, might run 100 meters in 11 seconds and wore the quantity 11 jersey, as attribute of his left winger place. He was about 22 years-old at the moment. His identify? Oleg Blokhin.

The primary spherical noticed the Soviet workforce from Ukraine win each video games by 1-0 in opposition to the Bulgarian membership of CSK Sofia, with Blokhin scoring each targets.  Oleg then elevated his tally by one unity within the 3-2 victory of Dynamo Kiev on the dwelling turf of Eintracht Frankfurt in the course of the first of leg of the second spherical. The second leg noticed Kiev successful once more, by a 2-1 rating with Onyshchenko, who was a favourite associate of Blokhin, shining with the 2 Soviet realizations. Kiev then cruised in its quarter-finals in opposition to Bursaspor, with a 1-0 win in Turkey adopted by a 2-0 victory at dwelling. Uncharacteristically, Blokhin didn’t have his identify on the scoring sheets in these two video games. Such severance was short-lived because the leftie  Blokhin contributed a single aim to the 3-0 dwelling victory of Kiev in opposition to PSV Eindhoven within the first leg of the semi-finals. Such a big win allowed Dynamo to qualify to the ultimate regardless of a 2-1 loss within the Netherlands within the second leg of those semi-finals. The ultimate of the 1974-1975 European Cup Winners’ Cup was disputed between Dynamo Kiev and the Hungarians of Ferencvaros, on the stadium of Basel in Switzerland in Could 1975.  Blokhin confirmed his versatility throughout that sport: a decisive go for Onyshchenko for the primary aim of the sport on the 18th minute (with Onyshchenko scoring a second one within the 39th minute) after which Blokhin himself realizing the third one and final aim on the 67th minute.

The 1975 Dynamo Kiev workforce. Blohkin is first from the left within the backside row.

Such triumph within the European Cup Winners’ Cup resulted in Dynamo Kiev going through the winner of the 1974-1975 European Champion Golf equipment’ Cup, the mighty Bayern Munich, for the distinguished prize of the European Tremendous Cup. This Bayern workforce had not solely among the finest goalkeepers, Sepp Maier, but in addition strikers of all time, Gerd Muller (winner of the Golden Ball in 1970). Moreover, its captain was among the finest gamers of the sport, Franz Beckenbauer, who additionally obtained the Golden ball in 1972. Nonetheless, all these stars and golden ball winners comprising this Bayern membership have been no match for Blokhin. The younger Soviet leftie scored the one aim of the sport within the first leg at Munich in September 1975 earlier than including to his assortment the 2 targets of the return leg in Kiev in October 1975. It was thus no surprise that Blokhin gained the 1975 Golden Ball with 122 factors, with the second and third locations being given to the legends Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff who obtained a mere 42 and 27 factors, respectively. A leftie star was born and was illuminating the European sky.

The bar was subsequently set very excessive by Blokhin and one could surprise if the next season would be capable of showcase one other left-footed participant of worldwide stature driving the 1975-1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup’s competitors. The reply is in actual fact optimistic, and this participant is a minimum of Rob (Robby) Rensenbrink that the current writer considers as the most effective left winger that has by no means performed the sport. This Dutch participant, nicknamed the snake for his cold-blooded angle in entrance of the aim, was instrumental in serving to the Belgium workforce of Anderlecht in securing its first European Cup in 1976. Within the first leg of the semi-finals in opposition to the East-German workforce of Zwickau, Rensenbrink scored one aim for a 3-0 away victory and had one other tally within the return sport that noticed Anderlecht successful 2-0 at dwelling. These two targets have been no small feat when understanding that the goalkeeper , Jürgen Croy, was among the finest at the moment, as evidenced by,
e.g., his essential position in serving to East Germany to clinch the gold medal for the soccer match within the 1976 Olympic Video games. Rensenbrink additionally discovered the online twice within the remaining in opposition to the English workforce of West Ham for a 4-2 victory in Could 1976. Anderlecht thus earned their spot to play within the 1976 European Tremendous Cup. The opponent was once more the good Bayern, and precisely because the 12 months earlier than with Blokhin, a lefty was too robust for the Bavarians. After dropping the primary leg in Germany by 2-1, Anderlecht inflicted within the return leg a thumping 4-1 to the Bayern with two targets of Rensenbrink in August 1976. In distinction to Blokhin the 12 months earlier than, Robby didn’t win the 1976 golden ball. Moderately, his 75 factors  earned him the second place, 16 factors behind Beckenbauer, even if the Dutch participant outplayed the German one on this 1976 Tremendous Cup.

Bronze print of Felix Magath’s left foot on the Stroll of Fame in entrance of the HSV stadium.

Rensenbrink encountered one other setback from Germany in the course of the subsequent season since Hamburg defeated Anderlecht 2-0 within the finale of the 1976-1977 European Cup Winners’ Cup. The second German aim was decisive and scored on the 88th minute by one other proficient left-footed participant, Felix Magath. Be aware that Hamburg then was closely defeated by Liverpool within the 1977 European Tremendous Cup with a 6-0 thrashing at Anfield after a 1-1 attract Germany. At the moment, one other left winger was enchanting Liverpool followers, the Irishman Steve Freeway.

Rensenbrink and Anderlecht then reached their third consecutive finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Parc des Princes, Paris, in Could 1978. Their adversary was the Austria Vienna of Robert Sara and Herbert Prohaska. Rensenbrink had that night a rare sport that needs to be obligatory to look at for any teenager dreaming of turning into a world-class participant. His magnificent partition was accompanied by two targets and a 4-0 win for the Belgium workforce. That evening, Rensenbrink  was not the snake however relatively a royal eagle flying over the world of soccer. The 1978 European Tremendous Cup was one other prestigious encounter opposing the Anderlecht of Rensenbrink to the Liverpool of three Scots, Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish. Rob was as soon as once more flying too excessive within the first leg, scoring one aim in opposition to the good Ray Clemence, and serving to Anderlecht successful 3-1 in Brussels. It was sufficient to safe the Tremendous Cup because the return leg noticed Liverpool successful by solely 2 -1 in England. Lifting the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the European Tremendous Cup in 1978 was, as soon as once more, not sufficient for Rensenbrink to gather the 1978 Golden Ball. He was ranked third with 50 factors, trailing the winner, Kevin Keegan, by 37 factors. The primary cause for his failure to convey dwelling the coveted trophy of France Soccer was seemingly the ball that went off the put up of the Argentinian goalkeeper Fillol within the dying minutes of  common time in the course of the 1978 World Cup remaining between the Netherlands and Argentina. For just a few centimeters, Rensenbrink misplaced the prize of the highest aim scorer of this world Cup together with this world Cup and the Golden Ball. Speak about precision!

The second place of the 1978 Golden Ball went to the Austrian Hans Krankl who was a part of the so-called Miracle of Cordoba the place Austria beat Germany for the primary time in 47 years. The rating was 3-2 for Austria and Krankl scored two targets. Hans Krankl had a formidable left foot, that additionally allowed Barcelona to win the 1978-1979 European Cup Winners’ Cup in a hotly disputed remaining in opposition to the German workforce of Fortuna Dusseldorf, the place one other leftie, Klaus Allofs, was on his solution to develop into among the finest forwards in Europe (as demonstrated by his award of the highest aim scorer within the 1980 Euro gained by Germany). Barca gained the ultimate by 4-3 after extra-time throughout which Hans Krankl scored the fourth aim of the Catalan workforce.

So, as much as know, we now have confirmed the rule that left ft has been instrumental in successful the European Cup Winners’ Cup from 1975 to 1979.  Just like French grammar, all guidelines want  an exception, and 1980 is the 12 months that this exception occurs. As a matter of reality, after the extra-time resulted in a goalless sport, Arsenal misplaced the ultimate to Valencia on penalty kicks as a result of two lefties missed theirs for the gunners: the elegant Irishman Liam Brady first after which the Englishmen Graham Rix. Nonetheless, because of my robust bias in direction of left-footed gamers, I want to entice readers’  attentionto two vital factors. To begin with, in the course of the first leg of the semi-finals, the French membership of Nantes performed marvelously effectively in opposition to Valencia however might solely win by a 2-1 slim margin in France. Whereas they have been enroute to face Valencia in Spain for the second leg, a tragedy occurred: the midfielder Omar Sahnoun, who simply left Nantes for Bordeaux within the precedent summer season of 1979, had succumbed to a coronary heart assault. The Nantes gamers, whom many have been superb pals with Sahnoun, didn’t have their thoughts set as much as play in opposition to the Spanish workforce and have been defeated by 4-0. It’s a pity contemplating that the center-forward of Nantes, Eric Pécout, was a gifted leftie that not solely was the primary particular person to comprehend a hat-trick at a French remaining cup (in 1979 in opposition to Auxerre in his case) but in addition scored three different targets in opposition to the Irish workforce of Cliftonville within the second leg of the primary spherical of this 1978-1979 European Cup Winners’ Cup.  The second level is that one can have a look at  the European Champion Membership’ Cup finalwhen the one of many European Cup Winners’ Cup doesn’t convey good recollections for lefties. And what occurs there for the 1979-1980 season there? Merely that Nottingham Forest defeated the Hamburg of Keegan and Manfred Kaltz, due to a aim of their Scottish left-forward, John Robertson.

The nice habits resumed in 1981 because the newcomers of Dynamo Tbilissi lifted the 1980-1981 European Cup Winners’ Cup by successful 2-1 in opposition to the East German workforce of Carl-Zeiss Iena, with the second aim for the Soviet workforce being scored by Vitaly Daraselia together with his left foot three minutes earlier than the top of this remaining. This aim is called  the century’s aim in Georgia. However,  1982 will be thought of because the particular proof that the world, together with the considered one of soccer, will be unfair to left ft. In reality, the ultimate of the 1981-1982 European Cup Winners’ Cup was a controversial sport between the Belgium workforce of Customary Liege and Barca  performed on the Nou Camp stadium. The left magic was first in full motion: Vandersmissen scored together with his left foot for Customary after receiving a cross from  Benny Wendt’s left foot. Nonetheless, the Best Little Dane enjoying for Barca, Allan Simonsen, then tied the sport with a header however a Belgium defender appeared to have been pushed from behind throughout that motion. Much more scandalous was the second and successful aim (from Quini) of Barca that got here from a free kick that was performed earlier than the referee had blown his whistle. As soon as once more when unfairness hits left-footed gamers for the European Cup Winners’ Cup, one simply has to have a look at the ultimate of the European Champion Membership’ Cup. This latter noticed Aston Villa defeating the mighty Bayern Munich in Could 1982 at De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam. Tony Morley dribbled a number of occasions round a Bayern defender and delivered an ideal cross, from his left foot, in fact, to search out Peter Withe who was alone just some meters away from the German aim line. Peter Withe thus scored an important aim of Aston Villa’s historical past due to an ideal supply from the left foot of  winger Tony Morley.

1983 confirmed that magical left foot might vastly assist in triumphing within the European Cup Winners’ Cup.  We are actually speaking about  Aberdeen managed by Alex Ferguson. The preliminary spherical, in addition to the primary and second rounds, have been relatively simply taken care of in opposition to the Swiss workforce of Sion, the Albanian membership of Dinamo Tirana and the Polish Lech Poznan for a mixed 15 targets scored and just one conceded. The quarter-finals have been one other story, in opposition to, as soon as once more, the ogre Bayern Munich of Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenige. A 0-0 attract Germany was adopted by a shocking and hard-fought 3-2 dwelling victory of Aberdeen. The semi-finals have been then simpler to handle for the Scots in opposition to the Belgium workforce  Waterschei, that had simply eradicated Paris Saint Germain for the primary European participation of this French workforce. The Scottish membership gained 5-1 the primary leg at Aberdeen and solely misplaced 1-0 the return leg in Genk. It was now time to play the ultimate of 1982-1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup in opposition to one other European big, specifically Actual Madrid of the Spanish Gallego, Juanito and Santillana and the German Stielike. And that evening, the left ahead of Aberdeen illuminated  Ullivi stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden: Peter Weir was merely distinctive and was by far the most effective participant of the sport gained 2-1 by Aberdeen after extra-time. His Spanish opponent, the right-back Juan José, in all probability had probably the most tough evening of his profession and was on the verge of getting a nervous breakdown after the sport ended. One man got here and consoled him after the sport. His identify? Peter Weir. Who stated that lefties can’t be magnanimous? Aberdeen even then grew to become the primary Scottish workforce to win the European Tremendous cup in 1983, in opposition to Hamburg.  Alex Ferguson’s boys first drew 0-0 in Germany earlier than successful 2-0 in Pittodrie stadiumx. Be aware that Hamburg certified to this 1983 Tremendous cup by beating Juventus within the 1982-1983 European Champion Golf equipment’ Cup, due to a robust shot of Felix Magath, with clearly his left foot.

The Juventus gamers subsequently didn’t wish to expertise any extra regrets the 12 months after, for the ultimate of the 1983-1984 European Cup Winners’ Cup in opposition to Porto. Juve did win this sport by 2-1. One could surprise who scored the primary aim for the Italian workforce, and thus put them on the street to elevate a European trophy. Might or not it’s one of many 5 1982 Italian world champions, Gentile, Cabrini, Scirea, Tardelli or Paolo Rossi? What in regards to the genial Platini or the magnificent Zbigniew Boniek from France and Poland, respectively? The reply is none of them. This primary aim got here from a a lot lesser-known participant, Beniamino Vignola. And the way did he rating? You will have accurately guessed: together with his left foot. Vignola then used once more his magical left foot to search out Boniek, who scored the successful aim of that remaining.  Boniek additionally discovered twice the nets within the 1984 European Tremendous cup for the 2-0 victory of Juventus in opposition to the Liverpool of Grobbelaar, Neal, Lawrenson and Ian Rush.

It’s one other workforce from Liverpool that performed the ultimate of the 1984-1985 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Everton confronted the Speedy Wien of Hans Krankl and Antonin Panenka in Rotterdam. The blue jerseys from Liverpool had an excellent sport and gained 3-1, with their third and decisive aim being realized by the Irishman Kevin Sheedy, who is mostly thought of the most effective left-foot who to  playfor Everton. Sheedy can be the primary participant to have scored for Republic of Eire throughout a world Cup; feat that was completed in 1990 in opposition to England.  Who can now argue that lefties don’t make historical past?

One other spectacular collective success occurred within the subsequent remaining of the 1985-1986 European Cup Winners’ Cup at Lyon, France. A brand new exceptional Dynamo Kiev workforce was once more assembled by Valeriy Lobanovsky and arch-dominated Atletico Madrid by 3 targets to none. Zavarov, Belanov, Rats, Yaremchunk, Demaynenko and Yakovenko have been astonishing for the Soviet workforce however the second aim of Kiev got here from a minimum of the leftie  Blokhin (who did rating together with his proper foot on that event, to be honest). This latter was 33-year-old at the moment, which can clarify his resurrection and him being the highest scorer of this European cup with 5 targets (tied together with his teammate, Igor Belanov, who then gained the Golden Ball that 12 months).

However, one thing unusual occurred the 12 months after, for the ultimate of the 1986-1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Ajax lifted the trophy due to the next single aim in opposition to Lokomotiv Leipzig: the Dutch right-back, Sonny Silooy, run his proper facet of the sphere, made a cross together with his proper foot and located the top of Van Basten who then beat the German goalkeeper, René Müller. You could ask the place are the left ft right here? Maintain your horses. To begin with, the leftie Rob Witschge scored two targets within the semi-finals in opposition to Zaragoza. Secondly, on this Ajax workforce, there was Arnold Muhren. And who did the crossing from his left foot to Van Basten in the course of the remaining of the Euro 1988 between the Netherland and the Soviet Union, for what is taken into account to be one of many best volleyed targets in soccer historical past? Arnold Muhren, in fact.   Thirdly and eventually, Porto gained the European Champion Golf equipment’ Cup in opposition to the ill-fated Bayern Munich that 1986-1987 season, with an awesome efficiency from a left-footed participant, Paulo Futre.

We now arrive on the final season of this 13-year journey to debate the Belgium workforce of Mechelen, in the course of the 1987-1988 European Cup Winners’ Cup. This membership began with a simple qualification in opposition to Dynamo Bucarest within the first spherical (two wins by 1-0 at dwelling after which 2-0 in Romania), adopted by a draw 0-0 in Belgium in opposition to Saint-Mirren within the first leg of the second spherical. It was time for the left winger of Mechelen, Eli Ohana, to point out his magical abilities. His partition resulted within the two targets of the 2-0 away victory in Scotland for this Israeli participant. The Belgium workforce then narrowly escaped an elimination within the quarter-finals in opposition to Dynamo Minsk, due to a aim of Ohana once more within the return leg permitting Mechelen to attract 1-1 in Belarus, after having gained the primary leg 1-0 at dwelling. Eli Ohana put his identify within the scoring sheet once more within the 2-1 victory of Mechelen in opposition to the Italian workforce of Atalanta of Bergamo within the first leg of the semi-finals. The very same rating occurred within the return leg in Italy, which then opened the doorways for Mechelen to face Ajax within the French metropolis of Strasbourg for the ultimate.  Eli Ohana produced a present throughout that sport. On his left facet, he dribbled the Dutch worldwide Jan Wouters, earlier than delivering an ideal cross from his left foot to the top of Piet Den Boer, who scored the one aim of the match. Mechelen has thus gained the 1987-1988 European Cup Winners’ Cup for its first European competitors, due to Eli Ohana whose nickname The King is relatively applicable to explain the unimaginable love story lefties had with this particular European Cup from 1975 to 1988.

And what did the UEFA resolve in 1999? Merely, to abolish the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Is it one other prejudice in opposition to lefties? 

To conclude, I hope I’ve satisfied you that one ought to by no means consider the hand of the satan however relatively of the foot of the angels when describing lefties. Definitive proof is that the Argentinian participant, Di Maria, who  helped Lionel Messi  win the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 World Cup for  his nation has a magical left foot and has the next first identify: Angel. Are you totally satisfied now?

Laurent Bellaiche is a Distinguished Professor within the Physics Division and Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering, in addition to the Twenty-First Century Endowed Professor in Optics, Nanoscience and Science Training (for extra particulars, please see: ccmp.uark.edu). His favourite workforce is Paris Saint-Germain, particularly that of the primary trophies (French Cups) within the 1980’s, with the three Dominique’s (Baratelli, Bathenay and Rocheteau) and two jewels (Safet Susic and Mustapha Dahleb). His two favourite male soccer gamers of all time are Diego Armando Maradona and Robby Rensenbrink. His present three favourite feminine gamers are Grace Geyoro, Melchie Dumornay and, in fact,  Sophia Smith. His favourite soccer/soccer quote is one from Invoice Shankly, “Some individuals assume soccer is a matter of life and demise – I guarantee you, it’s way more vital than that.”


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