It’s one of the most anxious situations in sport. Other than being late to film your Head and Shoulders commercial. A penalty is as stressful as taking your driving test, being cross-examined in court and finding a strange lump on your upper inner thigh all rolled into one. And yet it should be so simple. Just kick the ball into the hole, avoiding that big man in the way. But so many footballing millionaires fail to do it. Why? Here are just some of the reasons we have unearthed for trained professionals missing a spot-kick, with video evidence included.
A strange, rare sporting condition where the player involved (in this instance Del Piero) suddenly has the leg power of a wounded fawn. Without warning, all the momentum is drained form the lower leg, causing the victim to lightly tap the ball in the vague direction of the goalie, as is kicking a packet of Jaffa Cakes across the floor towards your stoned flatmate.
Footballers are a superstitious lot, so any sudden changes in routine and environment can throw them off and cause upset. Which explains why, after years and years of kicking a white ball around the pitch, the sudden appearance of an orange one on the penalty spot could unnerve a player of Pato’s quality.
HATRED OF MOTHS
We all have phobias towards certain flying insects, whether it’s bees, wasps or ladybirds. Notice one of these winged foes, even when you’re involved in something important like taking a penalty, and you’re likely to leap into action, regardless of the consequences and kick the ball as hard as possible towards the filthy beast.
If Einstein has taught us anything, it’s that heat equals power – or something like that. A footballer’s body is like a machine. They use half-time oranges as fuel and damp sponges for maintenance. And like any machine, if it gets too hot it can malfunction. Even something as innocuous as the wearing of gloves can alter the internal body chemistry and cause Wayne Rooney to kick the ball into Row W.
PICKING THE WRONG TARGET
From a psychological point of view, this makes perfect sense. Do you aim the ball at that great empty space, full of nothingness? Or do you target it towards that nice, upright, metal pole? 99% of the time, footballers remember to go for the gap, but sometimes the pole proves too irresistible.
UNDERSTANDING BASIC PHYSICS
Many footballers left school early to become apprentices and start their sporting careers. This means that certain subjects were often left incomplete before departure, particularly the sciences. So that may explain why Pat Nevin doesn’t quite grasp that if you only lift your leg back half a millimetre before kicking the ball, it really won’t go very far.
It’s something that can strike at any time. That sudden feeling of ‘why bother?’ What’s life all about? Is there any point? What does it all mean? Many of us experience it on Sunday evenings, when Antiques Roadshow is about to start. Unfortunately it hit this guy right as he kicked the ball.
SPOTTING ARG FROM TOWIE IN THE CROWD
Football specialists are beloved by fans the world over. But that doesn’t mean that they themselves aren’t overly impressed when they spot one of their heroes in the crowd. If they do notice their favourite soap star, reality show person or Egghead watching them, they are likely to get weak at the knees or possibly just hurl themselves to the ground in appreciation.
As I’m sure you are aware, many football grounds are haunted. It makes perfect sense. You love football, you die, you want your spectral form to watch a few matches for free now you can travel through walls and things like that. But if you are a ghost don’t, whatever you do, get too close to the action and suddenly make the ball move in completely bizarre directions.
THE ‘DID I LEAVE THE GAS ON?’
Managers tell their professionals to try and empty their minds of all thoughts and distractions before kicking the ball. The danger though is a sudden random notion entering your head and throwing you off. This could be ‘Did I lock the back door?’ ‘Have I renewed the car insurance?’ or ‘Can I kick this football at a right-angle’ This video illustrates the last one.