Theyab Awana’s team, the United Arab Emirates, were leading Lebanon 5-2 in an away friendly when they were awarded a penalty and a chance to score the sixth goal from the eleven meter spot. It was the 78th minute and the scoreline was already a witness to the huge gap between the two teams and the remaining twelve minutes bar any added misery and time would only be a formality.
In many ways the penalty promised to be the last piece of excitement for any paying supporters – and we all know how exciting a penalty at that point, with that score can be. Up steps Awana Diab (or Theyab Awana), a twenty-one year old who plies his trade with Baniyas and he makes his way to the spot. He stares at the ball for a few seconds – as many have done before him – daring it to disobey his next order that will be a direct invitation to hug the back of the net.
There is a whistle that commands Awana to go and he starts his short unimportant run to the spot. Few would have followed his approach with any interest given the statistical chances of success (unless you are Brasil in a Copa America quarter final). Books have been written about the boring, cynical and unexciting penalty. Few have managed to turn this most basic of football kicks into entertainment material – Cruyff and the Dutch played some cheeky business, Socrates would stand over the ball without running but in the end it was always kick and score or miss.
But then, half way through Theyab’s short run he spun round on himself and presented the goalkeeper with the most abnormal of views – his backside. The bored onlookers did not even have time to get over the shock before they noticed the audacious choice by the young unknown. Awana had chosen to backheel the ball towards the keeper and as the ball trickled slowly into the net even the Lebanese keeper stood transfixed and overwhelmed by the abrasive punkiness of it all.
Awana had for a few seconds made a choice to transcend the mundane and enter the Soccertheon of footballing moves. For a few infinite seconds he was up there with the likes of Garrincha, Puskas and René Higuita: those who dared defy logic with moves that dazzled and made kids dream.
There was an apotheosis for this young man. He was tugged savagely down from the heavens by his coach and team manager. Sratko Katanec the ex-Sampdoria stalwart and now UAE coach pulled off Awana immediately – the player had only been on the pitch for 10 minutes. His crime was apparently “disrespect”. You often get this philosophy in football – it is usually attributed to team who “overdo” winning: such as continuing to play attacking football when the score is already a gaping chasm.
Some teams have transformed attacking football into a philosophy – like the Catalan geniuses in blaugrana. The UAE did not arrest its run after Awana’s goal (the sixth for the team in the game). They went on to score a seventh, without the “disrespectful” Awana on the pitch. It says much about the type of football that is expected nowadays. There is a sick feeling of political correctness that trims down genius into its place – players have to be football machines first and creative minds later.
It’s sad. Awana should be made a symbol of a fan movement calling for the return of “crazy” footballers that managed to put some colour in the game. The rules are there for all to see and Awana broke none of them with his moment of creative genius. (I personally think that the one that needed substituting was the hapless Lebanese goalkeeper). If it’s allowed then all the better if it is also dazzling. Or as the slogan goes… “If it’s in the game…. it’s in the game.”
- UAE Soccer Player May Be Punished For “Disrespectful”-But-Also-Awesome Backheel Penalty Kick [Video] (deadspin.com)
- Theyab Awana shows Carlos Tevez how it can be done (soccerblog.com)
- ‘Back-heel penalty taker’ Theyab Awana faces sanction for ‘disrespect’ (independent.co.uk)
- UAE player in trouble for backheeled penalty (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Backheeled penalty scorer Theyab Awana may be disciplined for lack of respect (telegraph.co.uk)
- Soccer Showboat of the Day (thedailywh.at)