Would you believe that my most impressive shot was during my first year of playing soccer? I’m being very serious, I was about seven years old when I had my best kick, my best shot, my most impressive punt. It was hit with the beauty of tres dedos, a curve with the outside of my right foot. A curve which would baffle mathematicians with its supreme, almost divine direction. The only problem was that I, a defender, was on my own half of the field and my “awesome shot” was one headed directly towards my own goal. Nothing prepared me for this moment, I never expected it. There were/are no practices focused on reactions towards own goals, how to defend an own goal or even what to expect when you’re expecting an own goal. My only reaction was a sudden surge of shame and embarrassment as the ball flew over the keeper’s head and straight into the net.
Luckily for me, I wasn’t a professional player doing this. Only approximately twenty or so people were watching the game as opposed to the 15,000+ which would attend professional games. Sure it was embarrassing, most of the fans (parents) responded with a gasp, but I was seven, it was just the first of many mistakes that I made that year learning the fundamentals of soccer. Eventually I made fewer mistakes with more practice but they are unfortunately inevitable for players on all levels.
What makes own goals unique is how they humanize professional players. Players such as Zidane, Ronaldo, Maradona, Messi and countless others are seen as perfect, immaculate beings, essentially demi-gods by fans. An own goal turns our perception of them and the game upside down. The beautiful game becomes an awkward one filled with mistakes which, for better or worse, drastically changes the outcome of any game. The following is what I consider to be some of the more interesting, unbelievable and downright wacky own goals in the history of soccer.
Gershom Cox (1888)
William McGregor, the director of Aston Villa, wasn’t happy. Professional soccer was becoming much too chaotic for his liking. During most of the 1880’s teams would create their own fixtures and make illegal payments to players in order to boost their rankings. There was a “moral code” created for the sport, but it was seldom followed. In response McGregor, along with 12 other teams created the “Football League” in 1888, the first professional soccer association.
On September 8th, 1888 the Football League announced its arrival with an early mistake. The first own goal in the league also happened to be the first goal as well. Gershom Cox is infamously known as the player who made that mistake by scoring against his own team, Aston Villa in a game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Chris Nicholl (1976)
“The third goal, Leicester’s second, was a cracker…best goal I ever scored. A diving header. No goalkeeper would have saved that. Fortunately, my fourth equalised for Villa, so that was a relief.” -Chris Nicholl
What’s more impressive than scoring a brace for your team? How about scoring one for the opposing team as well. On March 20th, 1976 Chris Nicholl scored all four goals in a game between Aston Villa and Leicester City. Nicholl, who probably had a good sense of humor, even asked for the match ball afterwards, assuming he scored a “hat-trick” in the game. He didn’t get the ball or get to be the man of the match, but with those two goals he became Leicester City’s fifth best goal scorer of the 1975-1976 season.
Tony Sealy (1994)
“The game should never be played with so many players on the field confused. Our players did not even know which direction to attack; our goal or their goal. I have never seen this happen before. In football, you are supposed to score against your opponents in order to win, not for them.” -Grenada manager James Clarkson
Most own goals are unintentional, a gaffe made against your own squad. Tony Sealy’s was anything but a mistake. It was the last group game for Barbados to qualify for the Caribbean Cup and they were up against group leaders Grenanda. Barbados was winning 2-1 with seven minutes left but needed a two goal lead in order to qualify over Grenada. That’s when Sealy, a Barbados player decided to score an own goal to make the score 2-2. Tournament rules declared that any tie would go into a golden goal extra time, with the golden goal accounting for two goals. Sealy utilized this rule in order to buy his team more time, but the clock had not run out yet.
That’s when chaos emerged on the field. Grenada made a mad dash towards their own goal, as long as a goal was scored on either side, they would qualify for the next round. The last few minutes was a perplexing match of the Barbados side defending both goals while the Grenada players attempted to score a goal, any goal. The game went into overtime with an eventual goal by Barbados sealing a spot for them in the Caribbean cup and the history books.
Andres Escobar (1994)
If you’re reading this, go take a break and watch the documentary The Two Escobars, it’s one of the most interesting documentaries I have ever seen about soccer. Colombia was going into the 1994 World Cup with high expectations. They were undefeated in qualifying and impressed the world with a shocking 5-0 defeat over Argentina in the group stages. All eyes were on the team. However, betting syndicates and drug cartels were watching closely as well. This pressure, along with death threats to the team made their comfortable and confident playing style shaky and nervous.
After losing their first game to Romania, Colombia went into their second game against the U.S. national team. A win was imperative, anything less would see them potentially knocked-out. Unluckily for Andres Escobar, he scored the first goal in his own net, helping the U.S. in an eventual 2-1 win over Colombia. A win against Switzerland was not enough for the Colombians as they were sent home after the first round of the group stage. On July 2nd, 1994, Escobar was shot twelve times. According to Escobar’s girlfriend, the shooter yelled “Goooool!” for each of the 12 shots fired. The murder is widely acknowledged to have been punishment for Escobar’s mistake against the United States.
Stade Olymique L’Emyrne (2002)
“I’ve heard of a local league game in Nottingham that finished 50-2 and there was a 43-0 in an Austrian regional game before the second world war – but nothing this big.” -FA historian David Barber
149-0. That’s all you really need to know about this game. 149 own goals, you would think after about 30 or 40 goals the players from Stade Olymique L’Emyrne would have made their point. SOE were playing against rivals AS Adema in the final game of a round-robin tournament to determine the national championship of Madagascar. The catch was that AS Adema had already been crowned the winners due to the result of their penultimate game which knocked SOE out of title contention. SOE believed that title had been given off a controversial penalty awarded to AS Adema, and were not happy about it.
It was decided before the game that SOE would protest by scoring own goals throughout the game, 149 of them. As the goals came pouring in, furious fans were pouring out, demanding refunds from the ticket stand.
Stephen Wright & Michael Proctor (2003)
The 2002-2003 season was not very kind to Sunderland, they finished with only four wins, 19 points and a -44 goal difference. I guess it also doesn’t help when you score three own goals in seven minutes. In February of 2003, Sunderland were up against Charlton and knocked in three own goals between the 24th and 31st minutes of the game. Defender Stephen Wright started the party at the 24th minute. This was immediately followed by Michael Proctor who scored not one, but two own goals, obviously showing Wright that he could do much better. At the very least, Sunderland could say that they had scored three goals in one game, a first for them at that point in the season.
Festus Baise (2011)
I’ve included this one on the list for the sheer brilliance of the shot. If I were given 10,000 attempts at recreating this goal, it would never be done. Nigerian defender, Festus Baise, scored the remarkable “scorpion kick” own goal after trying an unorthodox method of clearing a cross near his goal.
Eventually I got over my own goal, I needed to. I wouldn’t have been a good soccer player unless I recognized my mistake, picked myself off of the pitch and continued playing. It also wasn’t my only own goal either, I’ve scored a few since (one of them was actually scored two days ago at a local rec game). I was at first angry, ok, I was very angry. I punched the goal post afterwards, but once the anger subsided, amusement arose. It became a story, a comical anomaly, a funny break from the sport that I take way too seriously. If I had played professionally, my own goal would have produced a much different reaction but I don’t and I’m somewhat thankful for that.
What I’m thankful for is at least being a part of the sport, even though it obviously didn’t help my team, I had changed the outcome of the game. I felt angry but I got over it. When they tally up points at the end of the season, somebody will see this after my last game: “C. Hernandez (own goal) 88th minute” and I think that’s pretty cool.