By Ridge Mahoney
Kei Kamara, you are in good company.
His astonishing failure to put a ball over the goal line while sliding across said line in the Wizards-Galaxy game Saturday isn’t atypical at all of how maddening it can be to score goals in a game fraught with incongruities. A dominant team can easily lose if it can’t put the ball in the net, and you’d think any player of pro caliber could get the right body part on a ball to advance it a few feet.
Think again. As the former Belgium national team coach Guy Thys once said, “Soccer is a very cruel game.” He was referring to other aspects of top-level soccer, such as elimination from the World Cup via penalty-kick shootouts, but Kamara’s ineptitude certainly falls into this category. As Kamara slid, he kicked at the ball and missed, and compounded his humiliation by knocking it over the goal line with his arm.
Unlike Diego Maradona’s handball goal in the 1986 World Cup and Thierry Henry’s infamous arm-trap last November in a playoff against Ireland, the officials as well as the crowd and TV audience spotted this transgression: Whistle, no goal, and via YouTube, a fair degree of ignominious embarrassment. But hardly could it be called unprecedented, or even rare.
A few hours earlier, in a game of much greater prestige and presumably, competence, a proven international player fluffed a chance only slightly more challenging. Before he scored one of Chelsea’s goals in a 7-0 thrashing of Stoke City, French winger Florent Malouda stubbed a shot wide while so close to the goal line he could have fallen forward onto it.
Malouda, no joke, missed from a maximum of four feet, while dead-center in front of the goal. And he didn’t whiff on the ball, as so many squanderers of sitters have done in the past. He actually made contact to the square pass and somehow got so little on the “shot," for lack of a better word, that the ball rolled wide of the left post. Any appreciable nudge would have changed the ball’s direction enough to sneak inside the upright, yet still Malouda managed not to do so.
Remember the great Toby Charles call, “It was easier to score than to miss.”? Yea, verily, so it goes.
To review: On a ball rolled – not drilled, not belted, not chipped -- to him from the right wing, while stationed a yard or so from the goal line and equidistant between both posts eight yards apart, he missed the frame entirely. He took it far too casually with Chelsea in the midst of thrashing Stoke; Kamara perhaps got too anxious trying to score what could have been the only goal of a tight game.
Too much pressure, not enough pressure, whatever the circumstance, some truly incredible occurrences have plagued players faced with the simplest of scoring tasks. Many moons ago, a British quasi-pundit named Danny Baker hosted a memorable video entitled “Tears, Kisses and Awful Misses,” and suffice to say, it humbled every pro and exonerated every pub-team denizen to stumble or tumble away a tap-in.
Maybe it’s time for the great video archivist David Brett Wasser to compile the best fluffs in the American game. Between MLS and the national teams, there’s plenty of material, as there would be in any other country. If there’s a universality to the game beyond its appeal and spectacle, it’s how many comical, humiliating, and maddening methods there are to muck up scoring a goal.
To put Malouda’s Miss -- not to mention Kamara’s Kalamity -- in perspective, those sensitive, caring folks at the Daily Mail assembled a collection of memorable mangles. They are just a few of nearly countless reminders as to how the game, and the frame, will keep you humble.
What’s the worst miss you've ever seen at the pro/international level? (Your Sunday games and parking-lot kickarounds don’t count.)