Saturday, May 23, 2009

The greatest moment of 1971? Must be George Best stealing the ball from Gordon Banks and scoring in the match between England and Northern Ireland. Banks possesed the ball and was about to kick it ahead. Best figured out that he might be able to steal the ball in the moment when Banks tossed it in the air before kicking it. It was an old dream of Best and this time he decided give it try and it worked: he managed to chip the ball away before Banks reached it with his foot, run quickly after it, and kicked it in the empty net. Amazingly, the referee disallowed the goal and ruled a faul for England. Opinions differ ever since, but I am with Best: there was no interference, no obstruction, no faul, it was a clean goal. In the air, it was nobody’s ball, not Banks’s anymore. Best did not even touch Banks, no contact whatsoever – it was not against the rules to be in close proximity to the goalie. To his death, Best maintained he was robbed from this goal. Banks is a bit obscure: ‘on this one, I am with the referee’, was his repeated comment, but quite in jest, not entirely seriously – after all, a goalie is not going to say that the goal he allowed was righful goal. Especially when the goalkeeper looked like a fool. Yet, there is serious opinion that Best scored against the rules. This action was so unique – and hardly ever reapeted – that either the rules did forsee it at all, or the referee was entirely confused what to do and took the safest action. Personally, I think the goal was to be allowed.