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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bicycle kick, the most famous that Chile has given to soccer

Por Rory

The bicycle kick is the only play of soccer that does not need the grass but the sky: with their backs to the ground their feet are raised and the ball is hit while the body is suspended in the air. Maybe that's why when that surprise juggling ends in a goal it leads to glory. The bicycle kick is an uprising, an individual revolution that can change the color of a match. This play so showy is also part of the repertoire of endemic products that has sprung from the Americas and has been inherited to the world, such as corn or chocolate.

Some say it was born with the twentieth century, at the dawn of soccer in Latin America, when the English railroad builders faced locals in the ports of Callao in Peru. However, if it is necessary to refer to the evidence, they say that the bicycle kick as we know it was born in a stadium in the south of Chile, in the city of Talcahuano, in January of 1914. Soccer came to America in the late nineteenth century in ships that brought railroads. For many years, the two main ports on the Pacific Ocean were the Peruvian port of Callao and Valparaíso, in Chile.

For the Argentinean journalist Jorge Barraza, specialized in the history of South American soccer and author of several books there is no doubt that the bicycle kick was born in Peru. "People who live in the port of Callao practiced that play," Barraza said during a radio interview conducted by Colombian radio station RCN. According to the journalist, since the exchange between both ports was constant, Peruvian sailors traveled to Chile frequently. And of course, they disputed their matches, which can be considered the first "international" matches. "That's where they saw for the first time that wonderful play, of the contorted body, which they called the chalaca," explained Barraza. The Argentine journalist cites that several Chilean newspapers of 1900 alluded to that trick as "la chalaca ".

And this is where the stories come together. According to the record made by the Football Association of Talcahuano, located in southern Chile, in January 1914 Ramón Unzaga, a young Spanish nationalized Chilean, had executed for the first time that move in the legendary El Morro stadium. In fact, the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, wrote about that moment in his book "Fútbol a sol y a sombra" (Soccer in Sun and Shadow): "Ramón Unzaga invented the play in the field of the Chilean port of Talcahuano: with the body in the air, with his back to the ground, his legs shot the ball backwards, in a sudden swaying of scissor blades". Unzanga continued executing his feat on other stadiums of the continent. It was he who patented it in the stadiums of Argentina and Uruguay during the first editions of Cup America, in 1916 and 1917, which Chile attended.

The Argentinean journalist Luciano Wernicke, soccer historian who has been in charge of collecting the most juicy anecdotes of the Cup America and other tournaments, recalled in BBC World that the appearance of the bicycle kick for the world occurred in the inaugural match of the then South American Championship. That July 2, 1916, against Uruguay, Unzaga appealed to the unusual blow to try to defend his arch from the Uruguayan attack. Chile lost 4-0 and few could presage the importance of that acrobatics. "It was there that the fans began to talk about the play made by the defenders of that Chilean team, who were Unzaga and Gatica, and after the games they said 'you saw the move made by the Chileans, bicycle kick," Barraza noted.

Each discipline has needed a genius, an unbeatable hero for its universalization: Michael Jordan to basketball, Pelé to soccer, and David Arellano to the bicycle kick. Outstanding striker, but above all a visionary, Arellano was a notable player who in 1925 founded, along with other fellow players, the club Colo Colo the most popular in Chile. And it was he who promoted a tour of Europe, the first of a Chilean team in history. It happened in 1927. Colo Colo faced the Espanyol of the mythical Ricardo "El Divino" Zamora. Arellano did not hesitate to show his skills and mastery over that juggling that was held in the air. According to the newspaper ABC of Spain, Zamora, after that match they lost, said about Chileans and those works of art: "They play their lives when they are close to the goal."

But the tragic death gave epic tints: on June 2, 1927, when Colo Colo disputed the second game of that successful tour against Valladolid, Arellano "played his life" in a play, but this time he hit his abdomen with so much strength with his legs that he died a day later in a hotel room due to peritonitis. And with his name, the myth of that move was installed in the soccer collective that he had been responsible for exporting to the world. Since then the bicycle kick has become the dream of every soccer player, big or small, amateur or professional. On the lawn, on land or in the water, all of them have ever tried to complete an almost divine movement.