Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Soccer Trivia

Elastico - The Japanese Connection!


Most soccer fans will agree that one of the most skillful and entertaining teams ever to grace the football pitch was the now legendary Brazilian team that won the 1970 World Cup. One of the most exciting talents to emerge from that team of greats was winger, Roberto Rivelino. Quick, incredibly skillful, and with a brilliant football brain, Rivelino could be said to be have been one of the players who drove the evolution of the modern game.

Amongst his repertoire of skills were the ability to curl a football around a wall of defenders at an immensely high velocity (very hard to do), and amazing dribbling skills. One of his most enduring contributions to the skill of dribbling was the so-called "elastico". Never seen before it was performed by Rivelino, the technique threw opponents off balance and allowed him to glide past several defenders at once.

The technique is so useful that almost every player of skill in the modern era has incorporated it into their game. Modern greats such as Eto'oRonaldo, and Ronaldinho, have used the technique to devastating effect. It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that the technique has made a major contribution to how the game  is played, and if performed successfully can open up defences and lead to goals.

It was, therefore, interesting to discover that the guy who actually developed the technique was not actually Rivelino, but an old team-mate of his from his Brazilian club side, Corinthians. Even more interesting is that the player who, according to Rivelino himself (see the above video from 6:16), actually developed the technique was a Brazilian Japanese Nissei named Sergio Echigo.

There isn't much information out there in English about Echigo, but according to his Wiki page, he spent around 5 years playing with the Corinthians and then moved to a team in the Japanese league. For those who speak Portuguese - or don't mind trying to make sense of the crappy Google translator - here are a couple of links, with pictures, of the man himself. According to one of the articles, Echigo  made some important contributions to the development of the game in Japan.

In soccer, a piece of skill can win or lose games, and individual players who are able to utilize techniques like the elastico can cause such problems for opposing teams, that strategies and tactics are often created to deal with them. In the modern game, which is characterized by fitness, strength, and an emphasis on preventing the opposing team from playing by closing down space on the filed, the elastico is one of the ways that individual players can take out two or three opponents with one flick of the foot and thus overcome an opposing teams tactics. So, I think it's safe to say that although Echigo will not be remembered as one of the greats, his great contribution to the modern game is undeniable.

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