In almost every discussion that revolves around ‘which sport is best to watch?’ the crux of many a-Soccer fan’s opinion rests in moments of individual brilliance.
There is no other sport that allows players to outsmart or outplay opponents in such a variety. So long as the ball avoids the player’s hands, and they don’t foul anyone in the process, the sky really is the limit for Soccer skills.
These days, with the growth of Futsal, street and freestyle football, any new innovations will have been first been perfected in these proving grounds.
But, there are dozens of moves that even decades after first being shown still defy all expectations and succeed in dropping the jaws of onlookers.
With a great skill move still leaving onlookers flushed with hype, it’s hard to imagine quite how fans would have reacted the very first time they saw an Elastico or Roulette.
So put on your Brazil shirt, get some Samba tunes on and pray to your shrine to Ronaldinho, because we’re looking back to the very genesis of Soccer’s most famed skill.
In today’s lesson on the history of skill moves, I’ll be taking a look at the Rainbow Flick.
What Is A Rainbow Flick?
If you’ve played a FIFA game since 2008, it’s pretty likely you’ll know this one. The epitome of over-the-top, Joga Bonito flair, this piece of skill both delights fans and embarrasses opponents.
It’s so seldom seen, I wouldn’t blame you for believing it’s never used, but those with an inhuman amount of confidence and bags of ability have been known to pull it off successfully on rare occasions, despite its difficulty.
The trick involves quickly trapping the ball between your front foot’s heel and the instep of the foot behind before flicking the ball up and over both the attacker’s and defender’s heads in one fluid motion.
The likes of Jay-Jay Okocha and Ronaldinho have pulled it out in iconic instances, but by far the player to successfully attempt it the most is Neymar.
Okocha famously beat Arsenal’s Ray Parlour while playing for Bolton in the Premier League, introducing much of England to the move.
Ronaldinho pulled it out in his early days for Brazi against Venezuela, prompting utter disbelief from the Brazillian TV Globo commentator Galvao Bueno – “Look what he’s doing, look what he’s doing!”.
It takes some confidence to pull the move off, but it has been pulled off on the very biggest stage of world football, the World Cup.
Turkey was playing Brazil at the 2002 World Cup. Perhaps keen to out Brazil the Brazilians, one player with an ungodly amount of self-belief humiliated one of Brazil’s most celebrated players.
İlhan Mansız was on the wing, with Roberto Carlos battling him for possession. In what was described as a “sombrero” move of “outrageous skill” Mansiz flicked the ball over both of their heads, leaving Carlos completely beaten.
Brazil went on to win that World Cup, so Carlos got the last laugh, but the moment is still lauded as one of the craziest skills to be pulled out in a big game.
Desperate not to let his humiliation grant a reward for Turkey, Carlos brought the winger down, conceding a free-kick in the process.
This wasn’t just a group-stage game either. This was in the Semi-final. That’s a man with serious balls…
Neymar has since been known to pull it off many times, as Santos, Barcelona and PSG fans have all witnessed the move used successfully for their respective clubs.
Who Was The First Player To Perform A Rainbow Flick?
It was first executed in 1968, by Brazillian-Japanese player, Alexandre de Carvalho, nicknamed “Kaneco”. Part of the famed Santos squad of the 60s that featured Pele, his notoriety almost entirely surrounds the genesis of the Rainbow flick.
At the time an unknown youngster, Kaneco became famous overnight in a 5-1 win over Botafogo. With the ball at his feet on the wing, and Santos 2-1 up at this point, Kaneco performed the first successful rainbow flick.
Sending the ball over his and the defender’s heads, before crossing the ball to top scorer Toninho Guerreiro, who, in typical Brazillian fashion finished the ball with a backheel to make the goal undoubtedly one of the greatest goals of all time.
Kaneco only ever played 17 games for Santos, but he would become a legend thanks to his confidence and skill that took Brazillian flair to the most outrageous of conclusions.
Kaneco’s feat gained international attention, sending shock waves through South America that just reached the periphery of Europe. It was more of a light tremor by the time it made it to football’s homeland.
But these faint waves were enough to capture the attention of Vito Chimenti who would go on to expose Europe to the move, leading many to falsely believe he invented the skill.
The moves usage in the 1981 film ‘Escape to Victory’ is said to be inspired by Chimenti, but it is likely inspired by Kaneco, given Pele played in the very game of the move’s origin, and featured as one of the stars of the film.
A Controversial Trick
Surprisingly, the rainbow flick has been embroiled in controversy.
While any other skill move that beats a player is regarded as ingenious, rainbow flicks have been labelled as ‘showboating’ and ‘unsportsmanlike’ which feels a little ridiculous.
If a player beats another with an elastico or roulette, or someone slams an overhead kick into the top corner when they can just head the ball in the net, they are lauded as brilliant, and rightly so.
But strangely, perhaps due to the true audacity of the trick, rainbow flicks seem to divide opinion and have even been at the centre of a few controversies.
In 2008, Franck Songo’o attempted the move in a championship fixture between QPR and Sheffield Wednesday. Playing for Wednesday, Songo’o had the ball in the corner at QPR’s end, standing with the ball at his feet.
With a 2-1 lead and holding onto victory, he saw two defenders ahead of him, and rather than play safe, rainbow flicked the both of them before the referee stopped the game.
According to one report the referee called for a halt as “[opposing] players piled in threatening to lynch [him]”, a truly horrific, far more embarrassing than getting done by the trick in the first place if the report is true.
However, in watching the very limited footage of the moment, the referee seemed to stop play the second he beat the players with the trick before the QPR defenders had even processed what had happened, so it’s hard to tell why the referee called for a halt.
While the ref was warranted in stopping the game to punish the QPR players, if they were making such comments, another referee became infamous for booking Neymar for simply pulling off the trick.
On February 1, 2020, PSG welcomed Montpellier to the Parc des Princes, and after an early PSG goal and Montpellier red card, Neymar was feeling the spirit of Joga Bonito flowing through his veins. Cornered by two defenders by the touchline, Neymar attempted and actually failed to pull off a rainbow flick, it was a good enough attempt and nothing to be embarrassed about, but the referee’s reaction certainly was.
Calling the Brazillian over to reprimand him for his skill, Neymar argued “I’m just playing football”, after a short back and forth, the referee booked him, prompting widespread outrage across the world for the referee trying to stamp out the individuality and ingenuity that makes the beautiful game, beautiful.