Anatomy of an own goal: Adrien Gulfo - (2021)
There are certain footballers whose names will forever be associated with one thing and one thing alone.
Johan Cruyff has his turn. Rene Higuita has his scorpion kick. Kerlon has his seal dribble. Adrien Gulfo has one of these moments too, but he must really wish he didn’t.
Gulfo is a Swiss defender who has had a relatively unremarkable career, spending most of his time in his country’s regional leagues. However, it hasn’t been quite as unremarkable as he might have hoped.
The highlight of his career to date – and let’s face it, he’s unlikely to ever top it – came in a game between Pully Football and FC Renens. In fact, we’d go as far as saying it’s the most notable thing to have happened to either club, both of whom hail from the Lausanne suburbs. It’s certainly the most notable thing that anyone filmed, at least – we can’t rule out other, much cooler stuff happening when no one had their camera with them, but again, it seems unlikely that this can be topped.
As Renens’ No.16 sends the ball across, the first thing we notice is that Gulfo seems to have things pretty much under control. Actually, no, the first thing we notice is that this looks like a really well-maintained pitch for what we’re pretty sure is semi-pro football. Oh, and that we wouldn’t mind living in Switzerland if this is the attention to detail they give to activities which, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t that important to wider society.
If they take this good care of their athletic facilities, imagine how good everything else must be.
But anyway, we digress; back to Monsieur Gulfo and his crowning moment.
Gulfo’s first touch is ungainly but salvageable, the ball looping up in the air but, crucially, away from the closing forward. Nothing to worry about here – just send the ball out wide, preventing the opposition winning a corner, and get back to helping your team find an equaliser. That ought to be easy enough, but apparently not.
Instead, he makes the most classic of errors: he attempts to overcompensate for the first mistake by making his next touch so extravagant that people will forget what came before. I suppose it worked in that regard, albeit not exactly how he wanted it to. Not only have you already forgotten about that first touch, but you’ve probably forgotten everything else you’ve done today or even all week.
There is no past, present or future any more; only Adrien Gulfo, acrobatically sending a stylishly-executed bicycle kick into the corner of his own net.
“C’est pas possible,” the commentator screams upon witnessing the goal. “It’s not possible”. And yet…
You could show this clip to the finest geometry experts in the world and none of them would be able to explain how his starting position could send the ball where it did. As the ball hits the net, we see Gulfo flat on his front, his thought process presumably somewhere in between “what have I just done?” and “shit, is this being filmed?”.
We can even see the Pully goalkeeper, who didn’t dive for the ball – because, honestly, how can you be prepared for something like that? – turn back towards his teammate as he walks to pick the ball out of the net.
It’s hard to tell whether the initial feelings of disbelief and anger are giving way to efforts to comprehend what his colleague has done, because even if he did attempt to find answers he’d surely come up empty.
The hardest part to understand, though, is the concentration on Gulfo’s face as he approaches that second touch.. His eyes are firmly on the ball throughout, as if every single aspect of the connection is exactly what he was aiming for. How do we square that with the end result? We can’t, and in all honesty I’m not sure we even want to.
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