Backheel flicks and corner kicks: Alternative European football awards

Updated: June 3, 2019

Imagine a parallel universe where instead of the conventional annual distinctions doled out by player associations and media, an alternative set of awards highlighted the lighter side of football.

In that spirit, here’s a glance at 10 additional accolades that celebrate all things weird and whimsical:

Eat Their Words award

Hatem Ben Arfa‘s time at Paris Saint-Germain didn’t quite go to plan. The former French international was exiled to the reserves for a year, a festive milestone that he celebrated on Instagram last April. However, the 32-year-old will argue that he got the last laugh after he guided Rennes to a shocking Coupe de France victory over PSG this year.

Shaun Brooks / Action Plus / Getty

In a moment of serendipity, Les Rouges et Noirs drew Arsenal and former PSG tutor Unai Emery in the Europa League last 16. Rennes topped the 10-man Gunners 3-1 in the first leg in France, prompting Ben Arfa to say: “I did see the same Emery, as agitated as ever. I looked over at him a few times and that made me laugh a little. He hasn’t changed.” Ben Arfa was less amused when Arsenal blanked Rennes 3-0 in the reverse fixture, proving that no one is above a taste of humble pie.

Most Relatable Player award

Age is an inescapable and indiscriminate factor that will ultimately strip a player of his powers. Perhaps that’s why it’s easier to identify with an aging player whose talents are as fleeting as his youth. It makes Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella‘s late-career charge up the Serie A scoring ranks that much more admirable.

For country, the 36-year-old became Italy’s oldest-ever scorer in March against Liechtenstein following an international hiatus that felt like an eternity. For club, Quagliarella won a maiden Capocannoniere title by leading Serie A with 26 goals, not the least of which was a slick backheel volley (see above) versus hometown Napoli and a Zenit St. Petersburg striker Artem Dzyuba is a lumbering fella who always appears two pints and a few dozen sausage rolls short of match fitness. Naturally, the towering Russian international is a frequent subject of ribbing from teammates, even when hampered by injury.

After scoring a fortuitous goal against Dinamo Moscow, the rotund Russian collapsed to the pitch in clear agony before Argentine midfielder Emiliano Rigoni gave his brethren a boot in the butt. Adding insult to injury, a gleeful Oleg Shatov decided to use his international mate as a sectional sofa.

Worst Celebration award

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo’s Anderson Lopes kicked-off the J-League campaign in fine form when the Brazilian forward celebrated a brace against Shimizu S-Pulse on Matchday 1 by vaulting an advertising hoarding into the abyss. Look before you leap, kids.

Best Own Goal award

USL League Two: where amazing happens.

Worst Own Goal award

Ascoli’s Filippo Perucchini evoked painful memories of match-fixing in Italy with this dumbfounding own goal against Palermo.

Worst Corner Kick award

Juventus Under-19 winger Mamadou Kaly Sene, take a bow, that’s utterly horrendous.

Best Goal by a Ref award

After much deliberation, the honor goes to the match official from a recent non-league clash in the Netherlands between Harkemase Boys and HSV Hoek. Decent first touch, that.

Most Covert Scouting award

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa’s future with MI5 was secured when the Argentine admitted to spying on all opponents during the 2018-19 season after a suspicious person found surveilling Derby County training turned out to be a Bielsa staffer.

Months later, Derby bounced Leeds in the promotion playoff semifinals, explaining the above dance routine by Frank Lampard’s charges.

Biggest Idiot award

Here at theScore, we truly value the rehabilitative virtues of incarceration and, as a forgiving lot, realize that people make mistakes. None of this applies to Birmingham City fan and all-around imbecile Paul Mitchell, who took the tribalism of football rivalry a hundred steps too far when he sprinted onto the pitch at St. Andrew’s to sucker punch Aston Villa‘s Jack Grealish in the back of the head.

Mitchell refused to apologize and claimed his time in jail was “the best month” of his life. Grealish got the last laugh, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory. Next year, the Villans will be in the Premier League while the Blues celebrate a ninth successive season in the second tier.

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