No Puskas for Oscar

By Mohlomi Maubane | October 25th, 2017 No Comments



Sport has gifted humankind with many unforgettable moments. “The Rumble in the Jungle” showed that tactical ingenuity, not only brawn had a place in boxing. Roger Milla dancing at a corner flag after yet another goal in the 1990 World Cup signaled African football’s arrival on the world stage. The drive and determination of Queen Serena’s reign will inspire many generations to come.

The 2016/17 PSL season in South Africa doesn’t usually make it on to the “greatest moments in sports” list. But perhaps it should. It gave us an unusual finalist for the 2017 FIFA goal of the year, also known as the Puskas Award.

Oscar Masuluke’s remarkable acrobatic overhead kick goal for Baroka FC against Orlando Pirates in an ABSA Premiership match was an act of pure athletic genius. The context in which it was scored underscores just how extraordinary it was. Baroka FC are relative newcomers to the PSL and hail from the backwaters of the Limpopo province, while Orlando Pirates are the fabled team from the big city.

2017 should have been a festive year for the legendary Pirates as the club celebrated its 80th birthday. It’s been a chequered eight decades of existence for The Mighty Bucs, punctuated by a pioneering spirit, legendary players, historic triumphs, and constant coaching changes. The great team of 1973, which swept all before them, was guided by two different coaches. When Pirates won the African Champions League in 1995, the hot seat was exchanged between Mike Makaab, Joe Frickleton, and the late Ronald Mkhandawire. The double- and treble-plundering sides of 2010/11 and 2011/12 had three different coaches steering the Buccaneers’ ship.

When Pirates faced Baroka on October 31, 2016, they were led by their 6th coach in six years. Pirates had taken the lead in the 48th minute through Justice Chabalala. As the game progressed, the Bucs seemed content to defend a one-goal lead.

Six minutes into stoppage time, Baroka won a corner kick and Masuluke, the lanky Boroka keeper, frantically sprinted forward for a last throw of the dice. Jackson Mabokgwane, the hapless Pirates keeper parried the ball away and it sailed over Masuluke’s head.

The danger seemingly cleared. But the football gods had other ideas. Masuluke executed a perfect bicycle kick, and the ball looped into the top right corner of the Pirates goal.

It was a moment of wonder that has eternally engraved its place in South African sports folklore. Goals like this are as common as Halley’s Comet, hence its nomination for the FIFA Puskas Award. In the end, Olivier Giroud’s “scorpion kick” goal for Arsenal denied Masuluke the honor of becoming the first goalkeeper to win the goal of the year award.

If sport is art, as CLR James famously wrote, then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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