The fact that matches at last year’s World Cup were recorded by television cameras does not register with anyone.
Of course they were, with the rights being sold for billions, and nearly that many people watching each big game. Neither James Rodriguez nor Robin van Persie would ever say it was a “lucky break” that their brilliant goals were caught on film.
But that is precisely how Stephanie Roche describes the fact that her spectacular volley for Peamount United was caught on camera. For without it, she would not be challenging Rodriguez and Van Persie for the Puskas Award for Fifa’s world goal of the year.
Roche scored the goal in an Irish Women’s National League game at Wexford Youths on 13 October 2013. The match was not televised, but, fortunately for Roche, and for everyone who loves football and has an internet connection, it was filmed.
“Sometimes the games are not recorded,” Roche told The Independent this week, ahead of Monday’s awards ceremony in Zurich. “Sometimes our manager Eileen Gleeson tries to do some video analysis for our home games. They were videoing the game at Wexford that day. So it was a lucky break that we were playing down there and that it was videoed.”
Had it not been for the coach’s commitment to video analysis, Roche’s goal would have been recorded only in the memories of those who were there at Ferrycarrig Park and would not have been eligible for the Puskas Award. The WNL website estimated an attendance of 95 for the game. But Roche’s team-mate Ruth Comerford told her there was footage.
“One of the girls afterwards said they were videoing the game, and to make sure I got a copy of it,” Roche remembered. “The Wexford manager brought me over to see it on his laptop. I was just thinking of having a copy for myself. It would be a nice thing to have. And it went from there.
“Eileen Gleeson put it up a week after the game. It got retweeted by [the website] ExtraTime.ie, who follow the women’s league. And it went from there. Overnight it had 10,000 views and it kept going up by the thousand. It was unbelievable. When Eileen put it up, nobody expected it to get that attention.”
The story of Roche’s goal, from that sparsely attended game in Wexford to Zurich’s Kongresshaus 15 months later, shows how social media has affected football at all levels. Rodriguez’s and Van Persie’s goals did not need to go viral, as they were being watched by hundreds of millions of people at the time. But Roche’s did, and through numerous retweets it has eventually reached an equivalent level of fame. The original clip has more than 3,579,000 views on YouTube. The version posted by FIFATV has over 1,290,000. An RTE version has 726,000. There are others, and the total views must be in excess of 5,000,000.
It is a remarkable sequence of events, a product of football in the shareable age, and wholly inconceivable when Roche first received the ball with her back to goal on the edge of the box. “When the ball came into me, I was just trying to get it under control,” she said. “The girl had been marking me tight all game. It was just a mix of instinct and spatial awareness, knowing where I could put the ball to get a chance to get a shot on goal. I try to do things differently, and I’ve scored a lot of volleys in my time. This brought everything together.”
For those who have not seen it: Roche controlled the ball on her right instep, flicked it back over her head, spun and volleyed it with her left foot into the top corner. Only then did the ball hit the ground.
Roche has replicated the goal on French television – she has been playing for French side ASPTT Albi this season – and on Al Jazeera. It has earned her a podium place at the Puskas Award and could win her the trophy. “It has opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the technical ability and skill in the women’s game,” she added. “There are lot of players in women’s football who score goals like this regularly, goals that have not been caught on video.”Reuse content