Why Is a Bicycle Kick Called a Chilena?


Professional football may not be played on concrete, but it does have bicycles.

Bicycle kicks, to be precise. 

It’s arguably the most difficult maneuver to pull off in the sport, and it’s a rare sight to see — especially if a player scores off one. 

Moroccan center back Jawad El Yamiq nearly did so in the semifinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup against France, but his miraculous attempt clanged off the left post. 

Here’s a look at the bicycle kick and why it’s referred to as a “chilena” by many:

What is a bicycle kick in soccer?

A bicycle kick in soccer refers to a player attempting an acrobatic overhead kick with their backs facing the goal. 

Who did the bicycle kick first?

It is believed that bicycle kicks were first done in Chile and Peru in South America, with Chileans Ramón Unzaga and Francisco Gatica helping popularize it in the early 1910s and 1920s. 

According to Brazilian legend Pele, however, the first bicycle kick was done by Leônidas, a fellow Brazilian who played from 1930-1950.

Why is a bicycle kick called a chilena?

As you might have guessed, the word “chilena” derives from Chilean, which refers to natives of the country. It is said that fans of the bicycle kicks from Spain and Argentina came up with the name “chilena” after being impressed by them. 

What is a scissor kick in soccer? 

A scissor kick differentiates from a bicycle kick in the sense that a player still makes an acrobatic attempt at the shot, but his body is positioned horizontally instead of backwards, with the ball still taking a position above a player’s waist.

Richarlison’s finish against Serbia in the Group G opener is a prime example. 

What is a scorpion kick in soccer?

A scorpion kick occurs when a player is diving forward and attempts a shot with one of his heels, sometimes with a player’s hands placed on the ground as they shoot.

It’s even rarer than bicycle or scissor kicks. A recent example comes from 2017, when French and then-Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud nailed one against Crystal Palace in the English Premier League.

His shot won the Puskas Award that season, which is given to a men’s or women’s player who scored the most aesthetic goal in that calendar year. 

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