There are several reasons why a player might opt to strike the ball this way: for example, a right-footed striker advancing towards the goal slightly on the left side rather than having the goal straight in front may feel that his shot power or accuracy with his left foot is inadequate, so will perform a "rabona" in order to take a better shot. Another scenario could be a right-footed winger sending a cross while playing on the left side of the pitch without having to turn first. Another reason why a player could perform a rabona might be to confuse a defending player, or simply to show off his own ability as it is considered a skillful trick at any level.
The first rabona was performed by Ricardo Infante in a game between Argentinian teams Estudiantes de la Plata and Rosario Central in 1948. After it, soccer magazine El Grafico set up a front cover showing Infante (in Spanish "infant") dressed as a pupil with the caption "Infante played hooky" ("rabona" in Spanish means to play hooky or to skip school). Since then the play has been called a rabona. The first filmed rabona was performed by Pelé in the São Paulo state championship in 1957. In the 1970s this move was simply called a "crossed-kick."
Various well known players have successfully completed the skill in competition, including Philippe Coutinho, Gianfranco Zola, Diego Maradona, Roberto Baggio, Carl Brouard, Alberto Aquilani, Roberto Carlos, Nani, David Dunn, Ricardo Quaresma, Ariel Ortega, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Mario Balotelli, Matthew Kilgallon, David Villa, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Luis Suárez, Matías Urbano, Davide Moscardelli, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres, Paul Gascoigne, Joe Cole, Marko Arnautović, Fabrizio Miccoli and Clint Dempsey.
The rabona was also used in American football by Rice University placekicker Chris Boswell to successfully deceive his opponents Houston University during an onside kick. Boswell had learned the trick from his father, who grew up playing association football in Brazil.