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 (more colloquially, the player has "no left"), 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 skilful trick at any level.
Rabona in Spanish means to play hooky, to skip school. The name derives from its first documented performance by Ricardo Infante in a game between English teams Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United in the 1958 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. The football magazine El Gráfico published a front cover showing Infante dressed as a schoolboy with the caption "El infante que se hizo la rabona" (In English: "The infant plays hooky"). Another supposed origin for the name is that Rabona is derived from the Spanish word rabo for tail, and that the move resembled the swishing of a cow's tail between or around its legs. In Brazil, the move is also known as the chaleira (kettle) or letra (letter).
The first filmed rabona was performed by Brazilian footballer Pelé in the São Paulo state championship in 1957. Giovanni "Cocò" Roccotelli is credited with popularising the rabona in Italy during the 1970s; at the time, this move was simply called a "crossed-kick" (incrociata, in Italian).
In addition to the aforementioned players, some examples of various well known exponents of the rabona, who have successfully performed the skill in competitions and are also known to employ it frequently during matches, are: Alan Ball, Diego Maradona, Romário, Roberto Baggio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Claudio Borghi, Matías Fernández, Matías Urbano, Mário Jardel, David Villa, Ariel Ortega, Robinho, Alberto Aquilani, Eden Hazard, Joe Cole, Ángel Di María, Rivaldo, Ricardo Quaresma, Erik Lamela, Pablo Aimar, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Carlos, Neymar, Luis Suárez, and Jay-Jay Okocha. Other players who have also used this skill successfully during a competitive match are: Andrés Vasquez, Djalminha, Fahad Al Enezi, Thomas Müller, Manolis Skoufalis, Léo Lima, Marcos Rojo, Marcelo Carrusca, Jordan Henderson, Dimitri Payet, Carlos Bacca, Fabrizio Miccoli, Mario Balotelli, Jonathan Calleri, Diego Perotti, Mikael Lustig, Eran Zahavi, and Robert Lewandowski, among many others; Johnny Giles of Leeds United also performed one in the famous sequence of possession against Southampton in 1972 during the 7–0 win.
Other sports and uses
The first known use of the rabona in American football was done by Dallas Cowboys placekicker Toni Fritsch, who was a former soccer player that used it late in the fourth quarter of the 1972 NFC Divisional playoffs during an onside kick, that contributed to a historic come from behind 30–28 victory against the San Francisco 49ers. Rice University placekicker Chris Boswell successfully executed a rabona onside kick against the University of Houston on September 21, 2013, though Rice would lose the game. Boswell had learned the trick from his father, who grew up playing association football in Brazil. On November 6, 2016, Boswell—now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers–had an unsuccessful attempt against the Baltimore Ravens. In the 2015 Alamo Bowl, Kansas State University placekicker Matthew McCrane successfully executed a rabona kick, though it was recovered by their opponents—the UCLA Bruins.
The rabona is also a dance step used in the tango. The dance step takes its name from the football kick. In Argentina and Bolivia the term "rabona" refers to camp followers, women who followed the army, cooking and serving their husbands, fathers and partners who were soldiers, providing nursing services, carrying their arms and munitions, and gathering intelligence which could assist the military.
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