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FIFA discussing the ‘Paradinha’: “This must be stopped”

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Mar 2, 2010

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from the wsj online

This weekend in Zurich, as it makes final preparations for June’s World Cup, soccer’s main rule-making body will discuss the latest controversial bit of Brazilian magic: a devastating penalty-kick maneuver known as the paradinha. The tactic, which in Portuguese means “little stop,” was first popularized by Pelé in the 1970s but has recently been adopted, and sharpened, by many leading Brazilian players and by an increasing number of stars from other countries, like Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

The paradinha (pronounced par-a-JEEN-ya) is performed on a penalty kick by the shooter, who pauses unexpectedly before striking the ball—or even swings his foot through the air several times—before making contact. It’s designed to throw off the goalkeeper’s timing. When executed properly, the move can have jaw-dropping results.

The move isn’t prohibited by current rules of FIFA, and the international governing body says the earliest it could change or clarify the penalty-kick rule would be next year. But it will be up to each referee to decide whether to permit the move at the World Cup when it begins in South Africa in June, or whether to punish the maneuver as “unsporting behavior.”

Already some powerful forces have spoken out against it. “This is cheating,” said FIFA President Joseph Blatter, talking about the paradinha at a meeting in Rio in September. “This ‘stopping’ must be stopped.” Trickery has long been an integral part of soccer in Brazil, where players, coaches and fans generally prize creativity and cunning over brute force.

Some historians trace Brazilian soccer’s history of innovation and showmanship to the late 1800s. The term was coined when Pelé used the maneuver—albeit with more subtlety than today’s players—during the World Cup in 1970, though the 69-year-old star has since admitted he simply copied the move from the late Didi, one of Brazilian soccer’s most creative minds, who famously disdained physical contact and believed the ball should do the work, not the player.

The technique can backfire, especially for players who employ it too often. Mr. Ronaldo, while playing for Manchester United, couldn’t make Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech flinch during the shootout phase of the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final. While Mr. Ronaldo stopped as if to kick, Mr. Cech waited calmly for the flustered Portuguese star’s real shot and was able to block it.

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Outside of Brazil, referees unaccustomed to seeing the move are less forgiving. In a match between Brazilian club Palmeiras and the Argentinos Juniors two years ago, a Colombian referee chastised Brazilian midfielder Diego Souza for fooling the goalie and punished the Rio native with a yellow card.

Even though the laws of the game clearly state that “feinting to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted,” there has been much confusion over the years surrounding the legality of deception in soccer. A FIFA spokesman says that its rules committee spent much of the early 1980s discussing “ungentlemanly conduct at the taking of a penalty kick,” only to discover in 1985 that all the discussion had been based on the “wrong assumption [by FIFA referees] that feigning was an offence.” (The issue was promptly dropped.)

But the misconception is still so widespread that it has largely curbed the spread of the paradinha beyond Brazil’s borders. The three Brazilian players of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy, who are on loan from São Paulo this season, said last month they were under the impression that feinting was illegal outside of Brazil and said they would never try it in the U.S.

shouts out to my brother for the link

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