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A difficult business
March 27, 2011 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Just before intermission, Cowie took the stage and began juggling a ball with her feet until suddenly she popped it in the air, swished her right foot around the ball twice, kicked it up again, then rotated her left foot around once without letting the ball touch the floor. She bent her right foot back behind her body and caught the ball on the sole of her shoe. “I could feel the excitement building in the auditorium,” she recalled. “I could hear the oohs and the aahs. I could sense the shock.” ¶ For her finale, Cowie lay on her back and juggled the ball over her head with her feet. As they applauded, Green Hope students turned to their friends with the same question: Who is she?
The New York Times Magazine profiles soccer freestyling star Indi Cowie. Photos of a few tricks. Video includes demonstrations.
posted by grouse (20 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
OMG Corgi at 2:32 in the video!
posted by kmz at 10:02 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can't wait to show that video to my 5-year-old daughter tomorrow. It's great to see somebody just doing something for the love of mastery.
posted by danblaker at 10:03 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm having technical difficulties watching the video on the separate link, but it's also available as part of the profile.
posted by grouse at 10:09 PM on March 27, 2011


Wow, madness.
posted by stp123 at 10:12 PM on March 27, 2011


She's awesome. Love her attitude. If you like freestyle, you should also check out Philip Warren Gertsson too.
posted by roamsedge at 10:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So cool! Fun post. Bend It Like Cowie. Another young girl freestyler. And another.

Love that freestyle.

Fancy footwork is such a turn-on.

But can she do this?!
posted by nickyskye at 10:43 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Handball!
posted by gene_machine at 11:58 PM on March 27, 2011


Handball!

Eh, she'll be fine as long as she plays for France or Argentina.
posted by kmz at 12:02 AM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


The best part is what a nice kid she seems to be.
posted by LarryC at 12:26 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


“At the beginning of one game I got the ball and beat three girls to score a goal, and my coach pulled me off the field,” Cowie remembers. “He said, ‘You should have passed.’ I said, ‘But I scored a goal, Coach.’ He sat me out for the rest of the half. At halftime he asked me, ‘Are you ready to play properly?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I did the same thing, and he took me off the field for the rest of the game.”

Fuck that. I'm tired of faux-egalitarianism that punishes innovation.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:44 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't be so quick to criticize the coach that pulled her out for not passing. She was 10 years old when this happened. 10 y.o. goalkeepers are easy to beat, and it's not a great idea to get in the habit of Rooneyizing the ball into the goal. At some point the goalkeepers got better, and it doesn't work forever. Even at the Rooney level, you end up getting double-teamed all the time, and good passing scores goals.
posted by Steakfrites at 1:25 AM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fuck that. I'm tired of faux-egalitarianism that punishes innovation.

Football's a team sport. Sooner or later you'll be playing other shit-hot players. If all you've ever learned is how to hog the ball, you'll get taken to the cleaners, and so will your team. Until you get dropped for someone who doesn't do such sweet half-time exhibitions, but works with a team to win matches.
posted by rodgerd at 1:27 AM on March 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Fuck that. I'm tired of faux-egalitarianism that punishes innovation.

I'm largely with you - I mean, I played in Ayn Rand's testimonial match, where every player had their own ball and nobody passed to anyone - but I imagine the coach had two things going on there.

The first is that the coach was trying to get everyone engaged in the game. This is a 10-year olds' game of soccer - it's not very much use if one person spends the whole game dribbling around the other team. From the coach's point of view, learning how to a be dribbled around or ignored is not going to teach them soccer, and it's not going to be any fun, either.

The second is that doing this teaches her only one thing - that she is much better at controlling the ball than any other player on the pitch, and that she doesn't have to learn zonal awareness, marking or passing.

The article cites Maradonna, but Maradonna scored the goal of the century once. He scored a lot of goals, but he didn't usually score them by dribbling through the entire defence, at least not against good teams who just didn't have a Maradonna. He was noted for racing along the wing, crossing accurately and then moving in to capitalise on the disarray of the defence, and for the rabona, a reversed pass that went against his own movement and the movement of the opposing defence. A comparison for a pure, unalloyed dribbler might be Neil Huckerby, whose best-ever tally of goals in a Premier League was a respectable 14 in his debut season, but who became progressively less impactful as defences adapted.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:52 AM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


The game is about goals. A word might have been appropriate, but taking her off every time she scored seems a little heavy-handed. If it had been me I think I might have wished the coach good luck with his goal-fearing clone army and walked off the pitch for good.
posted by Segundus at 2:27 AM on March 28, 2011


The game is about goals.

Actually, the game is about scoring one or more goals than the opposition. Scoring a hat-trick is pointless if four players on the opposing team score one each because your team-mates have lost interest. And at under-11s level the game is also, and primarily, about developing skills, one of which is teamwork. There are a lot of boys who absolutely rule in the junior leagues, because they have had their growth spurt early and are able to outpace and outmuscle the smaller players. If they aren't encouraged not just to barrel through the opposing team and score every time they get the ball then, when the rest of their class catches up physically, they are exposed because they never developed technique or positional awareness.

If you're a junior coach, dealing with a prodigy must be an absolute nightmare when you have over 20 other kids (and their parents) to keep interested. That's one reason why British clubs have football academies that take children from 10 upwards - to make sure gifted players are identified, trained and matched up against challenging opposition at an early age.

The article also talks about the selfishness of Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, but that's a selective reading, I think. When Ronaldo came to Manchester United, he had essentially one big move - step over, cut inside, head for goal. It was a very good trick, but it became less effective because a second defender could step up and block him when he turned the full-back. What he learned to do was vary his game so his marker, as well as usually being hopelessly outpaced and outskilled also had to worry about what was going on behind him. Ronaldo and Rooney (when on form) can head for goal with tremendous ball control, but can also pick out passes to other players. That means that their markers are distracted by that possibility and that other players' markers frequently drift towards them when they have the ball, in case they made a break for it. Their individual excellence is a tool used in support of the team.

Never passing wouldn't be a problem for someone who wanted to be the best freestyle soccer entertainer in the world, because that game isn't about goals. But it would be if one wanted to be the best soccer player in the world.

(Obviously, this analysis would be more credible if I hadn't called Darren Huckerby Neil Huckerby above, but such is life.)

However, these examples are from when she was much younger - her game has probably broadened out since then. Tim Crothers is clearly playing up a particular angle in this story.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:49 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're a junior coach, dealing with a prodigy must be an absolute nightmare when you have over 20 other kids (and their parents) to keep interested.

As someone who coached his first 5-year old soccer game this weekend, and whose team had 6 of the 8 goals scored by the same boy wonder, I assure you this is true.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:28 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of her tricks are very similar to the Myanmar sport of chin lone. I imagine this is what a team of her would look like!
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 6:32 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's a really big hacky sack.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:36 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Football's a team sport. Sooner or later you'll be playing other shit-hot players. If all you've ever learned is how to hog the ball, you'll get taken to the cleaners, and so will your team.

I know this; I grew up playing soccer. You won't learn to pass if you're not on the field to do so; the way to deal with that problem is to move the player to midfield or to a back position for a while, not to bench them immediately after scoring. Everyone screams at the player with the ball to make a pass because they too want the glory of scoring the goal. They're not saying 'pass the ball to someone else!'; they're saying 'pass to me! Me!'

I preferred playing in goal, partly because I didn't have to deal with as many egos that way. Every striker thinks they're open at all times and that they would have put it in if only some other player had been smart enough to give them the ball. Not once have I ever heard a forward ask 'why didn't you pass it to someone else instead of me?'
posted by anigbrowl at 10:41 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fucking awesome. Cool as shit.
posted by vito90 at 1:00 PM on March 28, 2011


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