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Ogasawara: Send it like Beckham

23 Feb 2006(Thu)

February 22, 2006: The other day I was reading the "David Beckham Annual" bought in England a year ago.

Under the headline "Dateline David", there was a landmark entry for August 17, 1996.

"David makes his mark when scoring a sensational goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon, at Selhurst Park," says the diary entry.

"The goal comes late in the game with United leading 2-0. Becks sees 'keeper Neil Sullivan off his line and decides to lob him. The rest, as they say, is history."

Well, for "David Beckham" read "Mitsuo Ogasawara".

Yes, Ogasawara's long-range goal against Finland on Saturday was of Beckham quality. In fact it was better than Beckham's effort against the Dons because it was from further out, but of course not as many people around the world will see it because it was not an English Premier League match involving Manchester United.

The Sunday sports and newspapers in Japan could not decide on the actual distance -- some said 50 metres, others 55, 57, 58 and one even 60 -- but, whatever it was, the message was clear: Ecopa and Japan had witnessed a truly remarkable goal from a player whose talent has never been in doubt.

He was well inside his own half when he launched his right-foot shot. Like Beckham in the above incident, he had spotted the keeper off his line, by around eight metres, and his strike was absolute perfection.

Tiger Woods could not have played a better approach to the flag from the fairway, such was the accuracy and precision of Ogasawara's beautifully flighted effort.

In such circumstances, it was impossible to criticise the Finland keeper. Just look at it from his view point: A Japanese player receives the ball in his own half, and prepares to send it forward. If it is a long pass aimed for his forwards, then the keeper is ready to race out of his area and intervene. But suddenly he realises it is not a pass; it has been struck harder, but he also knows there is very little space behind him. He back-pedals, to cover his line, but he is off balance and cannot even touch the ball as it drops under the bar. Perfect!

No, it would be unfair to blame the keeper, and would take away some of the credit Ogasawara deserves.

Beckham's sensational goal helped launch him to superstardom in 1996, and, on a smaller scale, Ogasawara's wonder goal will always be remembered in Japanese football history.

"Bend it like Beckham" became a very famous movie around the world, but, on this occasion, "Send it like Beckham" would be more appropriate, as Ogasawara sent the ball Beckham-style over such a long distance into the back of the net.


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