Welcome back own goal fans. Last week, I took a look at some of the most bizarre own goals. You could say it was a somewhat light hearted jaunt. We started from the first recorded OG in 1888, flew through the quickest in the English game and then checked off a few personal selections of the simply strange.
Now, this week I’m back and our own goals are taking a more serious turn. There’s more consequence this time around, instead of just simply being trivial sports titbits. That’s right, read on as we get embroiled in corruption, match deciding blunders and unfortunately – even death.
Deliberate own goals FOR match fixing
As well as being bizarre, embarrassing and potentially painful – own goals can be deployed as a tool for football mischief and crime.
Unfortunately, Africa’s reputation for corruption proceeds itself and in this section, there are two interesting examples. At FBH, of course, we agree with the age-old cliché ‘goals win games’ but the two games within our first example really take the biscuit. Last year, several South African Fourth Division sides were banned for life after… wait for it… scoring a combined 94 goals in just two games. How did they think they could get away with it? Who knows? The investigation is an enthralling read.
Shivulani Dangerous Tigers and Matiyasi FC were vying for the top spot in the league. The former faced Kotoko Happy Boys whilst the latter, Nsami Mighty Birds. The first game was a whopping 31-1. The second subtly surpassed this, ending 59-1 to Matiyasi. Amusingly, it was a case of who could outdo who. Matiyasi and Nsami had pre-agreed to fix the game to stop Shivulani, with Nsami shipping a ridiculous 22 goals at the break After hearing this, the Shivulani Tigers bribed their Kotoko opposition to remove players from the pitch. The players who made way were conveniently ‘tired’ and the XI was now whittled down to just seven.
Back with Matiyasi, it turns out the referee was handing out red cards on a whim. He had also jotted down suspiciously vague notes.
“Player number 2 scored 10 goals, player number 5 scored 20 goals”
Serious hitmen. It didn’t help the coerced official’s case too, that his notes reflected 41 own goals. With crap excuses all around and stonewall lying, both teams were banned alongside a number of the officials involved.
Deliberate own goals on the OTHER side of the law
On a contrasting, potentially more refreshing note, one African footballer once scored two own goals to stop a rigged game. That’s right, Ghanaian Hashmin Musah was the hero in 2021 when he played his part to stop an illegal gambling ring from taking a hefty profit. With 12 minutes left to play and the game allegedly agreed to be moving toward a 5-1 score, Musah got a brace. Now, for whatever part he played (hero or lying crook), Musah was charged along with 18 other players involved in a number of cases.
The Inter Allies man was stubborn before later condemning his viral actions:
“I heard it in our hotel that a bet had been made for a correct score line of 5 goals to 1 against my club Inter Allies. I decided to spoil that bet because I don’t condone betting.”
However potentially heroic his actions may have been, Musah’s incident was just a drop in a sea of some severe capacity that constantly trivialised and besmirched any Ghanaian reputation. A 2018 documentary from Anas Aremeyaw Anas revealed an extraordinary 77 Ghanaian referees and 14 GFA officials had been caught up in various scandals over the years.
Scoring at the wrong end and deciding important games
As we’ve explored, own goals are awful. They’re even worse though when they decide the biggest of games.
The first example of such can be found way back in 2002. You’ve likely seen it. It’s a stunning display of dismay from Aston Villa’s Finnish goalkeeper Peter Enckelman as the ball rolls agonisingly in against serious city rivals Birmingham. ‘We have seen one of the craziest goals ever’ exclaimed a bereft commentator. He was right. In this edition of the ‘Second City Derby’, Enckelman fell foul to a mischievous bobble. Olof Mellberg took a seemingly harmless throw in. As footballsite.co.uk explains, he could’ve just picked it up.
Technically, he could’ve also let it dribble in his own goal. All thanks to a back pass rule, this cheeky display would’ve seen City awarded a corner rather than a goal. You can’t score a goal directly from a throw-in, let alone one of the ‘own’ variety.
The flailing Fin went for a touch (another reasonable idea by the way). A nasty combo of the pitch, the pace of the ball and perhaps a lack of technique saw Enckelman undertake the baggiest of touches as it flicked off his foot and painfully trickle in.
From a west Midlands grudge match to the 2015 semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup in Canada, now. Before England were surfing the wave of a Euro victory on home soil, there was heartbreak. In this huge fixture against Japan in Edmonton, and with the game tied up at 1-1, the clock had breached 90 minutes. Alas, unfortunately for the Lionesses, extra time wouldn’t be required.
Look away, Laura Bassett. A Japanese cross from the right side in the second minute of added time had England at sixes and sevens. Who knows, if Bassett didn’t go for it, it still could’ve gone in. Still, she lunged at the ball and inadvertently looped the ball over her own keeper’s head. Nightmare. The Japanese (and World Cup holders) couldn’t believe their luck. Now, this tragedy is but a footnote in England’s remarkable ascent to the summit of Women’s football and if anything, makes current successes all the sweeter.
Own goals as a tool for victory?
Contrary to the heartache of derby deciders and semi-final fudgers, there is one occasion of an own goal deployed as a way to win. It’s an unorthodox approach, I’ll say that, but props have to go to Barbados back in 1994 Caribbean Cup qualifying.
In what has been described as “one of the strangest matches ever”, Barbados faced off against Grenada. Before this game, the tournament organisers had brought about a golden goal rule. This meant that the first goal scored in extra time won the game and as an added bonus, it was worth two as well.
With this in mind, Barbados went into this match needing to win by two goals to qualify for the final tournament. Now, when Barbados were leading 2-1 in the 83rd minute, the Bajan Tridents were faced with a conundrum. They needed that two goal margin, so scored an own goal to force extra time. Bizarrely, the game’s final minutes saw Grenada try and score at both ends. Either outcome of these efforts (3-2 on points or 2-3 via goal difference) would have advanced them instead. Barbados somehow defended both ends before bagging that all important golden goal to take them through. Own goal heritage.
Deadly consequences – RIP Andrés Escobar
To end this piece comes a story you’ve likely seen or heard in many an own goal feature. Our tragic final story is that of Colombia and Atlético Nacional’s Andrés Escobar in 1994.
Similarly to the earlier tale of Laura Bassett, Escobar diverted the ball into his own net with very little choice (and in a World Cup tournament too). In Colombia’s second group game against the hosts USA, Escobar fell foul to an enticing John Harkes cross. This 1-0 lead helped the USMNT take a 2-1 victory. Alternatively, it ultimately scuppered Colombia’s hopes of progression.
After the tournament, Escobar returned to Medellín. Along with some friends, the unfortunate defender attempted to raise his spirits with a few drinks. Following a trip to a bar and then a nightclub, the group split up. At 3:00 in the morning, Andrés was alone in his car. Three men approached. Deciding that he was the sole reason their beloved country were knocked out of the competition, an argument broke out. In a desperate turn of events, Escobar was shot six times. After every shot, it was reported that the gang-related killers shouted “¡Gol!”, just like the commentator on that day.
Despite his horrid end, Escobar lives on as a reminder of a nasty period in Colombian history. To end on a positive, it’s key to note Escobar as a fine defender in his own right, not just trivia. Nacional fans still mourn the loss. Furthermore, after the player’s death, his family set up the Andrés Escobar Project to help disadvantaged children learn to play football.
Ending with Escobar presents the example that although football is serious – it shouldn’t be life and death. So, if you’re ever on the wrong end of an own goal, keep that head up. Put things into perspective and jog back to halfway. “Still 0-0!” On to the next…