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Who Invented the Bicycle Kick?

The debate over who was the first athlete to complete the bicycle kick still goes on.

By Kelsey LangePublished 5 years ago 4 min read

The ongoing debate of who invented the bicycle kick has been argued for decades. With multiple arguments to be made, we are going to touch on each of the possibilities, as well as dive into the technicalities of the impressive move.

Who do you believe invented this famous move? With many theories to be heard, there is not one solid answer still to this day. And now, there is another debate to be made. Who has completed the move the best in soccer history? Let's get into it.

Ramon Unzaga

As one of the most well-known arguments to the debate, Ramon Unzaga's name is often thrown around when the question of who invented the bicycle kick is asked.

Most known for his acknowledgment in Soccer in the Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano, Galeano is certain that Unzaga is the originator of the famous move.

It has been said that in 1914, Unzaga launched the move initially. He also made this move to be his trademark as he completed it not once, but twice during two Copa Americas years 1916 and 1920.

“Ramon Unzaga invented the move on the field of the Chilean port Talcahuano: Body in the air, back to the ground, he shot the ball backwards with a sudden snap of his legs, like the blades of scissors.”

Callao Locals (Chalaco)

Typically, the competing argument against Galeano's is that Peru's local soccer players were the originators of the skill. If the bicycle kick debate was asked to any Peruvian, the answer would be obvious.

As they hold pride in inventing the move, their word for the bicycle kick is "La Chalaca." All the credit is given to the Afro-Peruvian players who lived in Callao during 1892.

The story goes that the Calleo natives would play with English sailors. This story is derived from Jorge Bazadre, a Peruvian historian, who was known for his publications on Peru.

It's also mentioned by Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian journalist, as he wrote about the Calleo's soccer skills in his book, The Time of the Hero. He even mentioned that the Calleo used their feet just as well as they used their hands.


Last on our list of possibilities is Leonidas da Silva, originating from Brazil. As one of the possible inventors of the bicycle kick, or to him, the bicicleta, Leonidas was a forward for Bonsucesso during the 1930s.

He first used the move against Carioca in 1932 and then again in 1939, which was during against the Argentinian team, Independent. This resulted in the referee being so taken aback that he was not positive if it would fall into the rules of the game or not.

The Origin

Despite not being able to settle the debate, we do know the origin of the name of the bicycle kick. In fact, the bicycle kick has many names besides La Chalaca or the bicicleta. These include the scissors kick, the overhead kick, or simply the overhead kick.

However, the word bicycle made its way into naming this action because of its bicycle action, while the player is kicking into the air. In Germany, they call it Fallruckzieher, which means falling backward kick, and in Dutch, omhaal, which means turnaround drag.

Simply put, there isn't much creativity behind naming the kick. But completing a kick, let alone inventing the move, that requires a lot of creativity and skill.

Before we dive into the technicality of the move, a bicycle kick requires a ton of athleticism to even try. So before you get a little too confident, if you're going to try something like this, we suggest doing so in a padded, soft, in-door area that is for purposes like this specifically.

Now that we got that out of the way, how do these insane players execute a move like this? To start, the move requires good form to complete. The ball must be in the air in order for the player to complete the backflip successfully, while still being able to make contact with the ball. This can be done with a pass or the player can flip the ball into the air themselves.

The non-dominant leg should launch the body up, while the dominant leg jumps. The back of your body should be parallel to the ground, and the kick should be positioned toward the ball, while still placing the non-kicking leg downward to provide both power and stability in the landing.

Your eyes should remain on the ball until your foot makes contact with it, and your arms will be used for balance, something that your body will naturally do in a situation like this.

Got that?

Bicycle Kicks Today

One of the main reasons that the debate of who originated the bicycle kick is still relevant today is that the move is still used in current matches. As one of the most exciting skills to exhibit, the bicycle kick will forever be a crowd pleaser.

Some of the most famous moments have been by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Van Basten, and Philippe Mexes. During these games, the players scored some of the most spectacular goals in soccer history. Who wouldn't want to witness a score like this in person?

As one of the most amazing bicycle kicks of all time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will forever be remembered for this moment in his career, among the rest of his successful years as one of the best shooters in soccer history.

As a striker for Manchester United, the game was against England, where the player took confidence to the next level as he completed one of the most amazing goals, let alone bicycle kicks, in soccer history. The distance from the goal was incredible, and no one on the field was expecting such a success, not even Ibrahimovic.

This goes to show that the bicycle kick will forever be a part of soccer, and makes us wonder what the next big move invention will be.


About the Creator

Kelsey Lange

Passionate about writing, animals, makeup, movies, friends, family, learning, exercising, and laughing!

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