When we think of the football greats of all time, these names often pop into our head instantaneously. Diego Maradona, Ferenc Puskas, Mario Kempes, Roberto Carlos, Raul Gonzalez, Ryan Giggs and Rivaldo.
What is the common thread that binds all of them? They are all natural left footers. Even when we are coming up with a list of current greats, there is absolutely no shortage of left footers on the list: Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Mo Salah and Arjen Robben just to name a few.
Evidently, there is just that extra something that gives left footers an edge in the footballing world, as the wealth of lefties in the aforementioned lists seem to overlook the actual fact that left footers are a rarity – comprising only 19% of the footballing population
Just what makes them so special? Skeptics may argue that by virtue of their status as outliers, opponents’ lessened exposure to left-footed footballers makes them that much harder to contain. After all, this conventional argument is often applied to lefties in other sports as well.
In martial arts, for instance, the ‘southpaw jinx’ refers to orthodox (right handed) fighters who find it extremely difficult to fight against left-handed opponents, as the southpaws (left-handed fighters) throw hooks and punches from opposite angles that orthodox boxers are simply not used to encountering.
This is what gives preeminent left-handed fighters such as Manny Pacquiao and Connor McGregor their huge added advantage. Similarly, we always see ‘lefties’ in the highest echelons of racquet sports – Rafael Nadal in tennis and Lin Dan in badminton. Right-handers find it hard to play against southpaws, as shots that would normally target a normal opponent’s weaker backhand ends up playing to a southpaw’s strongest side.
This can be used to justify why it is so hard to stop Arjen Robben’s signature move over the years – cutting in from the right and unleashing a thunderbolt of a shot, even with opponents anticipating it, for there is simply no way of being accustomed to the sight of such a rare inverted right winger on the pitch.
Arjen Robben’s trademark cut in.
Another justification of a lefty’s edge may be embedded in science. Recent research published in the journal of sports sciences proposed that left foot preference could ‘increase unpredictability and creativity due to inverted brain hemisphere functioning, providing these players with a genetic head start’.
Indeed, when we look at left footers such as David Silva, Mesut Ozil, and James Rodriguez, we can only describe them as midfield magicians, left-footed maestros who are somehow always able to see openings and execute that defense splitting pass, drifting into the most dangerous positions and crafting plays way in advance of their opposition defenses.
At the end of the day, whether you choose to believe the edge left-footed footballers possess originates from their pure rarity or their supposed ‘more creative genes’, it is undeniable that they have an advantage.
By virtue of being in that special bracket of rare ‘lefties’, your dimension to the game will provide the team with different offensive strategies. As a winger who cuts inside, they are usually deployed on the right wing – think Arjen Robben, Mohammed Salah, Lionel Messi. If you’re a defender who crosses, you’ll be positioned on the left flank – think Marcelo, Alex Sandro, Marcos Alonso.
The crosses usually need to be taken quickly to catch opponents off guard while on the right flanks, left footed players has the option to take a finesse shot into the top corner or cut through defenders.
Psychological wise, lefties tend to showcase more individual abilities on the pitch simply because of how unnatural it looks to right-footers and the human mind is unable to process the dexterity of a usually non-dominant foot/hand.
And then, there are players who are ambidextrous (or ambipedal), or at least very apt with their opposite foot. Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen, Neymar – you can see where this is going. They are phenomenal free-kick takers with exceptional ball striking abilities.
Funny to note, left footers tend to be severely weaker on their right foot. Across the footballing world, only Ousmane Dembele and Kai Havertz have proved to be lefties that are comfortable with both feet.Leave a comment