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23rd Sep 2019

Captain Tsubasa: The goal that shook the world

Kyle Picknell

They call David Beckham’s free-kick against Greece the ‘goal that shook the world’. It pales in comparison to this

Let me be perfectly clear from the off: I have no idea what is going on in the following near-four-minute-long clip from the Japanese anime series Captain Tsubasa, based on the manga comics of the same name.

But my friend and colleague Wil Jones (wiljonesxmechagodzilla/achinglychic for the heads) showed it to me and I think it is the single best thing I have ever seen. First of all, watch it. And second of all, let’s try and work out, from a serious tactical and aesthetic standpoint, just what the fuck is going on here. If we can.

The action starts with the Japanese number 10 very aggressively running – with or without the ball, that is initially unclear – all whilst narrating something very serious sounding in his own head. (In Japanese). He is quite possibly castigating himself for a extensive list of drunken embarrassments that still haunt him, but I can’t be sure.

That’s what I do when I’m playing football, anyway. Internally reliving my own worst moments over and over and over again just to really emphasise what a shitbag I am and using the accumulative pain of all that to improve my performance on the pitch.

Anyway, lingering overly-personal trip into my rapidly deteriorating psyche aside, we can make out from this exquisite Japanese kit that the events in the footage are happening sometime in 2001, one year prior to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He also has a captain’s armband. I think we can safely assume this is the absolute boy himself: Captain Tsubasa. I think that’s a safe bet.

I’m trying to think now of the best number 10 Japan has had. Keisuke Honda and Hidetoshi Nakata spring to mind but they wore the number 4 and 7 jerseys respectively. I guess that just leaves Shinji Kagawa, who was, yeah, very good at one stage. But he now plays for Real Zaragoza. (Google it if you must but… he does).

Is Captain Tsubasa as good as Shinji Kagawa?

Almost instantly I’m starting to think that no, Captain Tsubasa is nowhere near as good as Shinji Kagawa. For a start, he winds back for a shot like this, in the kind of stance that would cause a yoga master great difficulty.

We then cut Japan’s goalkeeper, who, as only goalkeepers can do (especially goalkeepers who wear caps, the clearest indication available to fans that he isn’t actually any good, or is simply just Chris Kirkland), starts shouting loads of unhelpful-sounding, unnecessary shit that Captain Tsubasa cannot hear because he’s at the other end of the pitch winding his leg back like he doesn’t have a hip joint.

The Japan Goalkeeper: One of those dudes that just. shouts. things.

Fair play to him though, he really does get hold of it. He really does strike it. Way harder than little Shinji would, who was always more of a finesse-curler kind of guy. I mean, Captain Tsubasa hits this and it does stay hit. You can tell that by how the background has change into white-turquoise streaks of light. That’s just football 101. If the sky starts glowing in an unusual manner you have kicked a football really, really hard. Basics, ain’t it. Obvious.

But do you know what? And imagine I’m saying this with the exact intonation and timbre of Andy Townsend: He’s only gone and hit it too well. He has, if anything, Clive, only gone and hit it too well. If one could imagine such a thing. Almost impossible to do, I know. But he has. He’s hit it well. But almost too well.

Had he scuffed it or miskicked it even slightly, the sheer power of the strike would have sent it veering into one of the four corners of the goal. Instead, it ends up flying straight at the German goalkeeper who saves it in the following stance. For some reason.

It’s like he’s ushering a small, friendly dog towards him and then cupping it’s little fluffy ears to tell it how good a boy it is.

Now. I’m no goalkeeping expert. Nor am I a chiropractor. But I can tell you two things about this. Thing one is that, yeah, this is absolutely not the correct position a goalkeeper should be in when attempting to save a shot hit straight down the middle of the goal at about shin height.

Thing two is that, yeah, this must be really, really bad for his back. He’s a big fella. He shouldn’t be curving his spine like that! He’ll soon be one of those people that has to dictate where you sit in the pub. He can’t do stools because, and I quote, “he needs the lumbar support”. (Sorry. I am also one of these people).

As a result of all this the ball spins in the goalkeeper’s hands and bobbles up into the air and back out and this is the goalkeeper’s face as that exact thing happens. Look at the shock. Look at the horror in his eyes. Look at how he doesn’t have teeth but instead has one singular block of tooth.

When you spot someone with a short back and sides

As you can see, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Oliver Kahn’s shaggiest, hairiest days, even down to the aggressively pained facial expression.

Then this happens. A beautiful split frame of anime Kahn, who is just staring at the ball like it’s a UFO, and Captain Tsubasa, who is still sprinting around like a maniac.

Important note: I couldn’t help but look up the actual character name of the anime Oliver Kahn and I have to say I’m not disappointed. He’s called Deuter Muller. Because of course he is. That name couldn’t be more German if it tried. That’s a German brand of backpacks and a bavarian dairy company all in one. Impossibly German. Just outrageously Deutschland.

This point, for me, is right when the other players need to have some accountability. As far as I can surmise, this is a very important game that Captain Tsubasa and Adolf Vorsprung Durch Technik are contesting. You can tell that from all the people screaming, grunting and howling, the ominous music and even just the fear of failure look in their eyes.

SO. So. Why is everyone other than Tsubasa and the goalie and this one random guy in the next frame standing around with their hands in their pockets like a bunch of fucking numptys? Honestly. Look at the state of this.

I dread to think what Tony Pulis would do if this was Glenn Whelan, Rory Delap, Salif Diao and Matty Etherington standing around with their hands in their pockets. He’d blow his top. He’d blow his fucking lid.

How many players can you count in that frame? Nine. You can count nine. How many of those nine professional football players look as though they are, in fact, taking part in a professional match? Exactly one. Two if you’re generous and including Shunsuke Kirkland, Japan’s baseball-capped goalkeeper, who looks vaguely interested in what is going on but is still too far away to tell. Probably is still screaming nonsense, though.

Unsurprisingly, one of the only three players on the pitch actually seemingly engaged in the ACT OF FOOTBALL TAKING PLACE, WHICH THEY ARE THEMSELVES AN INTRINSIC PART OF, gets to the ball first, and then we get another combined frame taken up by an extra-close shot of a man with outrageous hair shouting things – aka the genre of anime in its entirety.

The number 18 runs up and hits the ball somewhat more conventionally that his skipper, striking it on the half-volley with a normal follow-through and everything. He even generates a load of power which you can tell because the screen flashes again, green and blue this time. But, alas, once more, sigh, the strike is simply too clean to trouble big Deuter in net.

Even so, you have to credit the audacity of the German to stop the shot in the following fashion. It’s a universe away from his appalling technique shown above when he stopped a football like he was interacting with a pomeranian. Obviously it’s still not in the goalkeeper’s manual but even so, you just have to respect the sauce, don’t you?

He even rubs it in by doing the following: holding it up in his big, meaty, bratwurst fingers and looking at them like they are pathetic, tiny, worm-men.

“Did you… did you really think you could score against me, a large German adonis, you pathetic little worm-men? Did you? Hahahahahaha” – Probably what he is thinking

Such is the distress that this act of shithousing from Deuter causes, the sheer, existential turmoil of having a lad with a mullet completely banter you off, the Japanese players are forced to have an impromptu on-field meeting as intense as the time Phil Brown sat all his players down in the centre circle when Hull City were 4-0 down at the Etihad in 2008.

Anyway, the number 9 (nowhere near as good as Shinji Okazaki FYI) and Captain Tsubasa stand completely still in the middle of the game to have a bit of an angry Japanse chat with one another about how they’re going to get past Deuter Muller. About how they’re going to score a goal.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what they decide. What they settle on. This is the sum total of their efforts. This is what they feel is their best course of action: to kick the ball simultaneously.

For fuck sake, lads. Really? This is it? This is your masterplan? This is your brainwave? THIS!!!

I mean look at the state of it. Look at their arms. They are quite clearly considerably different heights! How is this even possible! If anyone was to actually try this there would be at least one broken ankle! Possibly two! Their ankles would get booted! And swell up like a peach!

Somehow it ends in this: them perfectly kicking it at the same time and not each other. In reality, this technique would have almost certainly resulted in both players being out for the tournament, possibly for the whole season. But no, they manage to synchronise their weird wind-up foot-like-a-traction-engine thunderbastards and it ends up producing the most dangerous knuckleball shot the world has ever seen, as shown by the following screenshot.

With the scene tilted you just know that bad boy is moving all over the place in the air. Juninho Pernambucano eat your heart out.

I know what you’re thinking. Surely even the great Deuter Muller won’t be able to save this. This effort on goal, hit with the combined force of Captain Tsubasa and Not Shinji Okazaki, is practically unstoppable. WRONG. You thought WRONG. You IDIOT.

He just throws up a hand and watches it stick to his palm like its covered in superglue and peanut butter and then more superglue. Which consequently leads the rest of the Japanese team, who have finally moved to assemble into some odd kind of pyramid formation one on top of the other, to react like this.

Look at Shunsuke Kirkland. He can’t believe what he is seeing. The problem, however,  is that things are about to get much, much worse.

Before we get to that, though, let’s just – again – take a second to acknowledge how much of a world-class piss boiler Deuter Muller is.

Look at him. Looks like he’s plucking apples in an orchard. And then there’s just how staggeringly wide the man is. That boi is thicccccc. He is widescreen baby. His hands are also bigger than his head which, for a goalkeeper, can only help. And I wonder where he got that scar? Ooooo you’re a dangerous, mysterious man, Deuter. But my god do you get results.

Following his wonder save, and with Pep Guardiola reportedly in the stands scouting for a goalkeeper with even more effective long-range distribution than Ederson, Muller takes the opportunity to show just what he can do with the ball.

What can he do? Well, he can punt it the whole length of the pitch. That’s what. This is the situation as his pass is dropping.

Usually, I’d criticise the Japanese defenders for being so ridiculously fucking deep whilst the opposition goalkeeper has the ball but as we know, Deuter Muller is more god than man, and as we also know, the majority of the Japanese starting XI can’t actually move around other than when they are joining together to looked shocked like a sad Transformer robot.

So this is the situation. And as the ball is dropping, we cut Adolf Hitler’s wet dream, which is this guy…

… who has lovely eyes and a great jawbone structure but doesn’t really fancy going up for the header. Probably because he is too pretty. Which is… fair.

Instead, his teammate, who is also an Aryan, levitates 20 feet up into the air to win the ball. The Japanese number 5 floats up to meet him. They then weigh up the situation for half a moment, like this, before both deciding to nut the ball.

In fairness, it’s one of the best aerial challenges I’ve ever seen in a football match, reminiscent of the time I watched Martin Laursen and Didier Drogba brace themselves to challenge for a high ball and I thought: “This is it. This is how the world ends. This is real mutually assured destruction. The real Cold War.”

Due to the force with which both players thrust their foreheads at the definitely, definitely not an Adidas Tango football, it flies loose, which is when Hitler’s Wet Dream (HWD from this point on) chooses his moment. His moment to, er, do this.

There are a few things to note about this. The first is that *of course* Shunsuke Kirkland is wearing number 22 instead of the number 1 the bad nonce.

The second is how the two players who went up for the header have now fallen to the ground frozen in the same position like two horny stags lost in a mating ritual.

The third is obviously the position that HWD finds himself in, which is perfectly upside down with his arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross ready to overhead kick the fuck out of the ball. To scissor kick the leather off it.

Somehow, and I really really really really really don’t know how, as in this is probably the single weirdest moment in an already extremely weird series of events, he doesn’t volley the ball at goal but instead scoops it (?) without it leaving his foot (??) and lands (???) perfectly balanced (????) and completely upright (?????).

He then sneaks around the two men still locked in an overly sensual headbutt to line up the shot in this manner, which just seems to be how everyone shoots in the world of Captain Tsubasa: like the animators have never actually watched someone kick a football, ever, and are basing the motion on what a flamingo does when it drinks the water it is also standing in.

Anyway, for the single first time in this whole godforsaken nonsense encounter of a football match, HWD connects with the ball. He connects well. In fact, really well, but ever so crucially, not too well.

Now, this is how you strike a football. Lovely follow through, great shape with the arms (an almost perfect right angle) and, most importantly, as any youth level football coach will tell you, he’s got his head right over the ball and hit it with his laces.

That’s just shooting 101, shooting for dummies, quite frankly. It’s hard to root for the Germans, but the fact that they have mastered the basics and are utilising those techniques effectively rather than pissing about with the “trying to score a goal at the same time” tactic like the Japanese makes it a bit easier.

If Thierry Henry and Robert Pires can’t combine to score a tap-in from a penalty kick then what hope in hell do Captain Tsubasa and a poor man’s Shinji Okazaki have of scoring an absolute fucking screamer like they are conjoined twins?

So obviously because of the way HWD hits it, and the fact Japan have Shunsuke Kirkland in goal, the ball goes in. It flies in.

Please do take the time to acknowledge the way the German forward has dabbed in celebration even before the net ripples. He knew it was in from the moment it left his foot. Even big Deuter would have had a hard time stopping that one (although he probably, somehow, still would have).

We’re then left with this scene. Numbers 5 and 12 have finished copulating and only stop to break from their post-coital spoon once they release what has happened. There are two other random players there who don’t seem to have moved an inch during the entire match. Shunsuke Kirkland is also, tragically, dead after conceding the goal. He has died. You hate to see it, you really do. Even if he was a bad, shouty, cap-wearing, number-22 donning, jobsworth goalkeeper.

HWD, meanwhile, celebrates with all the unbridled excitement you’d expect from someone who has just scored the most important, most insane goal in human history.

He stands there with his arm raised like this. Yay. Yayyyyyy.

I guess if it can work for Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, I guess it can work for *checks notes* an Aryan German dude in an anime cartoon. What a moment for him. His family must be so proud.

The closing shot of the video, however, is this. Magnificent. It’s like that bit in the Lion King when Mufasa appears to Simba in the cloud but instead of a loving father-figure it’s a shithouse German goalkeeper with a haircut worse than Chris Waddle and a football player Captain Tsubasa hates because he can actually kick a football effectively.

Strip Tsubasa of the armband, imho. Hitler’s Wet Dream is the captain now.