Panenka and Penalty Pressures

Jun 24, 2021

Football Stories

A simple trick or a way to escape pressure with creativity?

As spectators across Europe and beyond are getting ready for the EURO2020 finals, let us take you back to the final of EURO1976 in Belgrade and Antonín Panenka’s famous penalty chip, which helped Czechoslovakia beat West-Germany. While many people know the name of this chip technique in football, students might be interested to learn what happened.

In this article:


Antonín Panenka (left), Czech footballer and Ivo Viktor, Czech football goalkeeper (Photo: David Sedlecký).

Antonín Panenka (left), Czech footballer and Ivo Viktor, Czech football goalkeeper (Photo: David Sedlecký).

Early days of EURO’s

European Championship held in Yugoslavia in 1976, being the first held in a socialist country, saw just 4 teams competing, starting straight from the semi-finals. Despite the expectations that Germany and Netherlands, two most dominant European sides of the 1970s, would face each other in the finals, the title decision match in Belgrade was played between West Germany, which luckily kicked out hosts Yugoslavia, and surprisingly, Czechoslovakia, a team in decline since 1962 and the World Cup finals.

Against the canvas of totalitarianism

Mid-1970s was a strange period in Czechoslovak football history, as the power shifted from Prague-based clubs to Slovakia, with teams like Slovan Bratislava and Spartak Trnava being national champions. Subsequently, the majority of the players in the Czechoslovak national team were Slovaks, the first time in its history. The match also had a political dimension, not just because it was a face-off between communist and democratic countries, but also because of the heavy burden of the Second World War and the immediate post-war years. The match was thrilling as it gets – the Germans managed to level an early 2:0 lead by Czechoslovaks. It was decided by penalties, with Uli Hoeness missing a penalty and Antonin Panenka scoring a magnificent effort.

The name Panenka became forever associated with this genius invention in the game. After the game, it is reported in the book “Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty Kick” (by Ben Lyttleton) that politicians had told him that if he had missed, it would have been seen as disrespectful to the regim.

Thinking points

It might have even been punished. “Thirty years down the mines”, Panenka commented. So was this penalty style an example of creativity in the face of oppression? More important though, is perhaps the symbol it has become. What more stories and perspectives can be found behind a ‘simple’ lob?

Article Tags:   20th century  |   cultural heritage  |   Euro2020  |   totalitarianism

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