|Wonder goal: Mor Diouf, second left, is mobbed by team-mates|
MOR DIOUF was a bit of a footballing journeyman until about 17h18 on Sunday afternoon in the otherwise quiet South African township of Atteridgeville. Then he became world famous as “Diouf the Hoof” in a single, astonishing moment.
Like David Beckham, who scored from his own half in the last century, Diouf chose the 87th minute of the Tshwane Derby (that’s Pretoria to the Voortrekkers) to produce his miracle and beat big-spending rivals Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0.
The SuperSport United defender from Senegal via Maritzburg United can take it from here: “I looked up. I saw the goalkeeper off his line. And I hit it. I did. I knew it was in from the moment I kicked the ball.”
Now 25, Diouf recalls scoring something similar for AS Douanes in his homeland as an 18-year-old: “Yes, I’ve done it once before. Same thing. Goalkeeper was not in the right place. But that one might have been from slightly closer. But I remember I was in my own half.”
Opinions vary on distance. The Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium is officially 105 metres long. That’s just about 115 yards in old money. Beckham’s goal for Manchester United against Wimbledon was estimated at 61 yards, but he was far closer to the halfway line on a Selhurst Park pitch officially 110 yards long.
After Diouf’s effort went global, the Sun produced THIS list of long-range strikes, all scored from the other half http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/4836084/Top-10-goals-from-inside-own-half-like-David-Beckham.html
But clearly Diouf’s was longer, at 70 yards – and more important. The Beckham goal was scored, over the despairing head of goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, on August 17, 1996. Becks was 22 at the time. The hype surrounding his goal saw him make his debut for England a few weeks later against Moldova.
It is unlikely Diouf will rise to become the richest player in the world on the back of his strike. But at the time, United were 2-0 up after goals from Eric Cantona and Denis Irwin in the opening game of the season.
Diouf’s goal came after 87 minutes in a tight Tshwane derby in a desperate battle for points between two under-achieving sides this season. After the goalless Soweto derby the day before, it looked for all the world like South Africa was in for a dismal blank weekend. But then came the fateful moment.
Diouf, a quiet French-speaker who has not spoken to anybody else in the media despite this week’s rise to global prominence, told me: “My coach Gavin Hunt just came up to me afterwards and said: “Well done”. He said he knew it was going in. He ran the whole way along the touchline with it. He was very please, I think.
“But I’m telling you, it’s no big surprise! In training I often try it. Yes, even at training. Me? I don’t know but always the goalkeepers are off their line when the ball is in the other half. I don’t think goalkeepers like me very much now!
“But me? I think every time, when I have the ball or even a free-kick: is there a chance. I will always try.”
When I asked Mor if he was aware of his new nickname “Diouf the Hoof”, he laughed: “What is hoof? It means kick? I know it. I know I can kick a long way!”
The opposing goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, in the South Africa squad for the African Cup of Nations earlier this year, had as many answers as Sullivan did after the Beckham effort.
He grinned: "I thought I had nothing to lose by stepping out a bit because we had possession and were in their own half, pressing. My positioning wasn’t wrong at all and I think it was a perfect goal."
"It was a perfect work of art with God’s hand in it.”