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Who is the king of rainbow flick? All you need to know

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Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil forward Neymar is often hailed as the king of rainbow flick in modern football, but the history and origin of the trick he has mastered go way back.

Rainbow flick is a skill often performed in street football or futsal rather than in a professional football match given that it's incredibly difficult to perform. However, players like Neymar, Ilhan Mansis and Jay-Jay Okocha have made it a part of their arsenal over the years.

The rainbow flick, essentially, involves using one foot to roll up the ball on the other leg -- often the calf -- and then using the other leg to lob, or flick, the ball over the head of the opposite player, often following the trajectory of a rainbow.

Who invented the rainbow flick?

Over the years, the rainbow flick has also been referred to as the reverse flick-over, the coup du sombrero in France, the arco iris in Spain, the Ardiles flick in the UK, the Carretilha or the Lambreta in Brazil and the Okocha-Trick in Germany. 

It, however, originated in Brazil in March 1968 when Alexandre de Carvalho ‘Kaneco’ successfully performed it in a 5-1 win for Santos over Botafogo SP.

The rainbow flick is extremely difficult to pull off. This largely explains why Brazilian footballers, who are mostly associated with showboating, are adept at it.

While it is Alexandre de Carvalho who is credited with introducing the rainbow flick, it is, in fact, Jay-Jay Okocha who popularized the trick and was the king of rainbow flicks during the mid-2000s. The former Nigeria international used it regularly during his Premier League tenure with Bolton Wanderers. Neymar eventually carried the torch right from the beginning of his career with Santos.

Neymar has often gotten into trouble for using it mainly because it humiliates the opponent, but he has never shied away from performing it. During his time with FC Barcelona, the Brazilian performed it against Athletic Bilbao which caused a major uproar. It has been observed that Neymar opts to use the rainbow flick when there aren’t many options available or towards the end of the game when his team is winning by a comfortable margin.

Notable instances of the rainbow flick

Jay Jay-Okocha often caught his opponent off guard through a surprising rainbow flick. One notable instance came during Bolton’s home game against Arsenal in 2003. With the clock running low, the Gunners were desperately looking for a winner. Okocha received the ball right near the corner flag, and he was expected to hold his guard. Instead, he performed an outrageous rainbow flick over Ray Parlour and defended it against Giovanni Van Bronkhorst before passing it off.

Neymar, during his Barcelona tenure, was a constant exponent of rainbow flicks. During his side’s 5-1 win over Celta Vigo, the Brazilian sent one of the defenders to the cleaners with an absolute peach of a flick. His rainbow flick against Athletic Bilbao, in particular, put him in trouble as players from either side engaged in a heated battle.

Since moving to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 2017, Neymar has, in fact, upped the ante. Be it a UEFA Champions League fixture or a Ligue 1 game, the Brazilian continues to use his skill to good use.

A major controversy, however, erupted in February 2020 when Neymar was booked for performing the rainbow flick. During PSG’s 5-0 thrashing of Montpellier, the Brazilian pulled out a moment of magic against two Montpellier players, and to everyone’s surprise referee Jerome Brisard pulled out a yellow card to book Neymar for unsporting behaviour.

Neymar booked for rainbow flick

Neymar wasn’t on the scoresheet against Montpellier that night but he indeed was into the referee’s book. The Brazilian had previously humiliated his opponent by some major showboating in the game, but that rainbow flick was enough for the referee to pull out a yellow card. Neymar argued over his caution, but to no effect whatsoever.

PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe was puzzled by the referee's reaction. “It is incomprehensible,” Kimpembe said. “Ney asked why (he was booked), Verratti and I asked too. The referee’s response was quite bizarre. He said that Neymar made fun of the opponent and therefore took a card. It’s bizarre”

Neymar, on his part, took to social media to express his discontent by simply saying, “I just play football.”

Is the rainbow flick illegal?

What Mankading is to cricket, a rainbow flick is to football. While there is nothing wrong with either one of them, it is often considered against the spirit of the game, simply because it is mostly performed for showboating and the rainbow flick is deemed disrespectful to the opposing team.

Following Neymar’s clash with Athletic Bilbao players, Barcelona’s then-coach, Luis Enrique, said that he would have reacted the same way if he was on the other side.

“In Spain, this is looked on very badly. If I was an Athletic player I would have reacted the same, or even worse," said Enrique.

"In Brazil this is normal, so we have to understand the context. He didn't do it to humiliate his opponent, it is difficult to explain it when someone is losing but we will try to control it with time."

Bilbao’s then manager, Ernesto Valverde said, "It is not even looked upon well by his own fans," he said.

"When the game is won we are very well aware to maintain a certain respect for the opponent. There are things that he will learn with time."

What’s clear, however, is that Neymar is the reigning king of the rainbow flick.

Feature Image Courtesy: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP

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