René Higuita he was, as usual, out of his bow. Stealthy, vigilant. He looked at the ball coming, which seemed harmless, and got into position on guard. He took a few steps back without losing sight of her. Then his body began to stretch, arch defiantly, like a scorpion that raises its fearsome tail to defend itself. He let the ball pass to receive it with his powerful stinger: the studs on the sole of his boots. Thus he cleared the ball before the stupor of the players and the uproar of the public. Then he got up undaunted, as if realizing his madness: he had just made the ‘scorpion’, a fantasy move.
25 years have passed. It was on Wednesday, September 6, 1995 when Higuita, the ‘Loco’, made the English delirious, some 16,000 –and some 4,000 Colombians–, present at the mythical Wembley stadium to see the friendly between England and Colombia. The 0-0 was an anecdote. In the 21st minute of the first half the game was already historic, thanks to René’s irreverence.
“A madness, an incredible maneuver,” the narrator William Vinasco recounted that day, exultant, on TV. That ball was at the bottom, and don’t tell me more…! ”, The rapporteur continued shouting, while René, in black pants, a colorful diver, white gloves and his wild hair, held back his smile, hid it, raised his arms, he apologized to his teammates and pointed out to the linesman who had raised the flag because of an out of place, and who, perhaps in order not to obstruct the fantasy, lowered it. The mischief was done.
Higuita was already known as the ‘Loco’. His risky exits from the goal made him a different goalkeeper, with the audacity to emancipate himself from the three sticks. In each expedition he made, he aroused applause, paralyzed hearts, provoked tears – as when he lost the ball with Roger Milla from Cameroon, which led to the goal and the elimination of Colombia in Italy 90 -. That’s how it was and that’s how René is.
That September day at Wembley, fate seemed to conspire so that all its madness would be immortalized. When the Englishman Jamie Redknapp finished off the goal, from outside the area, surely no one on the court thought that the play would have that outcome, although his companions knew that, with René, anything was possible.
Forward Iván René Valenciano was one of those who were close to the play and, when the ball was falling into Higuita’s territory, he tried to turn towards the attack. But his decision was interrupted by the astonishing shouts, by the laughter, by the applause, by the bewilderment. “I saw that the ball was going to the area – Valenciano recalls, 20 years later – and several of us turned around because we thought that René was going to take it with his hands. When René made the play, the ball continued in play; then we had to go find it. But it took us by surprise. He had a lot of courage and daring. For plays like that, people recognize him anywhere in the world.
It was a stunt of maximum risk, but Higuita had everything under control. Not only had she practiced the ‘scorpion’ hundreds of times in the past five years, but she had realized the misplaced thing. If he failed he could be exposed to ridicule, but the goal would be invalidated. Still, it did not fail.
“It was as if we had come to an agreement with the English,” Faustino Asprilla clearly recalls, excited, as if he were living the scene again. They had René analyzed, I’m sure. They would think, ‘stacks! That team is playing to the limit with the Libero goalkeeper, kick from outside the area’; That’s what their coach must have told them because they tried several times to score us like that, catch Higuita badly standing, but he was very fast mentally and physically and that’s why he decided to play the ‘scorpion’. Then we looked at each other with the English, with the referee, was it out of place or not? Does he whistle it or not ?, we thought. And he didn’t whistle it. It was a very cool play ”.
The origin of the ‘scorpion’
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It was a child who stopped the ball and played with it, raised it, maybe he wanted to show off and that’s why he improvised a Chilean. Higuita, who was waiting in the arch –or outside the arch–, had no choice but to invent, to rave. He dived head first to catch the ball with his heels – as he had already practiced – but what he did was connect it with the soles of his boots. Like a Chilean in reverse. That scene, as famous as Wembley, was in 1990, in the recording of a popular commercial for the soda Frutiño. That day the ‘scorpion’ was born.
Higuita was the goalkeeper of the Colombian National Team, the show of the bow, loved and hated, controversial. But he was an idol for many. He did crazy things, he kicked penalties, he scored free-kick goals, he invented tunnels to fierce forwards, he was not afraid, he had no limits. Perhaps, while drinking the refreshing drink that he promoted, he already imagined that he had done something unique, a movement that in the air it was similar to that of a scorpion, that of a scorpion. Although, initially, people knew him as the ‘frutiño’. Since then he has not stopped perfecting it.
“People think that that day at Wembley he invented it, but no, he always did it, he trained it daily, he told us he was going to do it in a game, until he could. He did it because of his personality, because he is risky. That play was immortalized by that. It’s not that it was something normal, but we knew it could be easy for him, at any time, “said former player Víctor Aristizábal, with the same amazement he had 20 years ago when he saw the image and only managed to say:” Uich, this man, so much that he said and finally did it ”.
Aristizábal already knew about scorpions. He had scored such a goal two years earlier, with Colombia, in a game against Chile. But the play has more antecedents. Paraguayan Roberto Cabañas scored a ‘scorpion’ goal when he played for the US Cosmos in 1983. Much earlier, in the 70s, the German goalkeeper Sepp Maier was already doing it, but in training.
One day in 2012, the Mexican Hugo Sánchez surprised by claiming the play; He said that he had invented it at Real Madrid, but that he couldn’t do it in a game. He called it the ‘mule kick’. “I thank Higuita, who made me famous that auction, I invented it,” he said.
But what about René was unique because he did it in a match, at Wembley, with the National Team, and because he was a goalkeeper. All the ingredients to be a legendary play. In 2008 the best in the history of football was chosen in a poll made in England by a portal called Footy-boots and which was reproduced by the English press. She surpassed Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Maradona, among others.
It became such a play of his that he never tired of repeating it: in Maradona’s farewell game and in Aristizábal’s he did it. “We used to tell him,” says Aristizábal, “‘Loco’, but it already came out once, do you want to do it everywhere? ‘ “It can come out more times,” said René. Haha. That’s how he was, you had confidence ”.
An immortal move
The players of the National Team were going through the tunnel to the dressing room. There were nervous laughter. He had just finished the first half against England. It was beginning to drizzle in London. The stadium was not completely full, but there was hubbub. It was when coach Hernán Darío ‘Bolillo’ Gómez came out to the crossing for Higuita. “Hey, ‘Loco’, what did you do?” – recalls José Fernando Santa, present at that game. Santa says that ‘Bolillo’ asked him with his energetic tone, but with a knowing laugh. René, whom everyone was looking at, replied: “Hernán, I decided to make the move, and you know me.”
Years later, the ‘Bolillo’ said that in the dressing room he scolded him, but then he made them applaud him. “And I told him: ‘Enjoy this, that not everyone does that, especially where he did it'”, recalled the then coach of the National Team, laughing, as if he did not believe that this move had been real. “The English applauded, and I there, sitting, stunned, ha ha.”
René’s colleagues congratulated him. They were excited. Afterwards they did not stop watching the play on TV, despite the fact that on the field, in the middle of the game, everyone had some tension, because although it was a friendly, the rival was England, with whom they had drawn 1-1 in 1988 in the same scenario. It was a game with the scent of revenge. “The English had a thorn, they wanted revenge, and René goes back and forth with those. It was the icing on the cake. Only a soccer genius like him can dare to do that, ”said Santa, who was the right-back that day.
Since that day, the recurring question for René has always been the same: what if he had failed? In a note in Soho magazine, Higuita replied: “Well, it would have been a goal, and suddenly I would have even died of laughter. What else was I going to do?
Editor of EL TIEMPO