The Panenka

MC - ThinkingPanenka

A thing I know about but isn’t useful is The Panenka.

The Panenka is a type of penalty in which the kicker chips the ball softly to the centre of the goal. It’s named after Antonin Panenka who did this when taking the decisive penalty in the final of the 1976 European Championship.

Balls of steel, right? It’s an incredible thing to do at such a tense moment. Panenka described it as “the falling leaf” penalty. The ball had to float slowly enough to ensure the goalkeeper’s dive had taken him out of the path of the ball but quickly enough so that he didn’t have time to change course and save it.

When it works, it’s beautiful. When it doesn’t, it’s cringeworthy. A missed Panenka is invariably derided as the height of stupidity and hubris.

That’s Andrea Pirlo unsuccessfully attempting a Panenka. He does everything the same but the result is different. And that’s the thing about the Panenka. It’s entirely relative. If the goalkeeper moves, it’s a work of art. If he stays where he is, it’s an act of self-inflicted humiliation.

And I find that interesting because it’s a reminder that everything is relative. All our actions are dependent upon something else. The joke that made one colleague laugh? Well, it’s insensitive to another. The part of your personality that infuriates some people? It’s endearing to others. Your work that was deemed worthless at one company? Another company really values it. The high point of your day? Maybe it was hurtful to someone else. Your idea that was rejected by 100 people? Well, one person likes it enough to run with it.

And that last one sums up my week. I’ve had a lot of rejections for writing projects over the last fifteen years. Like, seriously, a LOT. It was hard not to take it personally. But this week I got one accepted. And I’ve learned enough to know that it doesn’t mean it’ll come to fruition, that it’ll all work out or that any success is permanent. But it was good to get it. We’re all just taking Panenkas. Sometimes the goalkeeper dives out of the way and sometimes he stands up and makes us look stupid. But the important thing is to keep taking Panenkas nonetheless.


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