Is Bersant Celina’s penalty the worst in the history of football?

Soccer has seen some foul-ups down the years, but Bersant Celina’s gaff takes some beating.

Is Bersant Celina's penalty the worst in the history of football?Image Getty

David Dunn was an undoubtedly talented midfielder, who spent the majority of his career playing at an elite level in the Premier League and even earned an England cap.

Unfortunately, Dunn was also consigned to something approaching football blooper purgatory after attempting an audacious Rabona in derby encounter between Birmingham City and Aston Villa.

To say the attempt went badly would be an understatement with Dunn cocking it up to such a degree that he essentially ended up booting himself in his standing ankle.

He was lucky to escape the incident without injury, though his pride has been quietly eroded in the years since thanks to countless replays of the incident.

It’s a mistake with a unique appeal to watching fans: Dunn’s actions smack of perceived arrogance and ideas above his station. Notions soon painfully squashed in front of the watching millions. Simply put, audiences love to see people overstretch and embarrass themselves, whether it’s football or Simon Cowell’s X Factor.

It could have been worse though – he could have been attempting to take a Panenka style penalty kick like Swansea City’s Bersant Celina.

Offered up the chance to get Swansea level away at promotion-chasing West Brom in a recent Championship fixture, the Australian decided now was the time to attempt a Panenka.

A good Panenka – named after Czechoslovakia’s Antonin Panenka who won sealed victory in 1976 European Championship final with one – involves shaping to blast the ball in the corner of the goal before delicately chipping it down the centre.

The goalkeeper is supposed to buy the dummy, jumping towards the corner and thus leaving the centre of the goal open for the striker to dink it down the middle.

When executed properly, a Panenka is a thing of beauty and the perfect showcase of a footballer’s talents, combining skill and mental strength and resulting in a goal. Francesco Totti was first-rate exponents of the perfect Panenka, having executed it to perfection in a high pressure environment – the semi-final of Euro 2000.

When a Panenka goes wrong on the big stage, it’s a source of much embarrassment though. Like a failed Rabona cranked up to 11.

Gary Lineker, for example, had the chance to equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record after winning a penalty in a friendly against Brazil only to attempt a truly terrible Panenka. He ended up retiring having fallen one goal short of Charlton’s tally.

Celina’s miss is undoubtedly worse than Lineker’s and countless other examples of terrible Panenka’s down the years though, particularly when you break down its component parts.

Full of confidence following a run of goals for Swansaa, Celina made the mistake of trying to be clever with his spot kick and ended up looking silly – a favourite failing and source amusement among football fans.

Not only does he fail to connect with the ball, he falls over, giving the attempt a slapstick quality. The icing on the cake then comes when the ball appears to defy physics by spinning backwards before being cleared to safety. Each of those three things in isolation would be hilarious. Combined they equate to something approaching comedy gold.

Despite all the furore and online mockery suggesting it’s the worst penalty of all time, one example sticks out more than most.

Step forward former Lancaster City winger Peter Divine who became a fixture of football blooper videos and DVDs for over two decades thanks to his miss during the 1991 HFS Northern Premier League Division One Cup Final against Whitley Bay.

While plenty have been guilty of tame pass backs to the goalkeeper – see Pat Nevin – or slightly too floating chips – we’re looking at you Eric Cantona – Divine’s is special for the fact he somehow contrives to kick himself and the ball twice with the resulting kick trickling at comically slow speed towards the goal. Those components alone trump Celina;s

Add to that the fact that the opposition keeper almost looks embarrassed as he walks out to collect the ball, evidently sympathetic of the fact Devine has made an absolute meal of the spot kick in arguably the biggest game of his life.

That Celina’s came in the Championship, a considerably higher level than the HFS Northern Premier League Division One should probably be a factor in deciding which is worse.

However Celina’s saving grace may be that, with the advent of social media and approaching death of formats like DVD, he’s unlikely to be featuring on any highlight reels fronted by the likes of Danny Baker and Nick Hancock.

With football fans able to access fresh video content from leagues all over the world at the click of a button or swipe of a phone screen, Celina’s miss could be old news very quickly.

The most intriguing thing now is what he does with his next penalty: stick it in the top corner or double down with another Panenka? Hopefully the latter.

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