360 Soccer


360 Soccer

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The Header

"Play Football with Pele"

3 - The Header


In this third lesson I’m going to try and explain how I headed the ball that scored the first goal for Brazil in the World Cup Final in Mexico. I expect you remember that goal and how thrilled I was when I saw the ball in the Italian net. All that joy wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been prepared by constant training and if I hadn’t learned some of the finer points of heading. I have already explained that you should ask ‘why’ something is before ‘how’ to do it. The first thing I tried to do was to understand the fundamental laws of heading. I expect you’ve heard of the law of gravity. I hope you also know about the force of inertia.

Pele - The Header - Learn To Play Soccer - Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Pele – Heading with Forehead – Learn To Play Soccer

The two forces of gravity and inertia are combined in the leap for the header. The force of inertia is utilized by the leap upwards and gravity prevents the body from rising too high. The more powerful the leap, the higher you’ll go. So the force of inertia helps you rise to the ball and, having headed the ball, the force of gravity pulls you back to the ground again. In time you will be able to judge just how high and at what moment you should jump for the ball. So practice leaping in the air and if you thrust down one or both arms quickly you’ll gain just a bit more height, which might make all the difference when defending or trying to score a goal. The header must be taken on the fore head and never with the top of your head. Never shut your eyes when heading. By keeping them open you are able to see the ball coming and where you want to send it. So head with your forehead, keeping your eyes open and your mouth shut in case of any accident like biting your tongue.

Pele - The Header - Learn To Play Soccer - Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Pele – Head with Arched Back – Learn To Play Soccer

To increase the power of your header, you should lean backwards and then thrust your body forward very quickly and vigorously at the moment of impact so the work isn’t only done by your neck muscles. The movement of the body backwards is slower than the explosive thrust forward. This can be practiced at first without a ball and later on with one. First practice the header while standing and then jumping. Don’t forget that heading is as important as passing when it comes to defending or scoring. Unfortunately there are many Brazilian footballers who just do not know how to head the ball. Perhaps it’s because of inadequate training or maybe they do not realize how important heading is in football. For this reason start practicing and trying to understand the basic principles of heading as soon as you possibly can.

A good header can get your attack going. Heading really does speed up the game. By using your head you don’t have to waste precious seconds for the ball to reach the ground so you can kick it. During a game the opportunity of heading occurs very frequently. You can head the ball while you’re standing, running or jumping. The ball can be headed forwards, sideways or backwards; at different heights -upwards, level or down. You can also try a diving header. Don’t be frightened of this one because if you do it correctly you can’t get hurt. Use your forehead because the ball doesn’t hurt the front of your head. In a diving header you must know how to protect yourself with your arms when you fall to prevent a nasty accident. You’ll be able to do this with practice, training with and without the ball, alone or with friends.

At first you should learn how to head the ball forwards while standing still, running and lumping. Having mastered this technique, it’s time to learn others. It’s essential to keep practicing because the act of heading is a coordinated movement which uses nearly every muscle in your body. If you are learning how to jump and head the ball, don’t forget that you shouldn’t only use your stronger leg to push you off the ground but the other one as well. Learn to push with the left foot and the right. If you push with the right leg, bend your left knee to increase your thrust upwards. Sometimes you’ll have to use both feet to push off with for the jump, whether standing or running. When you push off with both feet the arms help to achieve the whole movement by adding to the lift of the body. Just before your feet leave the ground extend your relaxed arms behind you. Then, at the moment you leap, thrust your arms forward and upwards. This will add momentum to your jump. Practice these tactics and you’ll be able to reach that high ball. I expect you now know how I managed to head that goal against Italy. If it hadn’t been for my training and all the tips I picked up through observation, study and advice from experts and more experienced players, I am sure I’d never have been able to head that ball into goal.