The Own Goal Debate

david james

By definition, an own goal occurs in association football when a player scores a goal that is registered to his or her own team. That definition was in fact one of many I found while scouring the Internet, but most of the others are similar in that they mention players knocking or kicking the ball into their own net. Sound vague to you? It did to me, it seems the definition failed to really define what constitutes a player knocking or kicking the ball into their own net. Is it knowingly, accidentally, on purpose? More specifically, when I watched Portsmouth self destruct this past Saturday against Manchester United, I found myself twice saying out loud for the referee to award the goal to the United player as opposed to the shameful OG.

Maybe I feel sorry for players too easily as I’m witness to them out there on the pitch giving their all as the opposition continuously bombard them. Again, more specific to Saturday, surely Portsmouth players have had enough terrible luck as their club stands on the precipice of existence than to be adjudged to have played so badly as to have scored against themselves. Three times!

By my opinion or my simple wish, only one out of the three OG’s awarded to Portsmouth on Saturday were actually legit. Before you lambaste me, the other two goals did in fact touch Portsmouth players last, but were ultimately the fruits of United’s attacking labor. Pompey defender Marc Wilson turned Patrice Evra’s 69th minute cross into his own net, make no mistake about it. But the other two goals originated from positive forward attack from United players who had in fact placed direct shots (or in Nani’s case, a half shot, half cross) onto the Pompey goal. Why should players loose goal credit for striking a ball on goal and scoring, regardless of the path the ball takes in finding it’s destination?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to rewrite the rules of football here, I just want to take a different perspective on the definition of own goals. Nani’s 45th minute effort took two deflections before finding the net, the final touch being a last ditch swipe from David James in the Portsmouth goal. Michael Carrick’s 58th minute attempt was just that, his attempt before the wicked deflection left David James rooted to the ground. Who’s to say that shot wasn’t going in before the unlucky deflection? It seems the rule discriminates against both sets of players, the attacking player and the defender. The attacker isn’t awarded (individually) for his efforts, and the defender appears on the match report with two embarrassing letters next to his name for his attempts in blocking, stopping, or deflecting a goal attempt. For those still with me:

Famous Own Goals

Who could forget Gary Neville’s OG for England v Croatia in a pivotal Euro 2008 qualifier in Zagreb as Borat looked on with mischievous delight? The routine back pass hit a divot and then England #1 Paul Robinson whiffed the clearance worse than when I struck out in Softball all those years ago. A Steve McClaren led England was in shambles, but to award Gary Neville for the routine back-pass-freak-accident-own goal was abundantly unfair. You tell me, how was this Neville’s fault?

gary neville og

Andres Escobar scored a famous own goal in the 1994 World Cup for Columbia that cost the 27 year old footballer his life. Some attribute the shooting to nothing more than a bar fight gone wrong, but most agree that Escobar was the target of furious Colombian drug lords who were displeased with the amount of money they lost in gambling deficits. Escobar’s OG was similar to that of Portsmouth’s Marc Wilson on the weekend, nothing more than an attempted clearance gone wrong. But such is the negative stigma attached to the very phrase that certain undesirables deemed it appropriate to cross the line and take Escobar’s life.

 andres escobar own goal

Should the factors that qualify an own goal be revised? Or, should officials just use simple common sense when awarding the dreaded OG? I believe more credit should be given to the attacking player in deciding own goals. Many will say that this debate is pointless because regardless of who touched it last, the goal will always be awarded to the correct team, in this case, Saturday’s match ending 5-0 in favor of Manchester United. This thought process is correct and I get it, but then why not award the goal to the player who had the most positive impact in the goal being scored? Why are officials so quick to punish players for freak deflections that are beyond their control?

What are your thoughts about own goals and how they are awarded? What are some famous own goals that you remember? Has your team ever lost the title, been knocked out of the FA Cup or Champions League from an infamous own goal? Has the club you support ever benefited greatly from the opposition scoring for you? Have your say in the comments section below.

11 thoughts on “The Own Goal Debate”

  1. Yeah i totally like this debate and i was thinking of the same !!
    yeah NANI goal againts Arsenal was so beautiful but came as an OG coz alminia touched it. it could have been in anyways and if not Park was there!
    Carrick goal was on target but just got a touched on a defender and it went OG as well….btw i think carrick should get the credit for that. Diaby goal at Old trafford and Lucas (LIV) againts Aston Villa can be said as OG.

    They work so hard and the name goes to OG…thats not FAIR.

  2. I may be wrong but I thought the rule on own goals was that if the ball would have gone in anyway without any interference from the defender then it gets awarded to the attacker. It seems fair to me that if a someone takes a shot and it is going wide, only for a defender to turn it in, that the goal shouldn’t be awarded to the attacker as without the defenders actions they wouldn’t have scored.

  3. It makes no difference who is given credit for the goal. What matters to me is the final score, that determines the winner nad that is what matters most.. Although I will have to say the Writer of this article is very thorough with his expertise examimantion and knowledge of this sport I love. Please continue putting forth these articles Mr. Chula

  4. @Ant i understand but if you are taking a shot that is going on target like carricks against portsmouth then it should be given to the player coz if he hadnt make the shot then there would’nt be any goals.

    look at the Diaby and Lucas goal!! i think those are the OG, not the nani v Arsenal and Carrick v Portsmouth.

  5. Nani was passing the ball across the goal mouth. The ball would not have come close to the goalmouth if not for the deflections.

    I prefer to think of last Saturday as a win for Pompey. After all, we scored three goals and they scored only two. We win! Okay, I’ll admit they were scored in the wrong net, but that’s just a minor detail, right?

    Last Saturday’s match was just a perfect example of the kind of luck Pompey have had all season. The team has not played poorly, yet doesn’t get any breaks. I think we used up all of our luck in winning the FA Cup. Sold our soul to the devil, if you will.

    Despite having an important three points available tonight and a derby with Scum this weekend, the only real important event of the week is Wednesday’s court date with HMRC.

  6. AP,
    thanks for the input. It’s clear the Portsmouth players haven’t given up their fight just quite yet. Bottom of the table and facing extinction, you just dont get the feel that they’ve thrown in the towel.

    Would be nice to see them right the ship and stay up this year.

  7. @ Jesse Chula –

    Just wondering – how would you have scored Neville’s OG? Agree that it’s harsh that he’s got his name in the score book, but what’s the alternative? Robinson? Borat?

    1. Good question, and the thought of seeing: Borat, 78th – on a match report has me laughing.

      Even though Neville was the last player to touch the ball, I’d have given it to Robinson. There’s really no great explanation as to why, but in my opinion, he’d be more deserved of it than Neville who placed the back pass right at Robinson’s foot.

      In all honesty, OG’s like Neville’s seldom happen. We really could go back and fourth on this one all day, but there’s really no definitive answer to explain freak happenings. Thanks for the feedback.

  8. For what it’s worth, the US National Hockey League awards OGs to the last attacking player that touches the puck. What I like about this approach is that it encourages the idea that (without taking wasteful shots) attacking players should sometimes try and make their own luck and let the ball fly. (This could certainly apply to Arsenal and I’m a fan.) You never really know what’s going to happen when the ball is bouncing around in front of the net. And whichever attacking player was the one to start the confusion in front of the net should be rewarded for the effort.

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