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.


  1. wasim February 9, 2010
  2. Ant February 9, 2010
  3. Mark February 9, 2010
  4. wasim February 9, 2010
  5. AtlantaPompey February 9, 2010
  6. Jesse February 9, 2010
  7. JoshGooner February 9, 2010
    • Jesse February 9, 2010
  8. EMK February 10, 2010
  9. Adam S. February 11, 2010
  10. Alex X November 22, 2010

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