Rene Higuita was a goalkeeper and more. A lot more. The long-haired, eccentric Colombian may have kept a handful of clean sheets throughout the course of his 24-year-long career, but he was most remembered for what he did with his feet rather than with his hands.
A scorer of 44 career goals, Higuita was a fine dribbler and an astute free-kick taker. Even when in goal, he could do the unthinkable not just with his hands but also with his feet.
Higuita was perhaps the only goalkeeper that entertained. He lit up the stage with his bag of tricks and charismatic persona every time he took the field.
However, nothing he achieved on the football pitch was quite as incredible as the scorpion kick save that he pulled off at Wembley stadium when Colombia faced England in a friendly game in 1995.
A moment familiar to every football fan, Higuita turned a regulation catch into an exceptionally acrobatic save. Jumping with his head downwards, Higuita propelled his legs behind his torso to kick the ball away just before it crossed the line. The audacious save was the highlight of an otherwise drab 0-0 draw and has become a part of football’s folklore.
“It was a trick that helped put Colombia and me on the map. Human beings are always remembered for their great work, and that was what it was.” Higuita was quoted as saying about his scorpion kick by Fifa.com.
Years later he revealed that it was a pre-meditated move that he had been waiting to execute for years.
“Children have always been my inspiration,” he said.
“I always saw them in the street or in a park trying out bicycle kicks, and I told them it would be good to do it in reverse. That day in England, I was given the ball that I had been waiting for five years!”
Higuita, a pioneer for goalkeepers who play out from the back, was a breath of fresh air in an era when the back-pass rule was threatening to suck the joy out of football. His antics with the ball although involving a lot of risk got the crowd on their feet.
The Colombian paid a price for his adventurous approach at times, especially when Colombia lost to Cameroon in the Round of 16 of the 1990 World Cup when his errors cost them a place in the quarter-finals.
But Higuita never really cared.
“To me, the ball was a toy, a gift they give you every Christmas and you don’t want to let go of,” he told Fifa.com in 2018.
“And if you do let go of it, then there’s a fight for it. I didn’t want to fight for the ball; I wanted to have my ball. And I wanted my team to have that ball. That’s how I read the game and that’s how the rules changed,” he added.
Rules have certainly changed and goalkeepers using their feet is an important aspect of modern-day football. However, even today, few goalkeepers would have the audacity and even the ability to match Higuita’s acrobats on the football field. He was truly one of a kind.
Relive the best moments of Rene Higuita’s career below. You are sure to be entertained.