For those who don't follow the beautiful game, conversations about football amongst passionate fans can sometimes seem as though they're happening in a different language. In order to adeptly communicate ideas about history, tactics, philosophies, and individual moments of magic, people within the game have drawn inspiration from far and wide.
Whether it's European nations like Italy contributing terms like 'regista', 'trequartista' or 'catenaccio' to the global footbaling lexicon, or South American countries like Brazil and Argentina sparking the global development of the game of futsal with their translation of "hall/lounge football", the sport has developed a rich and varied language over the decades.
Arguably more than any other aspect of the game, this is true of soccer skills. The art of beating a defender is so integral to the joy of the game that a huge number of different words and phrases have been coined to describe it. In this article, we'll be exploring one particularly impressive skill: the sombrero flick. We'll explain where this skill's name comes from and what it involves, before giving you a practical guide to how to perform a sombrero flick.
The sombrero flick is an extremely advanced soccer skill that is typically only performed by the most ambitious and technically gifted footballers. It enjoys a pretty special place in the hearts and minds of certain skills-loving football fans, and for good reason.
A sombrero flick involves flicking the ball up using your standing leg, before rapidly making contact with the ball for the second time with your same foot, and kicking it backwards over your head. At this point, you'll quickly spin round and receive the ball on the other side.
The purpose of the trick is to quickly change direction and beat a defender when you have your back to them.
Sombrero flicks are very difficult to accomplish, and it takes a massive amount of training to get this move perfect. There are a few key pointers that we'll flesh out in detail, but first let's offer a little more context: where did this trick come from, and why is it called a sombrero?
When it comes to explaining the name of this skill, it's worth first mentioning another very similar move that shares much in common with the sombrero flick: the rainbow flick. The rainbow flick involves rolling the ball up your standing leg using your other foot before flicking and lobbing it over the head of your opponent. This move is completed in a super quick, fluid motion, and looks incredible when pulled off (you can find out more here).
Just like the rainbow flick (also known as the rainbow kick), sombrero flicks seek to flick the ball over the head of your opponent; however, the method of doing this is slightly different, hence the different name. While rainbow kicks are typically completed while facing up to the defender, sombrero flicks are usually done with the attacker's back to the defender, or at least side-on. And unlike rainbow kicks, with sombrero tricks, the ball isn't rolled up the leg but manoeuvered into the air using two light kicks.
There can be some confusion between the sombrero flick and the rainbow flick; at the 2002 World Cup, when Turkey's Ilhan Mansiz forced Brazil's Roberto Carlos into a foul by performing an outrageous rainbow flick, the trick was described by some as a "sombrero". However, the sombrero is actually a separate skill, as outlined above.
This trick is named after the Mexican wide-brimmed hat the "sombrero", which has become a widely recognised cultural symbol over the years. The reason people call this trick the sombrero flick isn't totally clear; however, many people believe it is because the main purpose of the skill is to move the ball in an arcing motion over the defender's head, or "hat". It's not the most solid idea, but we'll run with it.
What's crucial to the sombrero flick is the element of surprise; unless you perform this stunt all the time, most defenders will not be expecting you to pull such an ambitious trick out of your locker. The way players shape up before performing a sombrero flick is all about making it look as though you're moving in a different direction, and the speed of the move is all about catching opponents off guard before quickly changing direction and bursting through.
Another major benefit of this trick is that it can help attackers get out of a tight space on the pitch. Say you've been packed into the corner flag with your back to goal, and there are limited passing options available. The sombrero flick will let you knock the ball up into the air and past your opponent, suddenly leaving you facing goal and bearing down on a much more dangerous area of the pitch than you were in before. Of course, you must have excellent spatial awareness in order to pull this off, but if you get your bearings and have the technical ability to showcase this skill in the moment, it can have serious benefits.
There's one man who's name comes straight to mind when discussing this skill: Neymar. In fact, the modern Brazilian legend — who recently overtook Pele to become La Selecao's all-time men's leading top goalscorer — is so closely associated with this skill that many people actually refer to it as the "Neymar flick".
Neymar is known for his array of silky skills, but few of them can match the sombrero in visual appeal when he pulls it off perfectly. He might use it to turn inside from a wide position or get himself out of a tight spot in the far corner of the pitch; either way, you'd always back him to beat his man.
Another player who is known to have performed sombrero flicks on a semi-regular basis is Ronaldinho, also an iconic Brazilian skill merchant. His natural flair and joyful, free approach to playing the beautiful game dazzled soccer fans all over the world, and the sombrero flick was a key skill in his arsenal while playing for Brazil, Barcelona, AC Milan and more.
You've learned which players are associated with this skill move and how it differs from its close sister the rainbow kick, but now it's crunch time: how do you perform a sombrero flick, or "Neymar flick" yourself?
When shaping up to perform this skill, your standing foot has to be just under the ball, as close to it as possible but crucially, not touching it. Without making contact, get as far under the ball as you can at this stage.
This is simple, in principle. Rather than scooping or powerfully kicking the ball, here you're looking to simply lift up the leg that's underneath the ball, propelling it into the air. This should be done gently, but with enough force to get the ball up from the ground.
At the same time as doing this, jump up slightly with your weak foot, too — as you get ready to perform the actual flick, your whole body will be temporarily up in mid-air (if only for a split second).
Here, the weaker foot (which still hasn't touched the ball) will softly land on the ground, while you will extend your other leg in order to perform the flick. In a quick motion, stretch out that leg and point the toes upward, before catching the ball toward the toe-end of your laces in order to make contact and kick it up and over the head of the defender.
As you make that second contact with the ball, ensure that you lean back a little; this is crucial, because it means you'll be better able to create height on the kick, and it also helps prevent the ball from smacking you in the face instead of going behind you.
Now, you must quickly turn 180 degrees, while the ball is in flight going over the head of both you and your opponent. As you do this, you must ensure that you keep your eyes on the trajectory of the ball at all times. If you're not keeping track of where the ball is moving, you'll be very unlikely to perform the next stage of this skill move effectively.
Sounds simple, right? As long as you have properly kept track of the ball's flight, this step should be the easiest of all. Once you've performed the flick and turned around, all you have to do is effectively catch the ball. You need to control it comfortably and gently, taking it down and getting it under control as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The standard way of doing this is to gently receive it on your laces with your foot forward and your toes pointed up. This cushions the landing of the ball nicely and will then allow you to move forward with your attacking run, the ball at your feet. However, there are other ways to catch the ball too; if it's easier in the situation, you could use your thigh to cushion the ball down, or if the ball arcs particularly high in the air you could even nod it gently forward with your head.
And that's it! With plenty of practice, you could soon be a master of the sombrero flick. And if you feel like you need more of a visual guide to completing this skill, head over to YouTube to check out this informative step-by-step video.
If you'd like to find out about another extravagant soccer skill showcased by ambitious players at the very top of the global game, check out our guide to the bicycle kick.