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Panenka interview: “Out of 30 penalties, I only missed one”

Antonin Panenka handed Czechoslovakia the European championship trophy in 1976 with a memorable spot-kick which has been imitated ever since
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Antonin Panenka famously handed Czechoslovakia the European championship trophy in 1976 with an unforgettable, idiosyncratic spot-kick in the shoot-out - one which has been widely imitated ever since. It was a great pleasure for AS to catch up with him ahead of today's Euro 2016 meeting between Spain and the Czech Republic.

Do you see yourself as a kind of football inventor for your famous penalty?

I've always like being creative and I had a style of football in which I'd try to be a little innovative. I'd spend hours racking my brain about how I could invent moves or little tricks. It wasn't just about that penalty, even if it did make my name known. For me football was something very beautiful - something which had to be looked after in the best way possible. I'm very proud to have been able to have played in such an innovative way.

How many times did you practice your famous penalty kick?

The idea came to me in the Spring of 1974, a good two years before that final in Belgrade. I practiced it in training every day from that moment on. Firstof all in the training sessions and then in friendly matches. I first tested it out in the Czechoslovakian league.

With success?

Of course. During my career I took 30 penalties using that method and only missed one. It was a technique which was effective and successful.

But risking it in a European final - and in the shoot-out wasn't without risks. Were you absolutely sure it was the right moment to do it?

Sure, it wasn't something I was thinking about the night before or even the hours running up to the game - months before we even reached the final I knew that I was take my spot-kick in that way if it went to penalties. I was sure that I would score and I had a feeling that such a moment would arrive - the only thing I didn't expect was that it would actually be in the final!

Is taking a penalty 'Panenka-style' showing a lack of respect for the rivals?

I never saw it as a lack of respect. When people spend years talking about a certain way of taking penalties, it's good for the game. You simply have to follow a set of rules and if you do that, there's nothing to debate. Why can't you take a penalty that way?

Did you see Messi and Suárez copying Johan Cruyff's famous penalty technique last season, in which the taker taps the ball forward and a second player runs from behind to take the shot?

I also thought about doing that when I was in the youth team at Bohemians. That was before Cruyff did it. After that I saw players doing it a couple of times in the Czech league - once actually against us in a game in Brno. It's a great idea. When a penalty goes in, it's always a well-taken penalty.

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Your famous kick was against Sepp Maier - then regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world. What did you say to him after the game?

We didn't really get a chance to speak. It favoured me that I was a relative unknown at that time. The problem was that after that final, some wrote that I had ridiculed the world's best keeper, Maier. But I have never tried to ridicule anyone, ever.

After your heroics in Belgrade, everyone was trying out the Panenka method - even Pelé, who claimed you were a genius, and a madman...

Well I don't see myself as a madman or a genius (laughs). I've always said that I am like a Švejk soldier, a character from Czech literature during the First World War who always questioned orders from authority. My style of play was fairly subversive.

Was that team the best Czechoslovakia side in history?

I don't know if we were the best, but one of the best. We had a great team and things went our way. We had a very defined, recognizable style - a strong defence and a creative attack.

Who did you regard as the best players you have seen?

It's difficult to compare one player with another, particularly if they are from different eras; Pelé, Beckenbauer, Messi… But you can't really compare them. Every generation has their references.

How do you fee when you see another player take a penalty like you used to?

I feel very happy that they have used my idea. And it's usually the best players in the world who try it. I don't think it's a necessarily difficult kick but it requires a lot of practice. It's complicated for a player to pull it if off if they haven't practiced it before in training.

Have you seen any Spanish player attempt a 'Panenka'?

Yes, I saw Sergio Ramos do it…

Did he do it well?

Well it wasn't the prettiest penalty! (laughs) but it went in, and that's what counts.

Which Spain players do you like watching?

For me Sergio Ramos and Iniesta. They're both players who we know well because they have shone with their clubs in European competition.

Are you an admirer of the Spanish game?

I love it, although unfortunately it's difficult to watch many Spanish league games in the Czech Republic because they aren't broadcasted. But I do follow the clubs and players in European competition or with the national team. I really like their style of play. It's not just about Real Madrid and Barcelona, there are a lot of other club who have great players.

Good luck today and let's hope we see another 'Panenka' kick soon…

Thank you. That would be very emotional for me.


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