I produced Wembley’s most famous ever goalkeeping moment, I’m convinced Fifa invented a new rule because of me

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FOR all the talk of goalkeepers using their feet in the modern age, Rene Higuita was on another planet.

‘El Loco’ they called him – the frizzle-haired Colombian madman who was the true pioneer of the sweeper-keeper role we see and expect at the highest level today.

Rene Higuita's scorpion kick has gone down in football folklore

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Rene Higuita’s scorpion kick has gone down in football folkloreCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Higuita recently met up with Aston Villa star Emi Martinez

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Higuita recently met up with Aston Villa star Emi MartinezCredit: Getty

An inspirer of the 21st century ball-playing shot-stopper and an entertainer of the masses with his incredible 43 career goals and, of course, that Scorpion kick.

Wembley Stadium. September 6, 1995. A drab goalless friendly between England and Colombia lit up by Higuita’s maddening goal-line clearance using his heels in mid-air.

Rumour has it that Jamie Redknapp – the Three Lions player whose overhit cross provided the platform – is still not able to comprehend its insanity almost 30 years on.

Higuita told SunSport: “I did some important things in football, and that Scorpion kick was special, and also where it took place, in the temple of football at Wembley.”

But for Higuita – now 57 having retired 14 years ago – the only reason he even contemplated that audacious stunt was because of a Fifa rule implemented three years earlier in 1992 that he believes was created with his style of play in mind.

He explained: “What was more important [than the Scorpion] was the law change that Fifa brought in, taking away a keeper picking up from a back pass. That came through me.

“I believe I gave more freedom to goalkeepers which meant they wouldn’t spend so long with the ball and waste time.

“They were no longer just thought of as players who had to use their hands. They could use their feet too.

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“Recently, I was alongside the goalkeeping coach of West Ham, Xavi Valero, and he was very thankful that I was there and he said it was almost like he had a reference point. Somebody who they could look up to, a mirror for people to look into.”

We have Higuita to thank for his impact on the game, influencing the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta – even if it means endless debates of whether to play David Raya or Aaron Ramsdale.

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But Higuita was not about structure nor tactics – he was about pure, unadulterated fun, encouraging others now donning the gloves to pre with a freedom and a smile.

However, it is unlikely that anyone will ever do it like he did. There are some Premier League strikers who would envy his goalscoring record.

For Colombian sides Atletico Nacional, Independiente Medelin, Real Cartagena, Bajo Cauca and Deportivo Rionegro, Mexican outfit Veracruz, as well as for Colombia, Higuita scored 35 penalties, seven free-kicks and one from his own penalty area.

He currently sits fifth in the list of all-time goalscoring keepers – the four above him also hailing from South America.

Higuita added: “Some people thought it was crazy, but for me, it was taking advantage of the conditions that I had to do things.”

And while Higuita enjoys watching the current crop of top keepers – such as Manchester City’s Ederson, Manchester United’s Andre Onana and Everton’s Jordan Pickford – he said: “They play with their feet a lot more, but they are still quite limited in what they do.

“I would love to see them play with their feet more, take penalties. I’d even love to see them go past players and score goals, but it is a question of what you like.

“It’s a very personal thing. Perhaps others wouldn’t want to see that. It is all about taste and no taste is a bad taste, as we say.

“Each of them brings a different grain of sand to what they do trying to do it their way.”

Higuita’s style did not always pay off, in particular at Italia 90 as his failed Cruyff turn past Cameroon’s Roger Milla 25 yards from goal knocked Colombia out in the last-16.

There was talk about me coming to England to play

Rene Higuita

But he is still confident he could have thrived in today’s game in a Guardiola team, and believes he would have played in the Premier League had it not been for his 5ft9 stature.

He said: “There was talk about me coming to England to play. Newcastle were mentioned and there were a couple of comments from Arsenal.

“Something that was spoken about quite a lot was my height, or my lack of it, so there was no definitive offer for me to come to the UK.”

Higuita’s life away from football was also never straight forward, briefly imprisoned in 1993 for acting a go-between for Pablo Escobar in a kidnapping, tested positive for cocaine in 2004 and even ran for Mayor in his home country back in 2011.

But, as he prepares to attend the London Stadium on Friday to watch Colombia’s friendly with Spain, he said: “Part of life is living in the moment and learning from your experiences.

“It was a lovely past and an experience I can take with me but you cannot live in the past. I am enjoying myself and I am very happy now. Missing things would cause me frustration.”

To buy tickets for Spain vs Colombia at the London Stadium, click here.

Higuita will be in attendance for Colombia's clash with Spain on Friday night

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Higuita will be in attendance for Colombia’s clash with Spain on Friday nightCredit: Alamy Live News



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I produced Wembley’s most famous ever goalkeeping moment, I’m convinced Fifa invented a new rule because of me

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