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Black History Month: The impossible goal

Roberto Carlos hit a goal for Real Madrid once that defied the laws of physics and even general mathematics.

Brazilian defender of Real Madrid Roberto Carlos c Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP via Getty Images

February 21, 1998. Real Madrid is in the middle of a match against CD Tenerife and were trying to hold on for a victory. Fans at Tenerife’s stadium were hoping to see the home team beat the giants from Madrid. While they eventually did see that, they also witnessed one of the most incredible goals in the history of soccer.

It’s called The Impossible Goal, and it was scored just after halftime by Roberto Carlos, arguably the best left back that has ever lived. With the ball bouncing around, a through pass was fed at a quick pace by Guti towards the end line. Roberto Carlos sprinted towards the ball, but it looked like the ball was going to go out for a goal kick.

Somehow, Roberto Carlos caught up to the ball, but even going full speed, he approached the ball right as it was about to go out over the endline. He turned his body to wind up a kick with his left foot, but there’s no way it was going to do anything more than go harmlessly out of bounds or roll into the side netting...right?

Everyone was wrong. Somehow, the impossible occurred:

Roberto Carlos was able to bend the ball with such force, even at an impossible angle, it curled past the Tenerife goalkeeper for the game-tying goal. It’s one of the more incredible goals in soccer history.

Why was that goal supposed to be so impossible? This great video breaks down the physics behind the shot and how it should have been a goal that couldn’t possibly have gone into the net:

Real Madrid would eventually lose 4-3 to Tenerife, but no one really looks back at the score of that match. They will always remember Roberto Carlos and The Impossible Goal, and it’s a goal that even practicing it a million times, even the best player may not be able to replicate it once. Roberto Carlos didn’t need a million times to create sheer magic with his left foot, and he provided us with a goal so wicked that even Houdini would be left scratching his head in amazement.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.