The Left’s Eleven- Soccer Players who are left handed
From Bill Gates; philanthropist and millionaire to Oprah Winfrey, From Barack Obama to Napoleon Bonaparte; the legendary French military commander- these people, despite being from varied times in history have one thing in common; Left-Handedness. These prominent figures fall with other ‘lefties’ to constitute about 30% of the world’s population. The general attitude towards these left-handers had not always been positive. Up until the early 19th century, mothers urged children to right with their right hand, schools and universities forcibly promoting the same agenda as well. Today, despite the remnants of the stigma existing in several countries around the globe, left-handers thrive in their respective fields- politics, humanities and yes, sports. Left-handed people have an advantage in sports that involve aiming at a target, because their opponents are be more accustomed to a largely right-handed majority. The result? A large representation of left-handed sports persons, especially in interactive sports like soccer, tennis, basketball et al.
The Left’s Eleven is a quick run through of all the immensely talented players in the world’s most popular game of pitches and goals- Soccer.
1. Johan Cruyff (25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016)
Hendrik Johannes Cruijff was a Dutch professional Soccer Player and later coach, was born on in Amsterdam, on a street five minutes away from Ajax’s stadium, his first Soccer club. Cruyff’s passion for the game was encouraged by his soccer-loving father and his close proximity in to the De Meer Stadium, where he played soccer with his schoolmates and older brother, Henny.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch soccer rose from obscurity to become a powerhouse in the sport, being known as one of the greatest players in football history. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. At the 1974 finals, he executed a feint that subsequently was named after him, the “Cruyff Turn”, a move widely replicated in the modern game. Wearing the number 14 jersey, he set a trend for wearing shirt numbers outside the usual starting line-up numbers of one to eleven.
In 1973, he moved to Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning La Liga in his first season and was named European Footballer of the Year. After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later Barcelona; he remained an influential advisor to both clubs. His son Jordi also played football professionally. In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. He was chosen on the World Team of the 20th Century in 1998, the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002, and in 2004 was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
Cruyff is widely seen as an iconic and revolutionary figure in history of football “There have been lots of brilliant soccer figures down the years, but none has been as significant as Johan Cruyff.’’
2. Pelé (born 23 October 1940)
Edson Arantes do Nascimento is a Brazilian retired professional Soccer Player who played as a forward. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison. Taught to play by his father, he could not afford a proper soccer ball and usually played with either a sock stuffed with newspaper and tied with a string or a grapefruit, going onto be a name unanimously known as the greatest in football history.
Pelé began playing for Santos at age 15 and the Brazil national team at 16. During his international career, he won three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962 and 1970, being the only player ever to do so. Pelé is the all-time leading goal scorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club level he is the record goal scorer for Santos, and led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores. Known for connecting the phrase “The Beautiful Game” with soccer, Pelé’s “electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals” made him a star around the world, and his teams toured internationally in order to take full advantage of his popularity. Since retiring in 1977, Pelé has been a worldwide ambassador for soccer and has made many acting and commercial ventures. In 2010, he was named the Honorary President of the New York Cosmos.
Averaging almost a goal per game throughout his career, Pelé was adept at striking the ball with either foot in addition to anticipating his opponents’ movements on the field. While predominantly a striker, he could also drop deep and take on a playmaking role, providing assists with his vision and passing ability, and he would also use his dribbling skills to go past opponents. In Brazil, he is hailed as a national hero for his accomplishments in soccer and for his outspoken support of policies that improve the social conditions of the poor. Throughout his career and in his retirement, Pelé received several individual and team awards for his performance in the field, his record-breaking achievements, and legacy in the sport.
3. Diego Armando Maradona (born 30 October 1960)
Diego Armando Maradona is an Argentine Soccer manager and retired professional Soccer Player. He is currently the coach of Argentine Primera División club Gimnasia de La Plata. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time. He was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award.
An advanced playmaker who operated in the classic number 10 position, Maradona played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys during his club career, and is most famous for his time at Napoli and Barcelona where he won numerous accolades. In his international career with Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. In the 1986 World Cup quarter final, he scored both goals in a 2–1 victory over England that entered football history. Maradona became coach of Argentina in November 2008. He was in charge of the team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before leaving at the end of the tournament.
Maradona’s vision, passing, ball control and dribbling skills were combined with his small stature (1.65 m or 5 ft 5 in), which gave him a low center of gravity allowing him to maneuver better than most other Soccer Players; he would often dribble past multiple opposing players on a run. His presence and leadership on the field had a great effect on his team’s general performance, while he would often be singled out by the opposition.
”A precocious talent, Maradona was given the nickname “El Pibe de Oro” (“The Golden Boy”), a name that stuck with him throughout his career.”
4. Romario (born 29 January 1966)
Romário de Souza Faria, known simply as Romário, is a Brazilian politician who previously achieved worldwide fame as a professional Soccer Player. A prolific striker renowned for his clinical finishing, he is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. From very humble origins, Romário was spotted in childhood when playing for Olaria, a small club from the Rio de Janeiro suburb. He was taken to the junior team of Vasco da Gama where he won two state leagues and earned his first call-ups to the national team. Romário came to international attention when he became the top scorer at the 1988 Olympic Soccer tournament.
Romário starred for Brazil in their 1994 FIFA World Cup success, receiving the FIFA Golden Ball as player of the tournament. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year the same year. He came fifth in the FIFA Player of the Century internet poll in 1999, was elected to the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002 and was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players in 2004. In 1993, he moved to FC Barcelona and became part of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team”, forming an exceptional strike partnership with Hristo Stoichkov. He won La Liga in his first season and finished top goal scorer with 30 goals in 33 matches. During the second half of his career Romário played for clubs within the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He won the Brazilian league title with CR Vasco da Gama in 2000 and was a three-time top scorer in the league. At the end of his career he also played briefly in Qatar, the United States and Australia.
Considered a master of the confined space of the penalty area, his rapid speed over short distances (aided by his low centre of gravity) took him away from defenders, and he was renowned for his trademark toe poke finish.With 55 goals in 70 appearances, Romário is the fourth-highest goal scorer for the Brazil national team, behind Pelé, Ronaldo and Neymar. He is second on the all-time list of Brazilian league’s top scorers with 154 goals. He is the second-most prolific goal scorer in the history of Soccer.
5. Hugo Sanchez (born 11 July 1958)
Hugo Sánchez Márquez is a Mexican retired professional Soccer Player and manager, who played as a forward. A prolific goal scorer known for his spectacular strikes and volleys, Sánchez is widely regarded as the greatest Mexican Soccer Player of all time, and one of the greatest players of his generation.
Sánchez began his career playing for Club Universidad Nacional in 1976, and briefly went on loan to the San Diego Sockers of the North American Soccer League in 1979. In 1981, he moved to Spain to play for Atlético Madrid, playing for the Colchoneros for four years before moving to cross-town rivals Real Madrid, where he would spend the best years of his career, winning numerous titles and accolades. From 1977 to 1994, Sánchez was a member of the Mexico national team, gaining 58 caps and scoring 29 goals. He participated in three FIFA World Cup tournaments and was a part of the Mexico team that reached the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup. Famous for his acrobatic goal celebrations throughout his club and international career, Sánchez was the first notable exponent of the backflip.
In 1999, the International Federation of Football History and Statistics voted Sánchez the 26th best Soccer Player of the 20th century. In 2004 Sánchez was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players. He is the fourth highest scorer in the history of La Liga, the third highest scoring foreign player after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and is the seventh highest goal scorer in Real Madrid’s history.
”A quick and mobile striker, with good skills and an eye for goal, he was known for his intelligence, positional sense, movement, and anticipation in the area, and was an accurate and efficient finisher, who was capable of scoring with few touches.”
6. Richard Witschge (born 20 September 1969)
Richard Peter Witschge is a Dutch retired Soccer Player who played as a midfielder. He was known for his technique and passing ability.
After becoming established in the first team, Witschge signed for Cruyff’s FC Barcelona in 1991. Witschge moved to Blackburn Rovers on loan just ahead of the transfer deadline in March 1995, featuring against West Ham United as his team won the Premier League title. In May 1996, Witschge agreed a return to Ajax, who wanted his experience to bolster the team which had begun to break up in the aftermath of their 1995 European Cup win. In his second spell he played more than 150 matches, helping the club win two leagues and consecutive domestic cups. Witschge earned 31 caps for the Netherlands, in which he scored one goal. He made his debut on 21 February 1990 in a 0–0 friendly draw against Italy and was picked for the 1990 FIFA World Cup under manager Leo Beenhakker.
An injury sustained with Barcelona ruled him out of UEFA Euro 1992 and he did not make another major tournament until Euro 1996, held in England. During this time, his place in the national team was taken by his older brother. In September 2000, Witschge returned to the national team after a three-year absence, due to an injury crisis. He won his final cap in a 2–2 home draw to Ireland, which dented the Netherlands’ qualification prospects for the 2002 World Cup.
7. Marco Van Basten (born 31 October 1964)
Marcel “Marco” van Basten is a Dutch Soccer manager and former professional Soccer Player, who played for Ajax and A.C. Milan, as well as the Netherlands national team, as a striker. He is regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.
Playing for the Netherlands, Van Basten won UEFA Euro 1988 where he was named player of the tournament, scoring five goals that included a memorable volley in the final against the Soviet Union. At club level, he won three Eredivisie titles and the Cup Winners’ Cup with Ajax, and three Serie A titles and two European Cups with Milan. Known for his close ball control, attacking intelligence, impeccable headers, and spectacular strikes and volleys, Van Basten was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992 and won the Ballon d’Or three times.
In 1998, he was ranked sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century internet poll, tenth in the European player of the Century election held by the IFFHS and 12th in the IFFHS’ World Player of the Century election. He was also voted eighth in a poll organised by the French magazine France Football, consulting their former Ballon d’Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century. In 2004, he was named by Pelé, a fellow left-handed footballer in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players. In 2004, a poll for the 100 greatest Dutch people was held in the Netherlands: Van Basten ranked number 25, the second highest for a Soccer Player, behind Johan Cruyff.
”He scored 300 goals in a high-profile career but played his last match in 1993 at age 28 due to an injury which forced his retirement two years later. He was later the head coach of Ajax and the Netherlands national team.”
Time and time again, left-handed individuals have exhibited exemplary performances in their fields. Interested in reading more about internationally renowned personalities who were left-handed? Check out our article on Legendary Tennis Players who were Left-Handed and discover the American Presidents who were Left-handed as well.