The Diving Header
The diving header is a technique which uses the head to direct the ball, but involves the player’s whole body. Favoured by attacking players, the diving header requires the footballer to dive towards the ball, with both feet off the ground in order to make contact with the ball. By looking in the direction in which the ball needs to go, and ensuring that their head is over the ball, the player can keep the ball’s trajectory low and accurate.
The diving header requires bravery, co-ordination and good anticipation. In fact, players famed for their diving headers, such as Alan Shearer and Fabrizio Ravanelli, display an almost suicidal fearlessness when diving in amongst flying boots to poach a goal in the six-yard box. This is perhaps the most difficult element of the technique to master!
The advantage of a diving header is that it allows a player to get to the ball first – i.e. before the defender – and to get on the end of crosses which would otherwise be unreachable. If the ball is low or dropping, but cannot be kicked, a diving header is a good option. It is a very useful technique to use at the near post, where the defender is often blocking the mouth of the goal, as it allows the attacking player to get in front of the defender.
Lovers of latino football will be interested to learn the Portuguese and Spanish words for the technique. Rather less prosaic than diving header, the terms are peixinho ("little fish") and palomita ("little dove"), respectively, a reference to the fluid movement and flight of the player as he or she executes the header.