In the 1910s it was known as the “charles”; later this was corrupted to “chaleira”. It is, as the entry in a dictionary of football terms informs us, “a skill where the player bends his leg back and kicks the ball with his heel”. In recent times, one of the best exponents of this chip or flick with the heel was Romário. This is appropriate as the skill was favoured by an attacking player, the one after which it was named, Charles Miller.
Back in the period just after Miller stopped playing, though, it was associated with the first right-back of the Brazilian national side, Píndaro de Carvalho. When a first Brasileiros XI took on Exeter City on 21 July 1914, the Gazeta de Notícias (22/7/14) tells us that Píndaro “stood out for the magnificent way in which he cleared balls which landed behind him and for ‘charles’ applied with the greatest calm and precision”.
Aidan adds: “Re the chaleira … it says something about Brazilian football that at that early stage in the game's development, i.e. twenty years before professionalism was legalised there, a skill associated with a forward was soon embraced by full-backs.”
BACK at the turn of the last century it seems hard to believe that whilst association football was popular in continental Europe few had ever seen a goalkeeper making a diving save. In the old Austro Hungarian Empire it was unheard of.
Then in 1901 Saints went over there on tour and their goalkeeper of the day, one JW Robinson, caused a sensation in Prague by flinging himself all over the place to deny the opposition, a feat he repeated during the tour in what are now the countries of the Austria and Hungary. From then on the diving save has been known as a Robinsonada!
So famous and so entrenched in Czech footballing language is the Robinsonada that it has its own entry in the Czech version of Wikipedia which says this,
The Robinsonáda or robinzonáda, is an acrobatic goalkeeping save in an effort to catch or divert the ball in flight. Typical of the goalkeeper's body position is that it flies nearly horizontally with the ground. In a way, it's a very courageous jump to catch or hit or deflect the ball heading for the goal.
The Czech Wiki notes it was named after English goalie JW Robinson but with no more details. Fans though know that the ’keeper played for Southampton.
Gradually goalkeepers tried the Robinsonada for themselves though none became as proficient and expert as Czech goalie František Plánička who was so good that it made him famous between the wars.
ABOVE: Jack Robinson in his pomp. There is a mistake in the caption, “St Mary’s” was dropped from the Club’s name in 1897, Robinson was signed in 1898.
BELOW: a souvenir postcard of Saints’ visit to Prague in 1901. Robinson is the central figure of the three players towards the back.
A big thank you to Gary Chalk of Hagiology
How many footballers have had a skill, trick or technique named after them? Well, the “Cruyff turn” comes to most minds; while serious football enthusiast will know that a “Penenka” is chipping the ball over a diving goalkeeper from a penalty kick, made famous by Czech international Antonín Panenka; and then there is “Racey’s rocket!” But that is somewhat Roy Race specific and I can’t recall anybody being credited with scoring or missing with one.
And popular though it is with football journalists in dire need of a metaphor “Roy of the Rover’s stuff!” may be what coaches pray for but it is not something that can be practiced or taught. Which leaves me with “Bosman free”, which is certainly a handy manoeuvre, but never led to spectators falling off their seats during the progress of a game.
Abroad is a whole different ball game. If you are not a regular Saints’ programme reader, you may be surprised to learn that at least two gems of international soccer jargon were inspired by Saints of yor: Charles Miller and Jack Robinson.
Manchester United! Arsenal! Liverpool! Tottenham Hotspur! Everton! Maggie Thatcher! Can you hear me? Can you hear me Maggie Thatcher! That’s two! All those flash, expensive players and not one of them used as a denominal!
And as for all those players you’ve nicked off us: you have blown their chances of worldwide immortality!
Meanwhile, here is a brief clip of Naymer demonstrating what Charles Miller was doing on the playing fields of Southampton on wet winter afternoons in the early 1890s.
Jack Robinson was one of the four star-signings made as Saints prepared for their first season at The Dell – 1898/99. The others were England international forward Harry Wood and Scottish internationals John Tait Robertson and Peter Meechan (a.k.a. Meehan), both from Everton. But Robinson (who was faster off the mark than his proverbial namesake) was the most famous of the quartet.
Robinson was the most recognisable England goalkeeper (even more so than William “Fatty” Foulke) in an era when the only international matches of any note were the annual fixtures against Scotland, Wales and Ireland. And the latter two were regarded as trial matches for the Scotland game.
Robinson toured Europe with the Saints in 1901. He made quite an impression, as my old chum and Czechofile Chris Pattison reveals. The following first appeared in Deftly Hallowed in March 2014.
Charles Miller (the Charles part anyway) is reputedly the root for the denominal charleira, and while Miller features prominently elsewhere in Deftly Hallowed, I deemed it well worth making space for Aidan Hamilton with the task of explaining its history.
Aidan is a former resident of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, an accomplished linguist and an author of books and articles in Brazil and in the UK.
The sketch above nwas acquitted for Aidan’s benefit by Ivan Soter, author of the Enciclopédia da Selecão (2002), “The book on the history of the Brazilian national side” in a bar called Cervantes in Copacabana.
Aidan’s latest book is Have You Ever Played Brazil? The adventures of Exeter City in South American in 1914.
It is not coincidence that Brazil's national football team emerged while the Grecians were on tour.
Ex-Saint Charles Miller, during the Brazilan cricket season.
Aidan Hamilton (centre) having a pint and a chat, recently, with my good self (left) and fellow Saints’ historian Gary Chalk, in a well known hostelry not a million miles from the Town Quay.