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The Loop

Bust a Move

Japanese high school soccer team revolutionizes the free kick … with “Ring Around the Rosie"

December 29, 2021

Soccer is going through a period of tumultuous modernization. The scrapped Super League still lurks in the dark. FIFA has announced its intentions to make the World Cup a biennial event. More games are being played than ever, superstars like Messi and Ronaldo are finally showing their age, and VAR? Well, the less said about VAR the better. But not all innovation is a game- and culture-rotting poison, as evidenced by Takagawa Gakuen High School in Japan, who unleashed this new set-piece routine to ruthless effect on Wednesday.

Yes, we just described “Ring Around the Rosie” as ruthless. If you know the origins of the song (coined during an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 17th-century London), perhaps that doesn’t surprise you. Within the context of a set-piece routine, however, it takes on a whole new cadence. The opposing players are momentarily frozen as Takagawa Gakuen break their circle, uncertain who to mark. Unlike American football, soccer has no rules about how many players can be in motion in a dead-ball situation, and Takagawa Gakuen use that to their advantage, creating confusion then heading home from close range. This is why you use zonal marking, kiddos.

Where this goes next is anybody’s guess. Could we see Burnley doing the “Macarena” this weekend? Will Diego Simeone work “The Hustle” into Atletico Madrid’s set-piece routines? All that remains to be seen, but the sky—or at the very least ‘Ted Lasso’ season 3—is the limit.