The Rabona

Among the plethora of techniques that dazzle soccer spectators, one of the most popular ones in recent times is the rabona. It is a skill where a player kicks the ball with a crossed leg technique – the kicking leg wrapping behind the standing one. It enables players to utilize their stronger foot even in seemingly improbable positions, introducing an element of unpredictability to their play.

With its origins tracing back to the streets of South America, this skill has transcended borders to become a kind of a staple in the repertoire of some of the world’s most skilled players. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the rabona, exploring its history, execution, and the players who have mastered this art form on the pitch.


The first known use dates back to 1948 when Ricardo Infante – a spirited Argentinian player donning the colors of Estudiantes de La Plata – unveiled this maneuver during a match. He was in a position to strike the ball, the ball being next to his weaker foot. In a stroke of poetic defiance, Infante chose to forego convention and use his stronger foot by twisting and crossing his legs that seemed like a harder option to execute.

first known use of the rabona - Ricardo Infante
El Grafico magazine, September 29, 1944 (source)

This act of rebellion mirrored the spirit of rabona in Spanish culture, a term synonymous with skipping school without parental approval. Infante’s move thus became christened as such, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In Italy it is sometimes referred to as incrociata, which means to cross something. Before the term became popular, it was simply called a cross legged kick.

Players known for the Rabona skill

Giovanni Roccotelli popularized the skill in the 1970s, and since then several other players followed suit. Today one can find numerous examples during matches, training, non league games, and even a penalty during a futsal match. Here’s a non comprehensive list of players who are known for this specific skill.

  1. Giovanni Roccotelli, Italian winger from the 1970s and 80s. Sometimes incorrectly credited as the inventor, he did popularise the skill in Italy.
  2. Claudio Borghi, part of the Argentinian World Cup winning team in 1986
  3. Pablo Aimar, cross/chip finish against Levante 2005
  4. Angel di Maria, who famously scored with a rabona kick during the UEFA Europa League game for Benfica
  5. David Villa, Spanish striker who player for Barcelona
  6. Ricardo Quaresma, the Portugese winger
  7. Eric Lamela, famously scored rabona goals against Asteras Tripolis (2014/15) and Arsenal (2021). He also won the Puskas award for his latter finish against Arsenal

Step by Step tutorial

Before attempting the rabona, it’s crucial to have a solid foundation in basic ball control and footwork. Ensure you’re comfortable with dribbling, passing, and shooting. Knowing how to use the outside of your boot to kick the ball is key.

Step 1: Positioning

To execute the rabona, begin by positioning yourself one step behind the ball, like as if you’re about to kick with your weaker foot.

Step 2: Balance

Maintain a balanced stance with your weight on your strong foot. Keep your eyes focused on the ball and the target area where you intend to direct it.

Step 3: The Step Forward

As you initiate the rabona, take a step towards the ball. Land your weaker foot next to the ball, and a little bit ahead of it. This is to allow enough room for your strong foot to wrap around the standing leg.

Step 4: Swing Away

With weight firmly on your weaker foot, swing your dominant leg behind your non-dominant leg in a sweeping motion. It’s like crossing your legs, except you swing the leg behind in order to generate power to kick the ball.

Step 5: Contact Point

Make contact with the ball using the outside of your dominant foot, ensuring you strike it with your laces for optimal control and accuracy.

Step 6: Maintain Balance

You’ll feel your body twist in an unnatural way, and follow through of your swinging leg could cause you to lose balance. Ensure you don’t get tangled up, and stay in control.

Step 7: Practice Makes Perfect

Mastering the rabona requires dedication and practice. Start by practicing the technique slowly, focusing on accuracy and control. Gradually increase the speed and intensity as you become more comfortable with the skill.

Rabona variations

Like most other skills, there’s no one way of doing the rabona kick. It can be combined with numerous other techniques to create unique variations.

One example is the fake rabona by maestro Eden Hazard [4]. It combines the fake shot with the cross legged technique.

Then we have the combination with double touch for added deception:

Why is this skill important

Diving into the nuances of the rabona skill unveils some intriguing considerations. The distinctive body posture demanded by this technique, coupled with its inherent difficulty, sparks debate within the soccer community. Is it worth the trouble?

Critics sometimes dismiss it as an unnecessary flourish, reserved for players lacking proficiency with their weaker foot. Instances like David Dunn’s unsuccessful attempt at the rabona kick [4] highlight the potential pitfalls of this maneuver.

Yet, amidst the skepticism, the rabona boasts its advantages. When used sparingly, its unorthodox nature can catch defenders off guard, providing a strategic edge to the attacking side.

But more than anything else, it is about the attitude. Like the gambeta, the rabona could be seen as a style – or a symbol of defiance on the soccer pitch.

“I don’t perform it out of vanity and it’s never premeditated. However, I do practice it, so you could say those goals are the fruit of hard work.”

Matias Urbano, Argentine striker (source)


Is trivela the same as rabona?

While both techniques use the outside of the boot to strike the ball, a rabona involves crossing your kicking leg behind the standing leg.

Can you rabona a penalty?

It’s not common, but it has been done successfully in a futsal match by Djalminha against Fluminese in 2013.

What is the meaning of rabona?

It is a word used to describe a soccer skill where a player strikes the ball by crossing the kicking leg behind the standing one.

Who did the first rabona?

The earliest player known to have executed this skill is Ricardo Infante in 1948.


  1. FIFA web archive
  2. Wikipedia on Giovanni Roccotelli
  4. The Guardian