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Star striker Cisse recalls his ultimate golden goal
PAPISS Cisse has scored so many incredible goals in the last 12 months that the remarkable has almost become mundane. Yet when the Newcastle United striker was asked to select his most memorable finish during a chat at the club's training ground this week, his face immediately lit up.
Would it be last weekend's magnificent dipping half-volley against Southampton? Perhaps last season's gravity-defying strike from close to the touchline at Chelsea? Or maybe it would be the header he scored from outside the penalty area during a high-profile international with Ivory Coast?
In fact, it was none of the above. Instead, Cisse allowed his mind to wander back more than a decade, to the days when he was playing district-level football in his native Senegal.
He might only have been 16, but the power and precision that would enable him to become one of the most admired centre-forwards in Europe was already in place. It's just a shame the record books will never acknowledge a finish that is etched in Senegalese footballing folklore.
“There is a famous story from when I was growing up,” said Cisse, whose blend of broken English and French was interrupted by a fit of giggles as he recalled the incident. “Once, I was playing in a big local derby in my town and the referee who was in charge of the game became quite notorious for what happened.
“I took a free-kick about 30 yards from goal, rolled the ball to my team-mate and he passed it back and I hit a powerful strike. The keeper tried to catch the ball, but ended up falling into the net with it.
“The nets back home are not well held down like they are over here and the whole thing collapsed and the ball ended up flying out of the net. The referee thought that because he had not seen the ball go into the net, it wasn't a goal. He didn't give the goal, which I couldn't believe.
“It was a semi-final against our local rivals so it was quite an important match, but luckily someone had filmed the whole thing so everyone could clearly see the ball had gone in. Right up until this day, the referee has not been allowed to referee another match.”
In fairness, the unfortunate official is not the only person to have been bamboozled by the strength of Cisse's shooting. Watch a repeat of last season's swerving effort at Stamford Bridge, and while the arc of the ball's trajectory seems almost unnatural, it is the sight of a helpless Petr Cech flailing his arms above his head that sticks in the memory.
The same momentary sense of disbelief was discernible in Michel Vorm as Cisse fashioned an equally remarkable finish at the Liberty Stadium last April, and could be detected in Artur Boruc last weekend as the ball whistled over him before cannoning into the net off the underside of the crossbar. Three incredible strikes; three magical moments. But how would Cisse rank them?
“The goal at Chelsea has to be the number one,” he said. “I'd put Sunday's goal at number two and then the Swansea goal at number three. I don't think last weekend's was the best goal of my career, but it was certainly the best I have scored this season.
“It's strange because people talk about the best goals, but this season I also scored probably the worst goal I have ever scored (when Sammy Ameobi's last-minute shot against West Brom deflected into the goal off his backside). People might say it wasn't really my goal, but as it went in off me, I would say that it was.”
While last weekend's 30-yard effort could be described as 'typical Cisse', the West Brom deflection was something of a rarity thanks to its scruffiness.
Demba Ba chipped in with his fair share of goals from the inner confines of the penalty area, but few of Cisse's 21 goals since joining Newcastle have conformed to the poacher's tag.
There can often be a distinction between a 'great goalscorer' and a 'scorer of great goals', but Cisse does not want to be regarded as the latter at the expense of the former.
“If I'm honest, I would really like to be both,” he said. “I want to be someone who scores great goals, but I also want to be recognised as a great goalscorer. The most important thing is that I am scoring. If I am being honest, I would rather score 30 bad goals than three great ones.”
The last Newcastle player to be both a great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals was Alan Shearer, and the comparisons between Cisse's strike against Southampton and Shearer's legendary volley against Everton were immediately apparent.
Since moving to Newcastle in a £9m switch from Freiburg, Cisse has worn Shearer's old number nine shirt with distinction, and while the African admits his standards dipped in the first half of this season, in no small part because he was played out of position in order to accommodate Ba, his displays in the last month have hinted at a welcome return to form.
Surprisingly, Cisse has never met Shearer, but he is well aware of the former skipper's status on Tyneside and hopes to one day be regarded as a worthy successor.
“I hope that one day I will get chance to meet him,” he said. “I think he was a different kind of striker to me, but he was a great player and I have watched a lot of videos and seen some fantastic goals that he scored.
“Whenever he scored, he raised his right hand and that became his symbol. I have seen it and it was quite a mythical thing. I have read about his goals, and even now you hear people shouting his name. He is someone I have a great deal of respect for. I am not at that level yet, but I want to get there.”