Congratulations are due to Takagawa Gakuen High School, who got their Japanese High School tournament campaign off to a flying start on Tuesday with a win over Star Ridge of Ishikawa.
Takagawa Gakuen claimed a 4-2 victory in the first round of the competition, which is in its centenary year, with two goals apiece from Haruki Hayashi and Keigo Nakayama. However, one goal in particular caught the attention of the wider world thanks to it involving a truly inspired bit of set-piece silliness.
Presented with a free kick in wide area, Takagawa Gakuen decided the time was right to deploy an elaborate routine they must have worked hard on perfecting on the training ground.
高川学園、フリーキックの時に輪になって踊ってたんだけど何？ pic.twitter.com/gYCml8YsKJ— yoshinikov (@yoshinikov) December 29, 2021
As the two potential takers of the free kick stood over the dead ball, five attacking players joined hands in a circle and skipped around anti-clockwise, "ring-a-ring-o'-roses" style, on the far side of the area in an attempt to baffle the defence. Amazingly, the routine succeeded as the players in the ring broke apart and charged into the six-yard box before the ball was headed home.
The clip of the goal was posted on Twitter by user @yoshinikov and immediately went viral. In its first 24 hours online, the video was viewed more than five million times.
Japanese high-school football has a glorious history when it comes to innovative set pieces, with East Fukuoka FC enjoying a brief wave of global attention in 2018 when they executed their sublime "walking wall" routine.
However, as revolutionary as Takagawa Gakuen's choreography might seem, the team cannot claim to be the originators of the method. It dates back to at least 2014, when Czech outfit PK Pribram attempted to bamboozle opponents Teplice with a jaunty little pre-corner hoedown. Unfortunately, the routine proved entirely pointless as the set-piece delivery was sent sailing over the entire penalty area and out for a throw-in on the far side.
It's taken seven years since then, but finally Takagawa Gakuen have legitimised the "maypole dance" pre-free kick routine as a bona fide option for any teams looking to maximise an attacking set piece.