To score one own goal might be considered unfortunate, but to do it twice in the same game probably goes beyond that. What do you call someone who puts into his own net twice in 11 minutes? Well, you call him Kakha Kaladze.
Indeed, those two goals mean Kaladze ended his international career with a negative goal tally, having scored just once for Georgia at the right end. It is amusing to see something like this happen to one of European football’s more decorated players – one of those who can shrug it off or, better still, laugh at his own misfortune.
Having avoided defeat in three of their first four home games in qualification for the 2010 World Cup, Georgia might not have been confident against Italy, but they probably felt they could scrape something from the game with a bit of luck.
Italy hadn’t excelled on the road, being held by Bulgaria and needing a stoppage-time goal from Antonio Di Natale to win in Cyprus, and there was already a sense that the World Cup holders belonged in the ‘good but not great’ category – especially when the scores were level at half-time.
Kaladze knew the opposition too. He was in his ninth Serie A season, each of them with Milan, and club team-mates Andrea Pirlo and Gianluca Zambrotta were in Italy’s starting XI in Tbilisi. Perhaps, then, he was feeling overconfident, or just too relaxed, when he threw himself at Angelo Palombo’s long-range strike.
Was Palombo really going for goal, or was it just a hopeful ball into the danger zone where Vincenzo Iaquinta was waiting? Either way, Georgi Lomaia seemed to have it covered before Kaladze intervened. What stands out is how sure the Milan man seemed in his actions. He’s Tom Daley. He’s Superman. He’s… headed the ball into his own net.
The acrobatics were almost impressive for a man whose usual playing style might best be described as rigid, though it’s hard to imagine that was enough to grant him a sympathetic ear. All you can do after a moment like this is dust yourself down, get back on your feet and return to leading by example as your country’s captain. No, not like that, Kakha.
Unlike Palombo’s wild effort for the first goal, Domenico Criscito’s dangerous low cross at least needed clearing. And yet, with his wild swipe, Kaladze looks like a player whose feet have been swapped over. It’s a perfectly accurate finish into the corner, and yet he approaches the ball with the confidence of a man who feels he has everything where he wants it – if anything, he approaches it like a chance at the right end.
Lomaia is already on one knee as the ball hits the net, as if to balance the impact of his jaw dropping to the turf in sheer shock, while Kaladze’s own reaction to the second effort is the real kicker.
For all we know, he wants to stay lying there for a little while, maybe take a short nap and hope that by the time he wakes up, everyone has forgotten about the mess he left. With that in mind, it’s almost rude of another of Kaladze’s teammates to assume he needs helping up.
It’s football’s equivalent of flooding the kitchen in your Airbnb when the dishwasher overflows and responding by catching the next flight home and changing all your contact details. It won’t work, obviously, but the small hit of hope you get when you wonder if it might is all you need. Still, while he might have chalked the first up to misfortune, he seems at peace with his fate by the time the second hits the back of the net.
As the defender walks back upfield having given the opponents a two-goal lead, he throws both arms into the air before realising there’s no one to despair at but himself, and so he has to style it out into a shrug: the expressiveness of Larry David beneath the mane of Jerry Seinfeld.
It turns out, after scoring two goals for Italy, Kaladze has managed to take on the stereotypical Italian characteristic of being able to speak entire sentences with one silent gesticulation. Several years of club football in Milan might not have given him that talent, but 11 minutes in Tbilisi did.