Yosef Dagan, Israeli inventor of football's penalty shoot-out, dies aged 93

He was never credited by Fifa for proposing the format after Israel was knocked out of the Olympic through drawing lots


An Israeli man who invented football’s dreaded penalty shoot-out has died at the age of 93.

Yosef Dagan could never have guessed how much intense heartbreak and elation he would cause worldwide when, as Secretary General of the Israel FA in the 1960s, he devised the nail-biting method of deciding football matches in knock-out competitions.

He had been incensed when, during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Israel drew 1-1 in the quarter final with Bulgaria but was eliminated after Israel’s captain Mordechai Spiegler pulled a piece of paper saying “no” out of a huge sombrero, while the Bulgarian captain got the “yes”.

It prompted Mr Dagan, together with then Israel FA Chairman Michael Almog, to write a letter to then Fifa president Sir Stanley Rous.

The letter described the drawing of lots as “cruel” and suggested a shoot-out format of five penalties for each team and if there were still no winner the continuation of penalties until one team missed and the other scored.

Penalty shoot-outs had been used on rare occasions in various domestic competitions in Europe and Latin America but not on the international scene.

The letter was published in FIFA’s official magazine in 1969 and after, much discussion around the world, the exact format proposed by the Israelis was adopted after the World Cup in 1970 — but Mr Dagan was never officially acknowledged for having initiated the idea.

The first-ever such penalty shootout took place in August 1970 when Manchester United won at Hull in the League Cup, with George Best scoring the first penalty and Denis Law becoming the first player to miss in a shoot-out.

Over the years, penalty shoot-outs have brought intense misery to England, which has lost on spot kicks on no less than six major occasions in World Cups and European Championships — including the 1990 World Cup semi final and the Euro 96 semi final, both times against Germany. Some pride was restored in the 2018 World Cup when England beat Colombia in a penalty shoot-out in the Round of 16.

Mr Dagan’s death, which was first reported in the Israeli press on Sunday, was not linked to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Israel FA Director-General Rotem Kamer said: “Yosef Dagan was a leading and significant figure in the growth of Israeli football and the development of the Israel FA. Over many decades, he gave of himself and nurtured our international relations. He also had the privilege of becoming the inventor of the match deciding penalty shoot-out, a made-in-Israel innovation, which has had such an enormous impact on the international game.”

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