It’s been quite the whirlwind week for Venezuelan soccer player Bendix Parra. Last Tuesday, he was a starter in one of the biggest matches in the history of his club, Paraguay’s Independiente. This Tuesday, he found himself unemployed when Independiente tore up his contract. All of this for one especially awful Panenka penalty.
Independiente currently competes in Paraguay’s second division, after getting relegated at the end of last season. However, because of the particularities of Paraguay’s league system, Independiente also managed to qualify for this season’s Copa Sudamericana, the South American equivalent of the Europa League. International competition for a little club like Independiente is, understandably, a very big deal.
In the first round of the competition, Independiente drew Colombian club La Equidad. The first leg in Paraguay finished with a scoreless draw, and Independiente managed to hold onto another scoreless draw in the return leg, which sent the match to penalties.
Parra, who started at center forward that day, was Independiente’s third penalty taker. With his attempt, Parra had the opportunity to tie the shootout up at two makes a piece. But then he did this:
Independiente went on to lose on penalties by a score of 4-3.
Parra was one of three Independiente players who failed from the penalty spot, but his weak attempt was the most memorable. Because of that, Parra has been the one who’s suffered the most blowback.
Yesterday, Independiente president, Eriberto Gamarra, announced that the club had decided to part ways with Parra. “It was very irresponsible his way of kicking the penalty, so we in the board made that decision [to rescind his contract],” Gamarra explained in an interview with Cardinal Deportivo. Gamarra admitted that “we are all responsible for not progressing to the next round,” but noted that some at the club blame Parra especially for the loss, so he decided to go ahead and drop the 26-year-old from the roster.
The main reason for Parra’s harsh treatment from those inside the club seems to be economic. Gamarra said as much when he explained what was at stake:
“If we passed phase each player would have a good little plate, 30 million for each more or less. That’s why in Colombia, the boys looked at him badly because of the economic damage. The club lost $200,000 too.”
Presumably Gamarra means 30 million in guaraní, Paraguay’s currency. Converted to U.S. dollars, that means each Independiente player missed out on about $4,800 by losing to La Equidad. With those hefty sums the players and the club were in line for, you can see why many would be angry, even if it’s totally unfair to pin it all on Parra.
Parra himself seems bummed by but accepting of his cruel fate. In an interview with Cardinal Deportivo, he said there were “no excuses” for his penalty attempt and that he was “sorry for what happened, for the club, for the fans. They have the right to be upset.” He explained that he was worried the keeper knew which way he was going to shoot, and so at the last moment he changed his mind and decided to kick it down the middle.
Echoing what Gamarra said about people at the club blaming him for the loss, Parra too brought up the lack of support he received from his teammates:
“Some teammates supported me,” he said, although these were not a majority. “It is not an easy situation, the only support you have is that of your family,” he said.”
Parra is now looking for a new club, hopefully one with teammates and executives who won’t be so quick to scapegoat the poor guy for a single, admittedly unforgettable, bad play.