In response to unprecedented international media attention for a painful goaltending gaffe, Minnesota United FC filmed and released a video Thursday afternoon to get the world laughing with — instead of at — the soccer club’s moment of misfortune.
Such measures became necessary after Sammy Ndjock, alone with the ball near his own goal, inexplicably threw a clearing pass attempt back into the net during Wednesday’s 4-0 loss in a friendly match against AFC Bournemouth.
Though the match was not televised, cameras captured the action. Replays sped through social media channels. Deadspin and ESPN had their fun. Across the pond, the Independent ran an online headline regarding “what could be the worst own goal of the decade.”
The world got to see what a shocked and dismayed National Sports Center Stadium crowd in Blaine saw — Ndjock unfurling his right arm to release the ball then realizing he’d held on too long, causing it to curl back. He made a futile attempt to chase the ball down and avoid the fiasco but came up empty.
Ndjock and coach Carl Craig declined requests for phone interviews Thursday. A 41-second video released on Twitter served as their response. Opening with Craig addressing the team before Wednesday’s match, the video cuts to Ndjock spreading jelly on bread, eating the sandwich and looking down to see jelly all over the palms of his goalkeeper gloves.
The club’s tweet said, “PSA: always wait at least 30 minutes after eating jelly sandwiches before hitting the pitch …”
In an e-mail, the club said: “This is obviously not how we wanted Minnesota United to be seen internationally! So we decided to turn it on its head and create a video that shows its OK to make mistakes and it’s important to laugh at yourself sometimes.”
Ndjock, the only player on the Minnesota United FC roster boasting World Cup credentials (Cameroon in 2014), got support from teammate Jack Blake after the match.
“Things like that happen,” Blake said. “All we can say to him is, ‘Keep your head up.’ ”
Local soccer fans also expressed support on Twitter. Bruce McGuire, an active blogger and respected voice in the local soccer community, tweeted: “I guarantee that come Saturday night @Ndjock33 is gonna get one helluva welcome from @MNDarkClouds and @TrueNorthElite! #WeGotYerBack”
Just four days earlier, Ndjock drew Craig’s praises for solid play and a clean sheet in a 2-0 upset victory against previously unbeaten Indy Eleven.
After Wednesday however, Craig, said he was “absolutely gobsmacked” by Ndjock’s own goal: “It’s professional football. It’s just not good enough.”