Friday, April 1, 2011

Goalkeepers: All Guts But Not Enough Glory?

It's perhaps the most underrated position on the football field, the least talked about in terms of importance for the team, perhaps the most vital position but yet, it's the hardest to replace when they leave/get injured.

I'm of course talking about the goalkeeper.

Go up to any football fan and ask them to name their favourite players. Most likely than not, you'll get names like Zlatan Ibrahamovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas etcetera. What's one thing these players all have in common? They're all attack minded goalscoring players.

When a team wins a game, who are the names that grab the headlines? It's the strikers/midfielders (and sometimes depending on how they played during the game, defenders). All with chances during the 90 minutes of play to score goals and win the game for their team, and yes defenders do score (just ask David Luiz of Chelsea FC, Roberto Carlos for Real Madrid/Fenerbache and Jamie Harnwell for Perth Glory FC). But more often then not, the main defensive stalwart of the team gets little to no recognition for their part in the game: the goalkeeper.

Goalkeepers are the "commanders" of the defensive backline for their team. Granted they may not be running for 90 minutes, but they are just as athletic as any other player on the field. Great examples of goalkeepers who come to mind: Iker Casillas of Real Madrid, Petr Cech of Chelsea FC, Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich/Germany fame, Mark Schwartzer of Fullham FC/Australia (just to name a few amongst many). What's common about these keepers? They are a main part of their club's/national team's success on the field. They are there pulling off the incredible, athletic dives to keep their teams in the game, they launch the counter attacks that lead to goals (ala Manuel Neuer and Miroslav Klose for Germany in the 2010 FIFA World Cup) and has the wieght of the world on their shoulders during a penalty shootout, just like the 2005 FIFA World Cup playoff spot between Australia and Uruguay. The headlines don't read that the penalty kick taker missed their shot, it reads that the goalkeepers have been beaten.

This is not to diminish the importance to what the other players bring to the team, far from it. Besides, we need strikers to score goals, midfielders to feed the ball through and defenders to become walls to defend the goal. But who is the "last line of defense?" Who has it all to to when the offside trap fails and its 3 v 1? Who has to put their body on the line to save a shot going 100km/h?

The goalkeeper.

So next time you're playing football, remember to thank your keeper. They'll be thankful for it.

By Marcel Abboud