Well, as you all know, I did end up in goal, but the whole story started with one big coincidence.
The kids’ team had their training sessions every day from Monday to Thursday, and it was up to each kid to decide how often they would come. It never even occurred to me to skip practice. I needed to move, to run, to compete, I simply loved being on the pitch.
I wasn’t exactly the tallest one, so the coaches probably never thought I could be a goalkeeper. Why would they? Every time they were announcing the line-up before the game, I heard: “Left midfield – Čech, Petr Čech.”
Then one day everything went awry. We had a friendly match coming up, against boys from fifth grade, who were two to three years older than us. Unfortunately for us none of our goalies turned up, even though normally we had at least three present. Unfortunately? I probably shouldn’t say that and be a little humble, because it affected my whole life.
The coaches were marching in front of the dressing room, peeking at us through the door and musing: “Who are we going to send there? Jesus, we’re going to get thrashed.”
I was about to put on my football shirt when the coaches raised their eyebrows: “Hey, this one likes to go into the goal during practice. Let Petr have a try. Seems like he has some skill.”
I didn’t even have to turn my head, I knew they were talking about me.
So this was my first time! First time I was going into the goal for real.
The guys we were playing against were older, taller and stronger, but we didn’t do that badly. We conceded five goals, but there could have been five times more. I would never have thought that this friendly game would change my life forever. I didn’t give it much thought back then, it was just one game and I was in goal with a big number 1 emblazoned on my back, without gloves, because there was no one who could lend them to me. I didn’t mind.
I remember how happy I was every time I caught the ball. It could have been a shot or a deflected ball, I just caught it and was happy. And it bugged me when the ball was only stopped by the net. I was furious, but I think nobody could tell.
And this feeling has stayed with me throughout my career. I hate it when the ball ends in the goal I’m guarding.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 19
Now I get it. Ice hockey wasn’t for me, oh well. So I found another thing to focus on. …
Even in hockey I wanted to be in the goal and nowhere else. And if I was in the goal, then I was the great Dominator. …