That was when the decision was made: the easiest thing for me would be to get back in the goal!
I’ve always been fascinated by goals. In football and in ice hockey. The space delimited by a white net with nothing else behind.
When a puck is flying at you at full speed, you probably don’t see anything more than a moving blur, but I love the feeling when I throw my hand in the air really quickly and the puck slides in the catcher like a car driving into a garage. I can concede five goals and still I love goalkeeping, I’m always alert.
But as you already know, it was the football goal that won me over. It was a fatal attraction.
When we were kids, we wanted to stay as far away from the posts and the crossbar as we possibly could: “No way, I’m not going in the goal! You’re gonna blame me when we lose.”
But I loved the responsibility, it drove me. “If I don’t concede a goal, nobody’s going to berate me. I will do my utmost on the goal-line, I’ll rip myself in two if need be, but I’m not letting the ball behind my back.”
Goalkeeping hurts, it’s a thankless job; but to me, it’s beautiful. I’d never change it for anything else.
A few years ago I thought I could write a little goalkeeping manual. Some basic advice on what to do when a boy decides to become a goalie like I did. I wrote every night, I typed out about twenty pages, but then my computer crashed and my whole handiwork was gone. So I’ll just try to explain how a goalkeeper sees his job here.
I want to do that because I feel like most people – even people in football – don’t really understand goalkeeping. Why? Because they’ve never tried it. They don’t know what it feels like when there’s nothing behind you but the net. And I don’t only mean professional football, that’s a different story, different sporting level. I’m talking about goalkeeping in general, especially amateur football games played for enjoyment.
A goalkeeper is a loner in a crowd. A solitaire without whom the match cannot start. In amateur games it sometimes happens that the players arrive late, they run onto the pitch after kick-off, because they took too long in the bathroom or they couldn’t leave work early. But the goalkeeper has to be there no matter what. The referee always gestures to him before the kick-off, as if to ask: “You ready, mate?”
And when you lift your gloved hand, it means the show can start. Without goalkeeper, there would be no kick-off.
If a player gets injured, they often get treated behind the touchline and the game continues. But if a goalkeeper needs treatment, the game has to be interrupted.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 27