Being a goalkeeper is not a label, it’s fate.
Even football rules privilege us: goalkeeper is the only player who can grab the ball with his hands in the penalty box without getting booked.
But as far as advantages go, that’s about it. If you’re afraid of getting punched, kicked, maybe even getting your bones broken, and if you’re not willing to work hard and keep improving yourself, you probably shouldn’t become a goalkeeper. And if you do want to try, you’ll have to be prepared to spend your whole football life under constant pressure. First goalkeeping commandment has everything to do with concentration. If you want to take a little break in the goal and your head gets out of the game – so to speak – you’re going to pay for it. You can trust me, I’m speaking from experience. But this is something you don’t know at the beginning of your career, you learn this the hard way during the years.
The Plzeň training ground was surrounded by a high fence made from concrete panels. After warm-up, all the boys would go right to this fence, they’d get a ball and then learn how to handle the ball once it bounces back from the wall – how to stop it with their instep, how to stop it with the sole of the boot. But the goalies stayed at the other side of the pitch, working on their skills, throwing themselves on the ground, practicing saves, catching the ball in all the ways possible. You see that it was much more demanding and much less exciting than kicking and stopping the ball. That’s why the goalkeeping group was always thinning. We started with seven people, next week it was only five people, in a month only three boys were left. Only those with enough motivation and perseverance who really wanted to do it.
One of my friends also started as a goalie. He was lazy, he didn’t want to run, and he thought being a goalkeeper was just the right thing for him. Sure, he didn’t have to run as much as the other players, but on the other hand he was always bruised and scraped, his palms were sore from catching the ball, and every time he conceded a goal he got berated: “Why didn’t you save it? You go down slower than level crossing barriers.”
It was just a matter of time before he gave up. After a few days, he hung his head and muttered: “I’m done. Being a goalkeeper is the worst thing in football.”
But I never wanted to give up. Not once.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 28