I’m not going to lie, it took me at least two months to get used to this new level of play.
Back in junior football, I could simply stretch my arms and wait for the ball to get to me, but now I couldn’t even jump fast enough to make a save.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Three shots and three times the ball went in. Three conceded goals. “Damn it!” Three times I felt like a butter-fingers who was in the goal by mistake.
All the scraps and battles hurt much more than before and I was beginning to find out how many blows and punches I could take during one practice. And how lost I could feel when there was an experienced and resourceful striker running towards me. He has a clear shot, I prepare to jump, and then I can only turn my head and watch the pass he sends to a teammate who is in front of the now unguarded goal. Well, that was the first league. It wasn’t the nice and easy “I see the goal, so I take the shot” anymore.
When a 200-pound Hulk ran into me mid-jump I flew away like a rag doll. My palms were burning more and more with each save I did make. My wrists hurt, my hands couldn’t take it, I was done.
It was clearer and clearer with every shot: No junior becomes a star overnight. I would have to wait and work hard to become the first-choice keeper of the senior team. If Jan Šimák or Jan Vorel took a shot against me, it was almost safer to get the hell out of the ball’s way. Every ball I did catch stung my palms. I must say, this was the only moment in my career when I had to tape my hands with athletic tape. I was putting tape on my fingertips and on my wrists to firm them up. Usually I feel much better without tape and plasters, I have a better feeling in my hands. But I know many guys who apply tape for every practice, just to be sure, or because they’re used to it.
I also needed to put on some muscle. Up until then I couldn’t do any serious iron-pumping; given my growth spurt doctors were afraid that lifting weights would damage my back. But now I couldn’t put it off anymore. I was a skinny beanpole and mere push-ups don’t give you the necessary muscle and strength.
I had to hit the gym, get under those machines. I didn’t have the strength and muscle and manliness I needed, but within a month, it was a little better, within two months I felt almost alright. Legs, arms, shoulders, back – my whole body needed strengthening. Suddenly I weighed eighty-six kilos, or 190 pounds – only a little less than I weigh today.
If I stayed as scrawny as I was I wouldn’t stand a chance in the goal.
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
Jokes aside, now I have to be a pro. …
Mr Hogen, you’re not going to score against me. Or are you? …