The Man From The Hornet writes…
What is it about the position of goalkeeper on the football field that attracts such colourful characters? Is it the different coloured jersey that appeals to the egomaniac, the man who stands out from the herd?
Or is that perspective somewhat cart-before-horse?
Is it the position itself – solitary, set apart, long periods of contemplation suddenly shattered by sudden bouts of frenetic conflict – that shape the characters of those who wear the gloves and stand between the sticks? Standing all on his own for 90 minutes, no other footballer is balanced so delicately between hero and clown. No other footballer is required to stare Kipling’s twin imposters in the eye on such a regular basis. The buck stops with the goalie.
The question comes to mind today on the 85th anniversary of the birth of the great Lev Yashin.
Born in Moscow in 1929, he represented the Soviet Union on 78 occasions and kept goal for the mighty Moscow Dynamo from 1950 to 1970.
Regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper of all time, his image – this being a style blog – is burned on the retinas of football fans the world over.
Yashin always cut an imposing figure behind 10 red jerseys of the CCCP XI: a shock of black hair atop a black jersey, black shorts and black stockings. Johnny Cash wasn’t the ONLY man in black, you know.
His way with a phrase is almost as legendary as his playing ability and his look. Amid quips about saving a penalty being a greater feeling than seeing comrade Gagarin win the space race, my favourite is this:
“What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future.”
Tormented! It’s high opera. Outfield players seldom reflect on the nature existence in such a way. In this Yashin always calls Tolstoy to mind (with apologies for the paraphrase): All outfield footballers are alike: each goalkeeper is mad in his own way.
As a goalkeeper he’s in exalted company. French existentialist Albert Camus played goalkeeper – our topic is reflected in his quote: “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also played in goal. As did Pavarotti. Pope Saint John Paul II also kept goal – we know of no defender, midfielder or striker to have been canonised. Not even Kenny Dalglish.