Remembering Mack and supporting Penn State Men's Soccer
Remembering Mack and supporting Penn State Men's Soccer

The Goalkeeper

SheerinI heard this book recommended on NPR this past week. It is Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano. It is a geat read, even better during the World Cup. Mack’s favorite player was Iker Casillas and yesterday was not a good day for the Spanish keeper. The Netherlands (whom the Brady Ladies were rooting for) exacted their revenge for the last World Cup Final by destroying Spain 5-1. Iker, who had not played much this year, Real Madrid relegating him to Champions League and Spanish Cup play, and his rust showed. The Netherlands wanted this game badly and Spain just wasn’t ready. In truth neither was our favorite net minder. Should he be replaced? I actually think not, I think more playing time will focus his skills and get him back in form faster than a fresh keeper off the bench. He really is, if not the best keeper, one of the top 3 in the world. But sometimes being the best goalkeeper really doesn’t matter.

Last night the New York Rangers lost the Stanley Cup in a double overtime loss 3-2 to the LA Kings. In that loss (notice I didn’t say Kings’ win?) Lundqvist played perhaps the greatest game of hockey a keeper has ever performed. Yet it didn’t matter. He let the winning puck fly past and with that the season is over. The best articles all point out that he did everything the Rangers needed (and that he and Quick, the LA goalie, were likely the best players on the ice) aside from go to the other end of the ice and score the goals that no one else on his team seemed interested in pursuing.

But that is the fate of a keeper. Their job is to be the last line of defense. He has to be beaten for the other team to win. There is a winner and a loser and while in soccer the winner is usually a striker, the loser is always a keeper.

The Goalkeeper
They also call him doorman, keeper, goalie, bouncer, or net-minder, but he could just as well be called martyr, pay-all, penitent, or punching bag. They say where he walks the grass never grows.

He is alone, condemned to watch the match from afar. Never leaving the goal, his only company the two posts and the crossbar, he awaits his own execution by firing squad. He used to dress in black, like the referee. Now the referee doesn’t have to dress like a crow and the goalkeeper can console himself in his solitude with colorful gear.

He does not score goals; he is there to keep them from being scored. The goal is soccer’s fiesta: the striker sparks delight and the goalkeeper, a wet blanket, snuffs it out.

He wears the number one on his back. The first to be paid? No, the first to pay. It is always the keeper’s fault. And when it isn’t, he still gets blamed. Whenever a player commits a foul, the keeper is the one who gets punished: they abandon him there in the immensity of the empty net to face his executioner alone. And when the team has a bad afternoon, he is the one who pays the bill, expiating the sins of others under a rain of flying balls.

The rest of the players can blow it once in a while, or often, and then redeem themselves with a spectacular dribble, a masterful pass, a well-placed volley. Not him. The crowd never forgives the goalkeeper. Was he drawn out by a fake? Left looking ridiculous? Did the ball skid? Did his fingers of steel turn to putty? With a single slip-up the goalie can ruin a match or lose a championship, and the fans suddenly forget all his feats and condemn him to eternal disgrace. Damnation will follow him to the end of his days.”

Excerpt From: Galeano, Eduardo. “Soccer in Sun and Shadow.” Byliner Inc., 2013. iBooks.

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Mack and John watching Iker Casillas playing for Real Madrid v. Celtic. Mack is wearing his Iker Spain jersey.
Mack and John watching Iker Casillas playing for Real Madrid v. Celtic. Mack is wearing his Iker Spain jersey.

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