Goalkeeper: Good Foot skills And Ability To Read The Game Is Why He Is Today’s Specialized Key Position
In today’s modern soccer game, we take the goalkeeper for granted. A soccer team is made up of 10 players wearing the same design soccer kit and one player in another. This team division is so natural that when a coach lists his formations he does not bother with the first element of his team. To speak of a 1-4-3-3 or 1-4-2-3-1 would seem insane.
When soccer (football) began with its foundation of the Football Association in 1863, there was no such thing as a goalkeeper.
In those early years, in the the United Kingdom at least, it was all about dribbling and scoring goals, and very little emphasis was placed in organizing systems of stopping them. In fact the early game rules makes no reference to a goalkeeper.
Under those early rules, any player could handle the ball by making a ‘fair catch’ – which permitted them a free kick if, immediately after catching the ball, they made an impression in the pitch with their shoe. Running with the ball in both hands and scoring with a throw, was not permitted.
The 1887 Harrow Rules, reflected the game as it had been played at the school for some time, allowed ‘handling’ but only to take a clean catch, at which the player had to shout ‘yards’. If he did so, he was entitled to move three yards in any direction without being challenged.
There was not a player who hung back, although there were, of course, defenders. In phaininda and harpastum, ancient Greek and Roman games that can be regarded as forerunners of football, slower players were positioned at the back.
The goals themselves weren’t standardized. At some public schools, the goal stretched the entire width of the pitch, while at others it consisted of a single tree or door; if the goal was either too big or too small, there was no point in having a keeper.
In Football at Westminster School, HC Benham writes of games that featured goals about 12 yards wide. The space between conveniently located trees at either end of the pitch.
In 1863 the game laws standardized the goal at eight yards wide and in 1866 a revision (insisted upon by players from the Sheffield club – which, unusually, had grown up outside the public school framework) introduced a maximum height of eight feet, it became logical to try to defend that space with a single player. The Sheffield Rules of 1857 make allowance for what was effectively a ‘last man back‘ ruling, and from the mid-1860s the goalkeeper was an accepted position.
In 1871, he was written into the laws as the last remaining player who could use his hands. At that stage, he could handle the ball anywhere on the pitch. In 1887 he was restricted to handling in his own half – a goalkeeper when handling, an FA memorandum noted, was intended ‘to be in defense of his goal’ – and only in 1912 to handling in his own box, mainly because the Sunderland and Wales goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose had a habit of bouncing the ball to halfway and then launching kicks on to the opponents’ goalmouth.
It was also in 1912 that the goalkeeper should wear a different colored shirt to the rest of his team: the final division of the keeper from the rest.
Since then, the process has been one of gradual change. For a while, goalkeepers hanged back and stayed on their lines – but, slowly, the benefits of advancing began to be recognized.
Hungarian Gyula Grosics was the first keeper to like to leave his boxand he was a key part of the side that won the 1952 Olympics and went on to beat England 6-3 at Wembley the following year.
Grosics was an intellectual and a little bit odd. He was the start of a trend, though, and the likes of Lev Yashin, perhaps the greatest keeper of them all, the Bulgarian Apostol Sokolov and Liverpool’s Tommy Lawrence began to advance: thus, the sweeper-keeper was born.
In the early seventies, Johan Cruyff insisted that Holland selected as their goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed. He was only 5ft 10ins and not a great keeper in the conventional sense. But he could read the game well and was a decent passer. “If everybody moves forward, you need an extra defender,“ said Cruyff. “So the goalkeeper has to be able to play as well, therefore having good footwork and decent ball skills.“
The introduction of the backpass law in 1992 accelerated the process. Goalkeepers had to be accomplished with at least one foot, ideally both. As they’ve become better players, so they’ve begun to get more involved in the play. Victor Valdes isn’t a great shot-stopper, but he is essential to Barcelona’s style. He kept passing the ball out even after his mistake cost Barca a first-minute goal in El Clasico last December.
Goalkeepers pass more, but they also now score more. Gone are the days when a goal from a keeper was a long punt from his own box; now they weigh in with late headers and, increasingly, penalties and free-kicks. Rogerio Ceni has scored more than 100 times for Sao Paulo.
He is an extreme case off course, but he is part the prevailing mood: goalkeepers are considered less and less the odd man apart, and are becoming once again just another member of the team.
Soccer has always been an endless source of life lessons on and off the pitch for Niko.As an ex player Niko has loved the sport since he was 4 years old. That was the 1st time his dad, an ex professional goalkeeper for FC Olympiakos, took him to the stadium and Niko started to experienced pro soccer in Europe at a very young age. The rest is history.