The Lost of Art of Goalkeeping and the Jabulani Blame Game

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England goalkeeper Gordon Banks makes a remarkable save from a header by Pele of Brazil during their first round match in the World Cup at Guadalajara, Mexico, June 1970.  Brazil went on to win 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive

England coach Fabio Capello believes the World Cup ball is the worst he has ever seen.
The Jabulani ball being used in South Africa for the World Cup has been widely criticised because of its irregular flight.
“For the players it is terrible,” said Capello. “It is also terrible for the keepers because it is impossible to anticipate the trajectory.”
World governing body Fifa has defended the ball, saying it was fully “tested”.

Adidas say altitude is the main factor affecting the way the ball behaves in flight and have blamed players for not practising enough with it before the tournament
However, Capello feels the ball is having an adverse effect on games.
“The big problem is that sometimes this ball is impossible to control,” said England’s Italian manager.
“It is good when you play short passes but when you try to switch the ball with long passes it is very difficult to understand the trajectory.” (BBC Sport)

Robert Green was quick to point out that his error could not be blamed on the new Adidas ball and was also at pains to avert any attention to the incessant Vuvuzela ‘music’ from his hapless blunder. Fabio Capello is just the latest in a long line of those not too keen on the Jabulani and one wonders if the new football was ever given the green light by those who play and manage within the game itself.

Did the ball just pass muster with those who counted the dollar/pound/euro signs? If the ball is as bad as they say it is, and that does appear to be the case, surely there must have been a point where it was handed to the great and good within the game (not Sepp Blatter) to see if they were happy with it. What happened then? Did they think “how bad can it be, its a football!” and then just left it on the ground unkicked and uncaught?

The fairly awful level of keeping at the tournament is in my view more symptomatic of the general poor level of the goalkeeping as a whole. I have never seen so much fisting (no jokes please), punching and ‘parrying’ in all my life. The idea of catching the thing has become passé in an age where it seems that the order of the day is to showboat. Tip overs have become acrobatic stunts and frankly those in the know must be embarrassed at the manner in which some ‘top notch’ keepers deal with the most rudimentary parts of the game.

Don’t get me wrong, in many ways these are two separate issues. There is no doubt the ball is behaving oddly. Equally there is no doubt goalkeeping has become something of a joke. Is is a coincidence that when asked to name a truly good goalkeeper in this day and age that the same three or four names come up ad infinitum. England do not have a good goalie and the same can be said for most highly rated international sides.

The order of the day is to get yourself noticed. Maybe its a World Cup thing, the hopes that your latest save will be seen by a prospective interested club leading you to leap trout like to push a shot wide of the post that was in reality travelling at a snails pace and was in fact going wide.

It has gotten to the point that when I see a custodian catch the ball I am genuinely surprised. There are some exceptions of course. Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama single handedly kept the marauding Argentines at bay and did so with a fair amount of flair tipping genuinely goal bound efforts with an outstretched arm and rushing out to effectively become a fifth member of a back four to thwart an attack.

Now I am not the kind of person who usually starts sentences with “in my day..” in fact the idea of being that person is a little depressing and an obvious sign of needing to get out more, however there can be no denying that the level of keeping as a whole has suffered a pretty big dip over the past decade plus. That this has happened at all is a little surprising and no effective reasoning can be given to its occurrence.

I don’t just speak about this problem in relation to the lack of genuinely good English goalkeepers but in relation to just about every major nation who is either dependent on an old pro who has been around since the dawn of time and has been the international regular for the best part of a decade (Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon spring to mind) whereas other countries (Germany, France and England) appear to hedge their bets with two or three decent to good options.

There is no doubt that there are some good keepers at this World Cup but equally there are an awful lot of average ones who really make a mockery of any ‘world class’ tag. The ball is a problem but it does not cause outrageous acts of an over dramatic nature that frankly make me cringe.

They used to say that you had to be mad to be a goalkeeper it seems now more relevant to be an incredible actor. To be able to draw as much attention to yourself whilst performing a relatively easy goalkeeping function. The art of goalkeeping is of course not dead but it sure as hell isn’t feeling to well at the moment.

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