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 [Ten Insane Glovemen]
 by Luke Ginnell


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According to some, insanity is a common ingredient in the unstable, eggy, and frequently half-baked soufflé that is the goalkeeping constitution. Some, however, have a few added extra grams of this component, not to mentio, in several cases a few added grams of certain other ‘materials’…
Fabien Alain Barthez

Monsieur Barthez was, hélas, as widely recognisable for his hairy goalkeeping as he was for - bad pun approaching - his hairless crown. Fabien was a classical goalkeeping eccentric, seamlessly mixing incredible reaction-saves with virtuoso dribbling and moments of pure incompetence or delightful hilarity, such as his penchant for gifting goals during club games to his international team-mates, or having his head passionately kissed by members of his team.
However, despite being remembered most frequently for Di Canio-gate and other calamities, it should be pointed out that the boy Bart was in fact no mug, notching up nearly 90 caps for his country, who also just happened to be pretty much the top side in the world at the time, and racking up the medals with a variety of clubs. Taking all this into account, my recollection of L'ange Noir is as a figure capable of engendering respect, admiration, joy, hilarity, and quite often, utter bemusement.

Jorge Francisco Campos Navarrete

If you don’t object, a few questions regarding your goalkeeping preferences:
1)    Taking into account the emphasis placed on goalkeeping extroversion, would you prefer your ‘keeper to be concerned more with exhibiting a vivid, vibrant spectrum of colour on his jersey, rather than working determinedly on his handling skills?
2)    Do you consider the ability to exercise creative input with regard to your team’s equipment design of equal or greater value than a competence in relation to the proverbial ‘plucking’ of rasping, curling crosses from the stratosphere?
3)    Furthermore, would it be entirely appropriate to you if your team’s #1 were to casually and unworriedly undertake a Marseille-turn deep in the opponent’s final third?

If you have answered “yes” to even one of the above questions, it seems that you may have something in common with Senor Campos of Acapulco, whose first season at Pumas of Mexico City resulted in him bagging an impressive 14 goals. Not bad, when you consider he was by trade a custodian - and a colourful one at that.

Wee Jorge, as he might or might not have been affectionately known in Mexico, is renowned for both his personally-designed keeping outfits and his formidable all-round footballing talent. JC loved a ramble forward, and notched up plenty of goals in his time, often playing as a striker. Indeed, Jorge's compatriot Senor Carlos Vela, formerly of Arsenal, would surely benefit greatly from some technical advice from Jorge as, much to the shame of Senor Vela, Campos has thus far outscored him in his [admittedly short] career.

Often, Campos’s goalscoring prowess took the attention away from the fact that he was a half-decent “goaltender,” as he would probably have been described during his brief spell in the US. Testament to this can be found in the fact that he managed to amass well over a ton of caps for Mexico, being particularly impressive at the World Cup in 1994. That said, I think it’s fair to say that most – outside his native land, at least – will recall Jorge more for his eccentricities than his handling, reflexes, or aerial ability.

José Luis Félix Chilavert González

Given the florid and possibly off-key description of the previous entrant, you might have realised that I am, on occasion, rather fond of an extroverted, goalscoring goalkeeper; José Luis Chilavert certainly falls into that category. Indeed, until relatively recently JLC had netted more goals than any other professional keeper – and, unlike Senor Campos, could do it at international level. Big José even managed to rattle in a hat-trick in 1999.

José's forte was the set-piece, and he was a regular free-kick and penalty-kick taker for both country and club. However, rumours that Roy Hodgson contacted him in relation to a position as England's penalty coach proved to be – unfortunately, some would say – without foundation.

One of the personality traits that guarantee JLC a place in this list is what some observers might call his “foaming, unfettered insanity,” a characteristic that is often misleadingly termed as "being possessed of a fiery temper." When not baiting the opposition or falling out with his federation, he would most likely be found spitting openly and unashamedly in the general direction of world-class Brazilian left-backs such as Roberto Carlos, in the full glare of the watching TV cameras.

Having said all that, the big Paraguayan was a keeper of such quality that he made the All Star team for the 1998 World Cup, alongside another entrant in this lis, the aforementioned Monsieur Barthez. Thus, máximo respeto must be afforded to a fine player and an even finer expectorator.

Hugo Orlando Gatti

Quelle surprise!, I hear you say. Another fiery Latin American keeper-dribbler, I hear you say. Come up with something different, I hear you say. Honestly, I couldn't agree more.

With that in mind, why then include this headbanded, knock-kneed retiree? Well, Hugo Gatti was pretty much the original “El Loco,” a nickname that appeared frequently throughout the autobiography of the totally un-loco El Diego in reference to a man who was brave – or stupid – enough to stand in goal for both River Plate and Boca Juniors. Surely, anyone labelled “crazy” by the man Maradona must be a few fumbles short of a handling masterclass.

In many ways, though, Gatti was the Jan Jongbloed of South America (or vice-versa) and, as with several of the noble gentlemen included in this list, he simply adored a spontaneous maraud from the safety of his own box, or even his own half. He was, in fact, a pioneer in relation to goalkeeping, popularising the charge off the line and the idea of the ball-playing goalkeeper, ideas which modern viewers take for granted, but which were relatively unusual in the past.

Alas for poor Hugo, his talent never got a chance to shine at a World Cup, with Argentina favouring the more ”reliable” Roma and Fillol at the '66 and '78 Mundials respectively. Boo!

Bruce David Grobbelaar

It seems incredible, given the amount of time he stayed at Liverpool, but Brucie was as prolific a journeyman as he was a shot-stopper, turning out for nineteen different clubs in a span of four decades and eight different British prime ministers.

Over the years, the Grob collected numerous medals and honours in a career that was at times glorious, preposterous, and nefarious. Interestingly, it could all have been very different for Bruce had he been able to secure a work permit for a trial with Big Ron's West Brom in 1978. As it was, he eventually ended up on Merseyside in 1981, boldly exclaiming that he would take the number one jersey off Pool's incumbent, the England international and First Division veteran Ray Clemence.

Without dwelling too long on an incident of which everyone is by now aware, the Roma-Jelly-Legs-Graziani scene remains one of the most enduring images of European football in the 1980s. It is the moment most often recalled in connection with Grobbelaar, and for good reason. However, Bruce's name was slightly tarnished in the aftermath of match-fixing allegations in the mid-1990s; he, Hans Segers, and John Fashanu were all accused of being involved with betting syndicates. The verdicts and conclusions drawn from the various trials are relatively inconclusive, but do seem point to some kind of wrongdoing on the part of the accused.

It seems remarkable that Bruce managed to tie down a place for so long at Liverpool given the shakiness of his form during the initial stages of his Anfield days, but this is perhaps a testament to a character that was tougher than it seemed. Despite his flamboyant and seemingly carefree persona, Grobbelaar was a man who took goalkeeping seriously, often taking verbal abuse to heart. In response to any such insults he received, Bruce claims to have drawn strength from his days as a conscript in Rhodesia, during which time he was involved in an attack which left three enemy soldiers dead.

José René Higuita Zapata

As if you hadn't guessed by now, central and southern America are veritable goldmines of goalkeeping exotica. With that in mind, let's move on to the man whom many see as the Big Daddy of Latin American goalkeeping, René Higuita.

You will be shocked to learn that René was nicknamed “El Loco,” and that he was well known for his outside-the-box activities, often playing in the sweeper-keeper role, or, as it has become known, the Grand Campos-Higuita-Gatti Triangle-Zone of Madness. Like his continental compatriots Jorge, José, and Hugo, Higuita was a big fan of bashing in the odd goal every now and then, totting up a pretty reasonable total of 25 league goals during his 22-year career.

Yes, that's right, England fans, Higuita's career didn't just suddenly end after that moment. In fact, the famous scorpion kick occurred less than half-way along René's journey through the traps, pitfalls, and hallucinogenic ethereality that are synonymous with professional goalkeeping in South America. After announcing his existence to the world with a superbly executed loss-of-possession to Roger Milla in 1990, Higuita went on to win a total of 68 caps for Colombia, scoring 8 goals along the way. Hang your head in shame, Monsieur Emile Heskey, you have - yet again - been outscored at international level by a goalkeeper.

Another thing old René loved was being an absolute madman. Having come to the conclusion that receiving a jail sentence for his part in a kidnap-ransom involving one of the most infamous criminals of all time was nothing to be unduly worried about, Higuita was later banned from football for substance-abuse. Even later, he decided that a perfectly logical “next step” for him to take would be to undergo plastic surgery in order to complete alter his physical appearance.

Worryingly for the balance of the universe, René has announced that he wishes to become "politically active."

Run. Run and Hide.

Jens Gerhard Lehmann

Going purely on appearances, Jens Lehmann definitely had something of the Bond-villain about him. Possessed of an absurdly Teutonic jaw, the axiomatic steely-blues, and the wavy blond curls of an enthusiastic young Hauptsturmführer, Jens was the picture-perfect bad guy, an image which was often reflective of his on-pitch machinations.

Fans of the English game might forget that Jens was 33 when he came to England, and that a career's worth of mischief had been played out before he ever made it to that murky, troubled island known as Great Britain. In fact, Lehmann holds the splendid distinction, nay honour, of being Borussia Dortmund's most-dismissed player - a particularly noteworthy feat considering his playing position. [Rio voice] Maximum respect, innit. Furthermore, he holds the Bundesliga positional record for sendings-off. There's simply no doubting it; Big John loved a nice old shove every now and then.

But that wasn't the limit of Jens's antics. The man from Essen had a fondness for using the advertising billboards as a urinal, and also had a Lecter-esque taste for the delicious synthetic material from which modern footballs are constructed. Oh, and since you've been good today, class, and have gone to all the trouble of reading this far, you might as well fire up Youtube and have a look at that Drogba incident one last time.

Having said all that, Herr Lehmann was a fantastic goalkeeper despite his idiosyncrasies; in a long and successful career, Jens won over 60 caps for Germany - no mean feat, given some of his contemporaries, including Oliver Kahn - and took home plenty of honours, both individual and as part of winning teams such as Schalke, AC Milan, Dortmund, and Arsenal.

Carlos Ángel Roa

Ok, I promise, this is absolutely the last South American on the list.

Meet Charlie Roa, Argentina's goalkeeper for the 1998 Coupe du Monde. If you don't already know his story, you're probably presuming that he's yet another twinkle-toed, deep-lying centre-back of a keeper – well, you couldn't be more wrong.

No, it is not as a result of a propensity for being dispossessed on the half-way line, or for nonchalantly knocking in the odd overhead bicycle, that Senor Roa is included in this list. Rather, it is as a result of his decision to temporarily abandon his footballing career in order to pursue a more righteous path into heaven. That's right, in 1999, having just had a relatively successful season with Mallorca in Spain, Roa opted to embark on a year of religious retreat. Evidently, the man with the apt middle-name (Ángel) did not or does not subscribe to the idea of football as religion. Furthermore, Carlos declared himself unavailable to Mallorca in the following season, based on his entirely logical and in-no-way ridiculous belief that the world would soon end.

To be fair to Carlos, it should be noted that, however one feels about organised religion (and I am remaining neutral - in public at least), he at least stayed true to his beliefs in the face of significant temptation to do otherwise, something from which many modern footballers could stand to learn. [End of self-righteous rant]. Carlos was also decent enough at keeping goal to draw the attention of both Man Utd and Arsenal, with whom he trialled for a short time in 2002. A large amount of admiration should also be paid to Roa, who battled successfully against one of the great nightmares of the male sex – testicular cancer.

In terms of his footballing career, Carlos was a slightly-better-than-average keeper, whose most remarkable moments for his national team came during the penalty shootout versus England, in which he - or, perhaps, God - kept out several English penalties. Not a particularly amazing achievement given the opposition, you might feel, but nevertheless, someone had to stop those pathetic excuses for spot-kicks. Carlos, then, was of an entirely different ilk to the rest of the Latin keepers included here, but in true South American style managed to display at least some level of mental instability, which is clearly a vital ingredient for those willing to play nets in that part of the world.

Harald Anton Schumacher

In a list pretty much dominated by the Latin Americans, it's nice to see the Germans doing their best to osmose some of that region’s keeping characteristics onto our fair European shores. We've already met Herr Lehmann, now it's time to acquaint ourselves with Harald Anton Schumacher - who, coincidentally, played for two of the same German clubs as Big Jens, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. Kindred spirits, eh?

Ok, then, let's get it out of the way; “Toni” is undoubtedly best known, amongst non-German football fans at least, for that tackle on France's Patrick Battistion, but this writer is here to try, in fact, not to focus on the madness of Schumacher's actions that night, but to attempt to restore his reputation somewhat. That's not to say that Toni didn't have his foibles. No indeed, Toni stood out amongst his fellow pros as a result of his pre-match yoga routine – which, in the 1970s and 1980s would have been seen as being a little unusual, although certain hairy Welsh wingers might disagree – as well as his fetching bubble-perm and Hans Das Pornstar moustache.

However, Toni was first and foremost a top keeper. But for the aforementioned incident, he might have been recognised more widely as one of the best keepers of his generation. All in all, he cuts a cultish figure (some Frenchmen might be inserting an ‘n’ somewhere in this sentence) due to his looks, his bad-boy/tough guy reputation, and his eccentricities. Toni, it's hard to deny, made an impact, even in Turkey, where he spent a few seasons at Fenerbahce.

Vladimir Stojković

Many of you will not have heard of Vladimir Stojković. This is probably because, in truth, he is not a particularly good goalkeeper, and has not achieved anything of major import in the wider footballing scheme of things. However, the man is most definitely certifiable.

Mustafa, as he is [not very] affectionately known by fans of Red Star Belgrade (with whom he started his career and for whom he played for several years) is something of a loan-king, made particularly apparent by his time at Portuguese giants Sporting. Whilst at Sporting, he spent no less than three seasons away from the club, pretty impressive given that he was only on the Lisbon team's books for four years. Stojko gave a good indication of his madness whilst on trial at Everton; supposedly, he walked out on the club after an hour of training citing, er, absolutely nothing, as the problem. Rumours abounded about a "complicated" character. So, time went by, and having failed to make his mark at Getafe, Wigan, Vitesse, or his other non-Serbian parent club, Nantes, Vladimir returned home to Serbia, to play for none other than his beloved, er, Partizan.

Only weeks before joining Partizan, Vladimir had professed his love for their bitter, bitter enemies Red Star. Indeed, Red Star had even gone so far as to make him an honorary member. In return, Vladimir responded by, essentially, spitting in their faces and signing the dotted line to join the Crno-beli (Partizan). This, I can tell you without doubt, is an act of supreme and extreme folly. By joining Partizan, Stojko effectively put his life in danger, as can be evidenced by the attack on him by a group of Serbian fans who invaded the national team's bus whilst playing away in Genoa. The unwise Vlad stoked the fire further by unveiling a rather eye-catching t-shirt exclaiming “please forgive my ugly past” in the aftermath of the Eternal Derby between Belgrade's biggest clubs. As a result, every time he plays against Red Star, he is forced to leave the pitch in a most undignified manner.

Vladimir has efficiently and unabashedly turned himself into a hate figure amongst many fans in Serbia, something which occasionally spills over and involves his family. One incident, involving former Red Star keeper Saša Stamenković, belongs in a soap-opera. Amidst certain [alleged] rumours about the fidelity (or lack of) of Vladimir's wife, the stately Bojana, Stameni (now at Neftchi Baku) was [allegedly] discovered on the terraces of Red Star's stadium during a derby game, happily dancing about and leading a chant that called into question the paternity of Stojkovic's innocent and entirely blameless son, Lav. Needless to say, the fallout was sizeable.

 
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