Being a goalkeeper in a sport is the single hardest thing I have ever done with my life, despite the fact that I chose the position because it was “easier”. O, I don’t have to run and I can use my hands? Hell yeah, sign me up. I wasn’t aware of the mental stress and pressure I was putting myself under years later when I made this decision…and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Leave Karius alone. I made jokes, as did everyone else, but sitting here two hours after watching a rocket shot hit his unprepared hands, I have to retract the jokes I made. For many of you, soccer is a slow sport where a team is lucky to get 5 shots, let alone a goal. The goalkeeper has “one job”, and Karius did not do “his job”.
When you’re a goalkeeper, you don’t feel like you are on the same team as some of your teammates. I can string together a name of some of the single most impressive soccer players I have ever met, and despite being “their goalie”, not once have I felt like I was on the same playing field as them.
Naturally, I didn’t push myself as hard as I should have, but this is a common thread amongst even the hardest working goalkeepers. We don’t truly think we are a part of the main squad, and that’s why at Point Park the goalkeeping room was by far one of the most influential aspects of my life.
My junior year of college I was benched from the start to our sophomore goalkeeper, a long and thin tactician out of Canada. If coach thought he was the guy, I was alright with that. Zo had been nothing but a pillar of professional demeanor since I met him. Game one, Zo goes down with a dislocated shoulder and I was able to step in and play a solid game, ensuring my spot as the number 1. I never in my entire life heard Zo say a negative word or term about me, despite him winning the job and not getting his fair shot back. Never. At the same time, I never thought that it wasn’t my job from that moment on, and Zo was the perfect partner I needed at the moment to keep my confidence up and my ass in the gym, because he was now healthy and coming back hard. My senior year, I was beat out again and this time there was no injury. Now it was my turn to not sulk, but appreciate what the other keeper had done for me and push him the same way. I like to think I succeeded.
What this all means is that yes, maybe Mignolet saves those two bad goals, but a decision was made and that is that. Now, Karius will obviously make more money than many of the people in my lives and will always be well off, but this is not just another day at the office. This was devastating. A friend at the bar today asked me “Dude….how do you overcome that first goal? What’s the secret?” The secret is goalkeepers are human, same as hockey goalies and quarterbacks. A QB throws an interception and its now in the back of his head. I throw a ball in the back of my own net my junior year, and that stays with me every second of every day.
Being a goalkeeper is like nothing else in spots. A striker can miss 7 shots wide and score his 8th opportunity and be a hero. A keeper can save 7 amazing shots and let in a 90th minute screamer and be sent straight to the “he’s shit” bin.
I get that he won’t read this, your tweet or your conversations, but the point is let this be a lesson. How insane is it that during what should be the highlight of a young and dazzling career, a player is now traumatized for life professionally. Again, yes this is just sports and he is healthy with a loving family and support group, but the second you have something like this happen to you, you question what you love. Trust me.
I know this is a long winded response to my own jokes but I don’t believe some people have the mental understanding of what goes through preparing for that stage. Compare it to your professional or love, if it’s even possible. He feels like he single handedly lost the city of Liverpool a trophy, and it will be a miracle if he ever shakes that feeling…but if he does, Liverpool found its next great.
One thing you’ll learn about goalkeepers…we’re crazy, and we stick together.