It usually happens this way: your team is first in the standings but its advantage is being reduced, which, almost always, is usually associated with a decrease in scoring efficiency. The match has a narrow favorable margin of a goal, which makes the responsibility of keeping zero in the goal essential to continue first and, above all, so that nerves do not spread to the entire ecosystem of your team, from your club.
And look where, with barely ten minutes to go, the referee whistles one of those penalties that define our football times, a VAR penalty.
Discussions, demands to rectify the decision (stranger things have been seen), all of your team with their hands on their heads regretting the situation and you, the goalkeeper, who see you there, thinking of not getting ahead of the line, in guessing, or remembering what your goalkeeping coach has told you about the opponent’s throwers, seeing a gesture from the shooter that gives you a minimal clue of where the shot is going to be directed, a burst passes through your mind and you wonder: What if I stay still in the center?
And there, just at that moment, comes the sentence of the goalkeeper specialist and that definitive statistic: “This goalkeeper has not been awarded a penalty for three years.”
Ten seconds later, Oblak flies to his right, finds the ball at mid-range, and the ball goes for a corner. Hugs from the rojiblancos, despair from the babazorros. And the statistics that will have to start over.
As you will understand, I felt very identified with the Slovenian goalkeeper, with his serene and sensible joy, with that same spirit with which he handles himself between the three sticks, deactivating dangers like someone who does nothing, knowing how to be, knowing how to command, knowing how to accept when he plays. And with that rattle that accompanies him that he does not know how to stop penalties. Don’t worry, Jan, we don’t know each other but I’d say I know that song as well as you do.
But goalkeepers have that ability to be decisive in key moments and in situations in which they seem absolutely beaten. Now it comes to my memory Ter Stegen in the semifinal of the Super Cup, or Keylor Navas in that last minute of the first half in the second leg of the Champions League, or Sandra Paños with that penalty stopped in the Champions quarter-finals and that It opened up the possibility of a more comfortable second leg for his team.
Of course, goalkeepers can play another type of role for which they are less prepared. I cannot explain what Dmitrovic, the good Eibar goalkeeper, had in his head when he crossed the field because his coach had appointed him as the specialist and he was about to confront Jan Oblak to try to open the scoring, but I imagine a mind that He tries to concentrate on the main thing, leaving aside even the spirits of his colleagues and Oblak’s surprise when he saw that the shooter was his colleague on the job. Oblak must have thought something like: “With the one that I take with penalties and now the goalkeeper marks me.” Well, at least something like that I thought when in the second game of the World Cup in France I saw Chilavert come up to take a free kick and that little devil who told me: “If on top of Nigeria, the opposing goalkeeper scores you a goal, turn it off and Let’s go”. The shot ended in the stands but the Nigerian thing was not fixed.
I get much more used to the idea of when Dmitrovic himself saw his penalty stopped by Ledesma and had to rush back to cover his goal. Or Bono finding that free ball for his left leg, and a little mouse that was saying: “Secure it, secure it.”
And from there to madness there is only the distance of a good left foot.