The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper

February 17, 2011 — by Sean

Albert Camus, goal keeper of French Algerian descent.

Famous author and philosopher Albert Camus once said, “All that I know most surely, about the morality and the obligations of man, I know from sport.” His sport of choice? Football of course, and his chosen position was goal keeper, the place of those odd men who live in a very different psychological universe than the rest of the players on the field.

We all know that goalies are a bit off, and now you can have a listen at a BBC 4 production (via RadioLab) of a half-hour exploration into the strange minds of the men between the sticks. It’s a very quick 30 minute podcast (which we’ve embedded below in case you’d like to listen at your desk), and we encourage you to subscribe to RadioLab because it is consistently fascinating.

The piece starts off with an interview of Bob Wilson, famous for minding the net for Arsenal in the 60s and 70s, and is scattered with live action calls evoking the names of legendary keepers Peter Schmeichel,Gordon Banks, Gary Sprake, and Jens Lehmann. And besides Camus, some other famous lonely creative sorts who donned the gloves include the likes of Vladimir Nabokov, Pope John Paul II,  and Che Guevara.

Let’s end with the thoughts of Nabokov, the Russian who wrote so beautifully in English.

As with folded arms I leant against the left goalpost. I enjoyed the luxury of closing my eyes, and thus I would listen to my heart knocking and feel the blind drizzle on my face, and hear in the distance the broken sounds of the game, and think of myself as of a fabulous exotic being in an English footballer’s disguise composing my verse in a tongue nobody understood about a remote country nobody knew. Small wonder I was not very popular with my teammates.

If you’d like to see a long list of what may be the greatest keepers of all time, head over to the World Soccer forum and check out their top 50 selections.