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Is it time to give the keepers more protection?

Iíve underlined many times that keepers are a world apart.

They are very different from the other field players. They have a very strong personality and know really well that, like coaches and referees, when everything is going well itís normal and when something is going wrong itís their fault! They know how to deal with this. Unfortunately, being very courageous, they often put themselves in danger for the Ďsafetyí of the team.

For field players, to fix teammateís mistakes is easy, but for a keeper it could mean getting injured!

Field players challenge each other, shoulder against shoulder, foot against foot (with the ball in the middle!). Keepers challenge the opponentís feet and CLEATS with their HANDS, their ARMS, their BODIES and sometimes, with their FACES.

An accident is always around the corner and, without even thinking that in modern soccer some players ícross the lineí of sportsmanship, thereís no doubt that, recently, that line is being crossed a little to much, even if not on purpose.

I played soccer all my life as a forward. Itís was natural and obvious for me and the keepers, to fight to reach a 50/50 ball first. If the forward doesnĎt decide that itís to late, a collision could happen. Itís inevitable. After a certain point, avoiding it would even be against physics laws.

Considering this, what have I always done and, like me, what have the forwards of my generation almost always done?


For us, even if that situation would permit winning an important game, it would have been unthinkable to hurt an opponent, a keeper, in a desperate attempt to reach the ball before him and maybe score!

This attitude, is almost gone in modern soccer. Players challenge the hands and the body of the keepers with their feet. Often, after a cross, challenging them in the phase of jumping, they charge them very hard.

The result of this? Even if keepers accidentally got injured in the past, recently the number of bad collisions has enormously increased. Just a few weeks ago, Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, the keepers of Chelsea, got injured in the same game, one after the other. Cech really badly on the head. He had a trauma that will put him out for more than 1 year, with a possible consequence (not remote), of giving up soccer. And he, with Buffon, is considered the best keeper in the world! Cudicini, while jumping was hit really hard and fell on the ground almost unconscious. He will stay out for a month and have problems with his vision.

The fact that 2 accidents of this level happened in the same game leaving Chelsea almost without keepers, provoked an international forum that seems will finally lead to some improvement in trying to protect the keepers more.

The adjustments suggested are basically 3:

-Allow the keepers to wear a soft helmet, like in rugby.
-Give a yellow card, or more, to a player who collides with the keeper instead of jumping him.
-Ask the world of soccer to take a step back in the physicality and violence which affect many situations on the field involving contact between players. (non only with the keepers)

In my opinion, to wear a helmet could be more dangerous than not having it. Psychologically, keepers might have the wrong sensation of being more protected so, they will act more Ďcourageouslyí throwing themselves at the feet of opponents who run to them. An impact will happen anyway and the wrong sensation of having absorbed it, could lead to another impact that would be added to the one before, aggravating the injury.
Forwards, by seeing that the keepers are, apparently, more protected, will enter harder in the attempt to score anyway, even if they are late on the ball. So, instead of solving the problem, the helmet might aggravate it.

Yellow Cards. Sometimes in modern soccer, a penalty, is the only way to score, and often decides the final score so, instead of jumping the keepers, forwards look for a contact that could lead to a penalty. Itís very sad but this is the reality. The line between a keeper that interferes and forbids a forward to shoot on goal by charging him and a forward who drags his foot instead of jumping to provoke the collision, is almost invisible. Itís even hard to determine whoís fault it is, after dozens of replays so, to judge live in a fraction of a second is almost impossible for the referees. Besides the fact that the keepers can get injured in this situation, unfortunately the forwards are always privileged. There is a clear tendency of favoring the attackers to provoke more goals, instead of punishing them. Itís the same between defenders and forwards.

Defending is easier than attacking.

If it wasnít like this, games would end 20-25 or 18-14 instead that 0-0, 1-0 or 2-1. So, considering this, FIFA never looses an opportunity to permit something so rare. More GOALS!!!

Keepers get injured? Too bad! Thatís soccer.

I think that itís time to change this attitude. Keepers need more protection by law!!! Soccer law, even if, in my opinion, it would be better as a civil law. But this is not the topic of this issue. I promise, when I find the courage to talk about this, Iíll do it!

So, itís time to give a card (yellow or red) to a player that, accidentally or on purpose, collides with the keepers!

If they want, players can avoid colliding with the keepers. As simple as that. When a keeper comes out and dives on the ground challenging an opponent, the opponent has to slow down or jump him, without touching him. If he, accidentally touches him, yellow card. If he does it on purpose, and sometimes it can clearly be seen, a strait red card.

How is it possible that the last defender, so the keeper too, has a red card by fouling an opponent in a break-trough and not the opposite?

I believe that the safety of the players comes before any trophy. And because, sometimes, the keepers even come out very dangerously, with the knee flexed forward to protect themselves, should be punished when they hit an opponent that runs to them. I still remember with horror when Giancarlo Antonioni was hit on the temple by the knee of the keeper and lied dead on the ground for 40 seconds. Only a miracle by the Fiorentina doctor brought him back to life!

So, letís eliminate this kind of impact with adequate soccer laws! I know that the cards will be AFTER the impact but, with time, players will prefer avoiding collisions instead of having a red card!

The third suggestion, asking the whole soccer world to take a step back in the violence that characterizes every contact and tackle, would be a great idea. If you remember, I already wrote about the elimination of the slide tackle.

Slide Tackles in Youth Soccer

Iím afraid that, with words, everyone agrees but during the game, all the good resolutions will be gone. Itís part of human nature to fight. Under the pressure and the excitement of a game, where to draw the line between a fair fight and an unfair fight is almost impossible, so lets create rules and laws that forbid crossing that line.

Why, as always, do we need a tragedy to finally do something to avoid it? With Petr Cech we got very close. Was it close enough? Hope so!

Coach Gianni

Posted on 07 Dec 2006 by coachgianni
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