Do Goalkeepers Love The Camera, Or Does The Camera Love Them?

By Tim Ellis

News • Feb 17, 2024

Do Goalkeepers Love The Camera, Or Does The Camera Love Them?

Tim Howard once said that “goalkeeping is about being a good actor." The truth lies somewhere in between. There are method actors and natural ones between the sticks.

There’s a lot of theatrics involved.” continued Howard, one of the USA's finest goalkeeper-shaped products. 

A camera save is the easiest trope in the book aimed at goalkeepers. It may be borne of ignorance but is rarely used as a compliment. Why is it that the starting position is suspicious of this ‘performer’ between the posts?

In an interview with the Telegraph recently, Mary Earps was very direct on the strength of feeling she had for the profile of her position:

“The narrative around goalkeeping is something I feel really passionately about. I really want young kids to view goalkeeping as something they want to get involved in, and that it’s cool, it’s fun and it’s important. Goal-scorers are the people you always see on the TV adverts and things like that.”

Has Mary seen the montage of Loris Karius on holiday in 2018 living it up in the Los Angeles foothills? This one-minute ‘production’ on Instagram featured the then-Liverpool custodian swimming in the pool of a mansion, playing table tennis, doing sprints up a hill next to a Hollywood sign, and shooting admiring glances to the videographer as the German slid some shades on and off before jumping into his 4 x 4 via a super size ice cream.

As a man in need of some TLC after what happened in Kyiv, it didn’t quite get the desired feedback, but it was the most entertaining minute of a goalkeeper off duty on celluloid.

Ben Foster’s roving production unit in the back of his goal has taken this one step further. The Hollywood elements were already in place. Foster came out of retirement to help Ryan Reynolds achieve his dream of putting Wrexham into the Football League last season. In true action film hero status, he only went and saved a penalty in the last minute of injury time against title rivals Notts County. The video in question was modestly called: “I saved a 96th Minute Penalty on My Go Pro.”

Foster’s infectious puppy dog enthusiasm makes the 40-year-old forever young. Sir Alex Ferguson would never have approved, but the veteran made match day a living and breathing event. His retirement will be a loss to the cutting room floor although some within the Watford staff might not have approved of the vlogging portfolio. Claudio Ranieri did claim Fozzy was “a great actor” though…

Goalkeepers do solo pieces and soliloquies to the audience as well as anybody.  How about the highs and lows of  Stanley Nwabali at AFCON? Emilio Martinez decided to direct things with a few more rough cut edges in Qatar.  Keepers have to make their own fun while ten teammates are separated from them in moments of high peril. The eye candy for the camera is the reaction as well as the action. Step forward, Dean Henderson.

Some characters are bigger than life itself. Bruce Grobbelaar was an unmistakable romantic in goal, a mix of  moustachioed athleticism and swagger with a zinger of a Zimbabwean accent. He was the guy who made sure celebrations were big well before Pepe Reina started dancing and singing in dressing rooms. Grobbelaar walked on his hands after Cup final victories as well as providing  the original spaghetti legs to the penalty shootout in European Cup finals. Jerzy Dudek owes much to him in the back catalogue.

Every save had a huge dose of flamboyance. He was the Jungle Man. The sight of a ‘keeper catching the ball at pace has the combination of brilliant rhythm and visual fireworks, a magnificent optic that can be rewatched on a loop just as much as an individual or team goal.

There’s a magnetism and a narrative about filming the guardian of the nets. How can the sight of an athlete diving across their box at full stretch or tipping the ball over the bar with a quick whip of a magician’s hand, not be captivating? Why must they be the villain of the piece when they are just as much a part of perfect symmetry as a dribbler or a team goal?

Khiara Keating’s performance for Manchester City Women in their FA Cup defeat of Arsenal last weekend illustrated the drama of the role. The ebullience and resilience of a teenager, devastated by her error in the same fixture just months ago in the WSL, shone through.  

The picture was now changed, a vibrant vision of innocent joy celebrating with loved ones at the end of the game. If the socials wanted a moment that was unadulterated and the pure essence of why the game is played, that was it right there. No acting involved. If she drops that corner into the net, it would have been cruelty captured forever.

Most goalkeepers do the job without any care in the world for the clicks. They are in love with their job – not the bits on the side that glorify their presence on the stage. That’s not to say Earps didn’t revel in pulling off a penalty save in the biggest game in women’s football. 

In the current FIFA World Goalkeeper of the Year’s case, the camera loves her rather than the other way around. The Manchester United number one is going to be unashamedly herself as she said in that famous speech.

If goalkeeping is supposed to be the loneliest position on the pitch, then Earps brings the highs and lows of the job onto the pitch. When she made a mistake against the Netherlands in England’s 3-2 win at Wembley during the Nations League, the 26-year-old left the pitch in tears. The hard exterior crumbled and here was the other side of her high standards caught on candid film.

Goalkeepers always get their moment. Some of them are glorious. Others are 18-rated. Body cams shouldn’t just be about the outfielders. Ask Ben Foster.

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