•Previously, the skill set of a great goalkeeper consisted of jaw-dropping reflexes, shot-stopping, a tall height, amazing ball-handling skills and pinpoint ball distribution.
•For aspiring Kenyan keepers to reach the levels of Ederson and Co, they need three key attributes: calmness; alertness and astuteness.
Whereas every role in football has undergone a revolution in modern times, the goalkeeping position stands out for the increasing burden that the modern game has placed on custodians.
Previously, the skill set of a great goalkeeper consisted of jaw-dropping reflexes, shot-stopping, a tall height, amazing ball-handling skills and pinpoint ball distribution.
However, modern football coaches are now salivating for goalkeepers who possess great passing abilities and are thus able to kickstart their teams’ attacks from the back.
Manchester City’s Brazilian net-minder Ederson has been hailed as the most complete custodian and as an example of a modern goalkeeper.
The 26-year-old boasts the highest pass accuracy of 86 per cent among all goalkeepers in the 2019/2020 English Premier League.
Other goalkeepers renowned for the great passing abilities include Manuel Neuer and Marc Ter Stegen—both Germans.
For aspiring Kenyan keepers to reach the levels of Ederson and Co, they need three key attributes: calmness; alertness and astuteness.
A level-headed keeper is able to withstand pressure from marauding attackers and accurately pass the ball to a teammate.
It is not an attribute that can be built easily especially in a high-octane away game during which the goalkeeper is prone to be dispossessed by an over-enthusiastic attacker.
This is a lesson that former Arsenal keeper Petr Cech learnt painfully during the 2018/19 season when he would often kick the ball out of play – sometimes under no pressure.
Alertness means that the keeper should be mentally involved in the game even when his teammates may be camped in their opponents’ half. He must be conscious of his positioning within the goalpost and the distance between him and the goal line.
Slumber off for even a second and the opponent may be gifted an easy goal through a lobbed shot or even a mishandled shot by the keeper.
The recent example is that of Manchester United’s David De Gea’s failure to handle Olivier Giroud’s seemingly harmless shot during their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea. Additionally, an astute net-minder must make wise decisions on how to handle various situations depending on the positioning of his team mates.
Based on the extent of the goalscoring threat, a keeper can decide to come out to claim a cross, kick the ball out of play, parry the shot out of play, kick the ball long or short to a teammate.
These are attributes that are not learned instinctively rather they are acquired through a rigorous footballing education that begins at a young age.
Former Italian midfielder Andreas Pirlo said that playing football largely involves the mind whereas the hands and feet are just the tools. By the time a goalkeeper reaches 18 years old, he or she must have developed a mental fortitude to efficiently use the tools at their disposal to save their teams from conceding as many goals as possible.