The goalkeeper sometimes called the keeper or goalie is the team’s last line of defense. His job is to protect the goal and make sure the ball does not pass through it. Each football team has only one goalkeeper. Yes, only ONE goalie.
The goalkeeper holds a unique position in that he’s the only player on a team who can handle the ball. He is allowed to handle the ball only inside his penalty area. If the keeper does so outside the area, he runs the risk of receiving a red card.
Goalkeepers are not allowed to handle the ball in their own area if it is been passed back to them by a team mate who’s used his feet to do so. If a goalkeeper does handle such a pass, the other team is awarded an indirect free kick. The keeper can, however, pick up a headed pass or one played off any part of his team mate’s body above the knee, and do so without penalty.
Goalkeepers are allowed to play the ball with their feet, either on the floor anywhere on the field or with a drop kick from inside their area. They can run anywhere on the field, but rarely make excursions because this would leave the goal unattended, making it easy for the opposition to score. They’re also permitted, like any other player on the field, to score goals.
A goalkeeper has the following main responsibilities:
- Keep goal and stop any shots from going in.
- Constantly organize and motivate the team’s defenders, giving them tactical advice during play.
- Organize the team in the defense of free kicks and corners.
- Collect crosses and passes forward before opposition players can get to them.
- Take goal kicks and free kicks from inside his own area.
- Distribute the ball to team mates quickly and efficiently, by either throwing or kicking the ball, in the hope of setting his team on an instant counterattack.
Keepers effectively have three means of stopping the opposing team scoring a goal: use their hands to stop the shot, parrying it back out into play, tipping it away from goal or holding onto it; hack it clear with their feet; or somehow block it with any other part of their body, usually by spreading themselves as big as possible.
Keepers must wear distinctive clothing that distinguishes them from their team mates, all opposition players, and the referee. They can wear padded gloves and are allowed to wear peaked caps to keep out the sun, making it easier to claim balls dropping from the sky or padded head guards.
Teams must field a goalkeeper at all times. So if a goalkeeper is unable to continue through injury or is sent off, he must be replaced by a substitute goalkeeper. However, if a team has no substitutions left, then one of the team’s outfield players has to stand in goal.
Keepers consider safety first, and as a basic rule position them- selves in the middle of the goal, in front of the net. However, while their own team is attacking and the ball is in the other half of the field, they often wander around their area, sometimes even venturing outside it.
Goalkeepers need to keep their concentration. They can conceivably spend the majority of the game doing absolutely nothing, only to find the opposition suddenly attacking strongly.
Sometimes, if the opposition breaks quickly up-field after a deep pass is played, leaving defenders in their wake, a goalkeeper rushes out from his area to punt the ball clear before any opposition player can get to it. He is effectively acting as a last-ditch defender, one example of when a player helps out a team mate in another position.
Although size is not always a determining factor in picking a goalkeeper, it’s rare to see a team fielding a keeper under 6 feet tall. In fact, even 6 feet is now seen as an under-average height for a keeper, with many of the top teams fielding players of 6 foot 4 inches and above. However, there is one disadvantage of being too tall, it takes a split second longer to get down for low shots.
As the last line of defense, a mistake by a goalkeeper usually ends up with the opposing team scoring a goal. This means the stakes for goalkeepers are high, as are the levels of criticism when things go awry. As a result, keepers have to grow a thick skin and have the sort of mental strength that allows them to put mistakes firmly in the past. This is easier said than done, even at the top level of soccer, where a single mistake in one game has defined many great professional goalkeepers’ entire careers.