Right, so. The Offside rule. The thing to remember is that the offside rule is all about the goalie. Footbally friends will tell you that this is not the case, but feel free to ignore them. They are technically correct, in that the law in question refers to the opponents’ goal line and the second-to-last opposing player, but in 99 point 9999 recurring percent of cases, the last opposing player is going to be the goalie. No, it doesn’t actually have to be, but in practice it always is. It’s like England winning the World Cup: theoretically possible but in practice? Ain’t gonna happen.
Right, so. The goalie. There was a short story, and a film, called The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, but perhaps it should have been called The Loneliness Of The Football Association Goalie, because it is a lonely job, being a goalie. You’re left to stand on your own, just little you, in a great big goal which you have to guard and stop the other side (or your own side, if they’re real numpties) putting the ball in. Everybody goes a long way away from you and does a lot of running around. You, meanwhile, have to stand there in the rain and mud (unless you’re playing in Qatar, in which case you have to stand there in the 40° heat), trying to keep warm (or cool, as the case may be) and to work out what’s going on until the moment when twenty players come charging at you like an express train and you suddenly have to go from nought to sixty in about three seconds and be ready to defend that enormous goal mouth with your tiny puny body as ten large sweaty aggressive men try to shove the ball into it (I’m sure there’s a metaphor here somewhere but I’m darned if I can think what it is). The only bright spot is that you’re allowed to use your hands and to actually wear gloves, which is nice if it’s cold but possibly not so nice if you’re in Qatar.
And then what? Well, you’re either a zero or you’re not. And no, it’s not “hero or zero” – it’s zero or not zero. If you let in a goal, you’re a zero. That’s it, you’ve failed. If you keep goals out, you’ve done your job and you may get a mention in the match reports if you did it really really well but it’s unlikely to be more than that. And however well you do your job, you know you can never win the match. That’s all down to your forwards. You can spend the entire match flinging yourself to and fro, making save after wonderful save, but if your forwards don’t do their job and put a ball or two in the back of the opponents’ net, you’re going to come out with oon pwunt no matter what you do. How frustrating!
And that’s not the worst of it. In a *serious voice* very real sense, you and your opponents are like the police versus the terrorists: you have to be lucky every time, they only have to be lucky once. Imagine the pressure! And that’s before you even start thinking about *gulp* penalties….. Oh, yeah, penalties. The bit where all the best kickers on the other team get to line up and kick the ball at you one after another, and you have to try to stop it, knowing you’ll be lucky to get a 20% hit rate. Talk about stressful! And all this knowing that in all probability you’ll never be asked to front an underwear campaign. Yes, it’s a hard life being a goalie. I’m surprised 38 Degrees hasn’t got up a petition to protect them.
More on this topic tomorrow. That was part 3 of The Footballing Fact Of The Day. I thank you.