Being a goalkeeper in the beautiful game of football is something I absolutely cherish.
I had never played football before in my life, but I was an athlete, so when I got an offer to play as a goalkeeper and to represent my own state, Manipur, for our university tournament, it was such an honour for me. I had no prior knowledge nor any experience with the game, so I started by watching different goalkeeper tutorial videos on Youtube and began to grasp the basics of the game.
The first match I played, our team lost, that too horribly. Everyone was laughing at us for our poor performance but by then there was a hunger in me to reshape the team and to bring us back to where we were supposed to be. Thus began my journey as a goalkeeper in which I have come across many moments- some priceless, some heartbreaking. But my tryst with football has been truly amazing so far.
To be honest, I never practised that hard. So far, I have never followed any strict rules or techniques as such. Because to me, goalkeeping is about just one thing- saving the ball no matter what the position is or how you do it. The rules of goalkeeping never mattered to me, in a way. What mattered to me was protecting my goalpost and thereby my team.
The most important quality a goalkeeper must have, in my opinion, is to have unwavering focus, they should always stay alert throughout the match, with an eye always on the ball and your opponent and your teammate. As long as you have your eyes on the ball, nothing could beat you, trust me.
With my teammates’ support and commitment, I have had the privilege of winning the ‘Best Goalkeeper’ award seven times at the University of Hyderabad. Our team went on to win many tournaments, we have lost, as well, but that’s all a part of the game. Winning is not the only priority- enjoying the moment by giving your best makes you feel much better than winning, as per my experience. Regardless of this, I have noticed many times that the goalkeeper has been always ignored and neglected after the match despite their contribution towards the game.
All I want to say is, each and every player contributes equally, that is why positions are made separately. If one position is left open then it would make a great impact on the rest of the team. We should treat all the players equally, not just the goal scorer. Without the goalkeeper, there wouldn’t be a match.
The mental pressure a goalkeeper has to go through is tremendous. It feels like the end of the world when you concede a goal and you know everyone’s gonna hate you and curse you if your team loses because of that particular mistake. I have experienced the pain myself. It has disappointed me many a time. I have faced many such situations where I had to embrace all the odds even though it broke my heart.
From my experience, I have learned that to be a goalkeeper, you need to be tough-minded with a strong heart because, at the end of the day, it’s the goalkeeper who is the pillar of their team, a constant and unrelenting form of support upon whom everything depends, the one who saves the team when everything seems lost.
The last hope!
This article is first in the series ‘Women in Football’ by Footy Times. If you are a woman in football or know a woman whose footballing story holds the power to inspire, write to us at: email@example.com.