What do Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez, Eden Hazard, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Sergio Agüero, Steven Gerrard, Paul Pogba, Andrés Iniesta and Ryan Giggs all have in common? Besides being HEROES, they are all attacking players. Yes, Bale started out as a left-back and Gerrard was a good tackler, but ultimately all 12 players in the Heroes Football series so far are famed for dribbling, passing and/or shooting. Everyone loves skills and everyone loves goals.
And yet they aren’t the only paths to glory. Just ask Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng, who won the World Cup and Champions League double with Germany and Bayern Munich. Are they strikers? No. Are they wingers? No. Neuer is a goalkeeper and Boateng is a defender.
It was a recent email from a boy called Teddy Clarke that got me thinking about this. He asked if I could write a book about ‘Antonio Conte and a goalkeeper. I am interested to hear about goalkeepers because I have not read a book on them yet.’ Teddy is right; goalkeepers are definitely the unsung heroes of football. No-one faces as much pressure on the football pitch. They are the last line of defence and the whole team depends on them.
An amazing save can be just as exciting and important as an amazing goal, if not more so. And goalkeepers are often more interesting and entertaining characters too. Columbian René Higuita became famous for his ‘scorpion kick’, José Luis Chilavert used to take free-kicks and penalties for Paraguay, and Bruce Grobbelaar used to put penalty takers off at Liverpool by wobbling his knees. The stories go on and on.
Defenders, too, make brilliant heroes. They can be big and powerful, or quick and clever. They can be strong in the air, strong in the tackle, or strong with the ball at their feet. A last-ditch block looks awesome and it can save a goal and win a match. When a team is winning 1-0 in a cup final with seconds to go, defenders don their capes and become the heroes. They are the rocks that hold the team together.
Later this year, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher will become the first defender in the Heroes Football series and a goalkeeper will follow soon. Goalkeepers and defenders are really important players and they’re perfect for exploring one of the key themes of the Heroes Football series – TEAMWORK. Without Sergio Ramos, Ronaldo and Bale wouldn’t shine so bright at Real Madrid. Players have different skills and different roles and they must work together to win. They’re all heroes.