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3rd International Goalkeeper Congress - A personal review

The 3rd International Goalkeeper Congress was held in Zurich over the weekend of July 31/August 1. I had the task and honour to moderate the theoretical sessions on day one, while day two was filled with practice sessions from goalkeeping experts and former keepers like Jean-Marie Pfaff and Lutz Pfannenstiel showing their training methods.

Golakeepers Congress

Golakeepers Congress

Day One was held at the Sonnenberg Convention Center in Zurich, the former home of world football governing body FIFA. And surely this was an impressive location for the Congress with the old building’s terrace overviewing the Zurich Lake and you have the Alps in the backdrop. This is Switzerland as you have it on picture post cards. Maybe this was why the organisers picked this location after Nuremberg and Munich hosted the first two editions.

Moderating an event like this is a lot of work as you have to prepare yourself with as much input as possible about the people making presentations or being interviewed by you. And also you have to be prepared for all eventualities plus I was given the chance to moderate in place of former FIFA Media Director Markus Siegler, so some added pressure on me but none with which I can’t live with. To give you an example, the Global Ambassador of the International Goalkeeper Congress is German national goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke, but due to a serious illness in the family, he couldn’t attend. So it meant short notice changes to the program and the overall plans. And then there was Jean-Marie Pfaff, who was being followed by a camera team, as he has a long running reality show in Belgium like the Osborne’s used to have on MTV. Impressive how he handled the situation with the camera always around.

The grand opening had former Belgian Bayern Munich goalkeeper of the 1980s Jean-Marie Pfaff; former Swiss captain and Borussia Moenchengladbach keeper Joerg Stiel; German goalkeeper Lutz Pfannenstiel, who is the only player to have played on all continents; and Michael Fuchs, the goalkeeping coach of the German Women’s national team, to start the day. The main discussion in the opening session revolved around the Jabulani ball and the goalkeeping blunders at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. While the younger generation put some blame on the ball and the different conditions across South Africa, Pfaff said that quality proves itself in the end and questioned if goalkeeping was at its highest standards as keepers these days are integrated into their sides and aren’t crazy individuals as keepers have been in the past.

Over the day you had numerous sessions on goalkeeping and also about artificial turf, a help or hindrance; in stadia seating; plus latest technology which helps keepers to develop their game and find out their weaknesses.

I personally found the sessions with my friend Lutz Pfannenstiel the most interesting as Lutz has not only travelled the world as a player, but has also learned a lot about cultures and follows football around the world. He not only understands the game in theory but the next day showed his vast knowledge in the practical sessions as well. Lutz personally told me, he would be very interested to come to India to coach and manage a club or maybe even get involved with Team India.

An interesting aspect was also the conference call sessions. Something which I hadn’t seen at a congress before. This was done as a number of persons couldn’t be physically present in Zurich, still we had them as part of the Congress by calling them and getting their views, talking about goalkeeping and football in their countries.

The day ended with a joint dinner, while day two was held at the Sportanlage Chrummen in Freienbach, just outside of Zurich. This happens to be the national training centre of the Swiss national teams with two natural turf grounds plus an artificial turf. And with artificial turf producer Polytan as Congress sponsor and the artificial turf being theirs the practical sessions where held on that ground. Jean-Marie Pfaff and Lutz Pfannenstiel showed their training methodology with other coaches chipping in with their ideas or even discussing if the methods are right or wrong. As a non-goalkeeper it was interesting to follow how such training sessions and methods are structured.

World Radio Switzerland interview – with Lutz Pfannenstiel and myself

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