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10 most entertaining goalkeepers in football history

Dipankar Lahiri

To choose to be a goalkeeper is a strange decision. One cannot take part in the actual orchestrations with the ball, but is entrusted with the most important responsibility. The position hasattracted some of the most eccentric characters in the history of the game.Some goalkeepers also express their personality through their jerseys, it being the only jersey which allows scope for uniqueness.Goalkeepers have a tendency to have an ambiguouscombinationof being fiery extroverts and being responsible and collected. These are 10 individuals who have once or severally seemed to lose the balance between the two, thus resulting in entertainment for the neutral spectator.

#10 Mark Bosnich

Nobody but a crazy goalkeeper can be expected to do what has been the defining moment of Bosnich’s controversial career. He made a Nazi salute to a Tottenham crowd, which had a sizeable Jewish contingent. The act, Bosnich later said, was a reaction to the fans taunting him about his history with German striker Jurgen Klinsmann.

Sir Alex Ferguson lost his patience with Bosnich’s eating habits during his Manchester United days, and has recently called him a ‘terrible professional’. In his words, “Bosnich was tucking into everything: sandwiches, soups, steaks. He was going through the menu...I told him, `For Christ's sake, Mark, we've got to get the weight off you. Why are you tucking into all that stuff?'...We arrived back in Manchester, and Mark was on mobile phone to a Chinese restaurant to order a takeaway.”

The Australian bad boy’s jersey at Aston Villa was a piece of spectacle as well, it looked like a collection of glass shards were floating on his body.

#9 Boubacar Barry

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‘Copa’ is a veteran goalkeeper of the Ivory Coast national team, and part of the Elephants’ golden generation, which failed to win any major title despite being arguably the best team to come from Africa in all of footballing history. He is famous for some very weird acts though.

He was seen in the recent World Cup celebrating by chewing grass and gesticulating in a frenzied manner to cameras. He also went deranged after a collision with an opponent in the Belgian league. He feigned injury, then got up and assaulted his counterpart, then got back to feigning injury again. He also once knocked himself out after colliding with his goal post for his club.

#8 Wojciech Szczesny

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Arsenal’s 24 year old keeper is a great character, keeping his team-mates entertained and always looking to share a laugh with his interviewers. In a recent Arsenal publicity video, the Pole introduced his teammates, ribbing all of them about one thing or another; but mostly about their poor English speaking skills.

Szczesny’s quirks are a often a conscious element of his game, he had once said, “All the top goalkeepers are crazy, you’ve seen in the past where they are a little bit bonkers so maybe I have a piece of that.” He uses outlets of amusement not available to crazy goalkeepers of the past, such as the selfie he took to mock Tottenham Hotspur after a derby victory over them.

#7 Oliver Kahn

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Vol-kahn-o, as the fiery German was called by fans, is known as one of the most accomplished goalkeepers in the history of the game, who almost single-handedly took his country to a World Cup final and won the Golden Ball in the process. A song about him, Olli Kahn by the German pop group Die Prinzen, was a major hit in his homeland during the prime of his career, and one assumes not mainly on the merit of the song. He made a cap a part of his footballing kit for a number of years.

In a 1999 league match against Borussia Dortmund, Kahn nibbled on the neck of Heiko Herrlich and aimed a kung-fu kick at Stephane Chapuisat, bewildering the onlookers as much as the assaulted victims.

Kahn once fisted in a goal after coming up for a corner, and was sent off as a result. He said later that it had been a goalkeeper’s reflex. Unfortunately, his fist was too conspicuous to be passed off as a divine hand.

#6 Jens Lehmann

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‘Mad Jens’, as he was known at Arsenal, had a brilliant career marred by frequent rushes of blood to the head. He was an understudy of Oliver Kahn for the longest time, and emulated Kahn’s unpredictability as well. He played an important part in Arsenal’s epic journey to the 2006 Champions League final, but destroyed his standing with a terribly-judged lunge at Samuel Eto’o in the 77th minute which resulted in a red card and a consequent Barcelona comeback from being 1-0 down.

Late match indiscretions were a habit of Lehmann’s, such as when he took upon himself the task of exacting revenge on an opposite number when appearing for Stuttgart. He conceded a red card and a penalty, and left the stadium in a huff. Cameras showed him taking away a fan’s glasses, only returning them when the fan pleaded to have them back. He was then shown taking a taxi to the airport to fly home to his family.

The crowning moment of madness for Lehmann was also in his Stuttgart days. He was seen urinating behind the advertisement hoardings while a match was in progress, and then rushing back to join his defence, which had been called into action while he was answering nature’s call.

#5 Robert Kidiaba

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African teams are known for imaginative celebrations, but none have come close to the signature move of this Congolese goalkeeper, who also serves the role of a peace ambassador in his country. His club TP Mazembe is one of the most respected domestic teams from Africa, but no matter which of his club-mates score, Kidiaba makes sure that all attention in the aftermath of the goal is on him.

The bum-dance is not the only eccentricity associated with Kidiaba, his hair is an asset he finds fertile for experimentation. He had dyed his hair green at a point of time, while his latest style has brought about comparisons with witch-doctors.

#4 Bruce Grobbelaar

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This Liverpool legend of the late 80s and early 90s was a Zimbabwean international, and had spent a considerable period of time serving in the Rhodesian Army. Accordingly, he was a man of unflappable confidence, and was not afraid of being flamboyant even in the face of fierce attacking oppositions.

Grobbelaar was part of the Liverpool team which dominated English football in his day, and his default position was somewhere around the line of midfielders. With his team-mates monopolizing possession, Grobbelaar found himself with very few saves to make. TV cameras once picked up the Zimbabwean maverick mouthing 'f*ck this, this is boring', before making a 60-yard sortie from goal to contest a header in the centre circle. He was also known for performing handstands while his defence would be waiting for an inswinging corner.

Grobelaar used to randomly assault his own team-mates, perhaps to get rid of the same boredom. He physically assaulted a young Steve Mcmanaman for 'having a name which just goes on and on aimlessly'.

Another of his famous antics was during a penalty shootout against Roma, which has been called the spaghetti legs incident. He bit the goal net and waggled his legs about, causing his opponents to miss. Liverpool keeper Jerzey Dudek emulated him in the famous 2006 Champions League final, further immortalizing the strategy as a Liverpool tradition.

#3 Jose Luis Chilavert

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‘El Buldog’ was the leading presence in the Paraguay national team for a playing career spanning just over a decade and ending in 2003. Known for his eccentricities with as well as without the ball, Chilavert is the 2nd highest scoring goalkeeper in the history of football. He also has the distinction of being the only keeper who has scored a hat-trick. With 8 goals, he is also the highest scoring goalkeeper in international matches.

His goalkeeping jersey would often feature a cartoon bulldog, and perhaps to stay true to the aggressive nature of his sobriquet, often got involved in altercations and brawls – most memorably with Faustino Asprilla in 1997.

Chilavert was an extrovert who also refused to allow anybody else to take responsibility whenever he was around. It was a frequent sight to see him running across the length of the pitch to take a free kick or even a corner kick, then running back to cover his goal. The most remarkable thing was that one never saw him flustered, even while racing back after a rare unsuccessful delivery from a corner.

#2 Jorge Campos

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Jorge Campos is another of football’s maverick figures, who seemed to hold an eminent dislike for any sort of convention. He brought along a disregard for the virtue of a goalkeeper’s position (he would frequently venture out of the penalty box, and would play as a dedicated striker when his team would need goals, with a substitute keeper having to be brought on); and he brought with himself a riot of colours (via his self-designed kits that resembled post-modernist artwork).

At 5’8’’, Campos was naturally agile and fearless, leaping and throwing himself at shots to make some impossible saves. Campos scored 38 goals in his career, one of which was from a spectacular bicycle-kick which any striker in the world would be proud of.

Campos’s costumes are of doubtful aesthetic qualities, but there was just no ignoring them – shocking shades of green, pink and neon yellow.

#1 Rene Higuita

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Football has never had a character close to being as colourful as Rene ‘El loco’ Higuita.

His mop of frizzy black hair and a bandito-style moustache was a visual delight. But still, the more revolutionary impact he had, was on changing the role of the goalkeeper forever. He was the first sweeper-keeper, but his outfield play was not limited to making clearances. He would often be seen dribbling past opponents to launch very quick counter-attacks. He scored a total of 41 goals in his career from unpredictable acts such as these.

Such a mentality entailed that he take unnecessary risks at time, such as the error he committed in World Cup 90, which allowed Roger Milla to steal the ball from him and send Colombia crashing out. On a certain day in England’s Wembley Stadium, he left everybody dumfound by dribbling past Gary Lineker and coming up with the most innovative save in goalkeeping history – The Scorpion Kick. He would continue to execute the extraordinary move, as recently as 2 years ago while 45 years of age, in an exhibition match in Kolkata.

Edited by Staff Editor

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