CAPE TOWN - It’s the most under-appreciated position in football - but, at the same time, it’s probably the most important too: the goalkeeper. It’s something that has become increasingly more evident in the modern-day game, as the line between success and failure becomes smaller and smaller with every passing season.
Manchester City, as good as they were during the initial period under Pep Guardiola, still couldn’t get things going - until the arrival of Brazilian keeper Ederson. Liverpool regained the spotlight under manager Jurgen Klopp, but, with two error-prone individuals manning their goal - Simone Mignolet and Loris Karius - they, too, struggled to realise their full potential. Now, with Brazilian Alisson, a top-class, reliable goalkeeper, the Reds are looking like they could mount a challenge for the Premier League title.
In the PSL, too, it’s no different. Cape Town City, despite a promising start since their formation as a club in 2016, have been wracked by inconsistency - and, often, they’ve been let down by the man wearing the No 1 jersey. Now, with the arrival of Dutch goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh, the Capetonians have a steady, influential presence in goal - and the confidence flowing from the new No 1 has permeated the entire squad.
Really, the goalkeeper is critical to the success or failure of a football team. The striker can miss 10 goals and the team can still pick up a point if the goalkeeper doesn’t concede; a team can be doing well during a match, but if the keeper makes one mistake and lets in a goal, that’s it: the points are gone. In essence, a save is probably worth much than a goal.
So bringing on a board a good keeper can change the entire outlook and attitude of a squad. His personality, organisational skills and sheer, larger-than-life presence dominate not just the opposition, but also infuse his teammates with a renewed sense of belief. And, with someone to rely on in goal, it changes the way the rest of the squad reacts and performs.
Leeuwenburgh has played four times for City this season and is yet to concede a goal. In that period, he has pulled off some brilliant saves too, which has earned the Cape side valuable points. City coach Benni McCarthy is a big fan of the big Dutchman.
Last week, while I was watching City train in preparation for the MTN8 first leg semi-final against Mamelodi Sundowns, McCarthy was placing out the cones for an exercise while the players were doing their warm-up routines.
The coach strolled over to a few of us on the sidelines and, during a brief chat, he spoke admiringly of what the presence of Leeuwenburgh had brought to the squad as a whole: so, too, with Ederson, as Manchester City romped to the league title last season; so, too, with Alisson, as Liverpool are certainly looking like the real deal this season, simply because of the addition of a goalkeeper with personality, presence and great ability.
In Europe, Alisson has been nicknamed the “Messi of goalkeepers”. In the PSL, especially considering the exploits of City coach McCarthy as a player, perhaps we should now be calling Leeuwenburgh, “the McCarthy of PSL goalkeepers”.