CAPE TOWN - A goalkeeper needs to be at the top of his game for the entire 90 minutes. There is no hiding place. Strikers squander scoring opportunities and defenders miss tackles, but one mistake from the man in the number one jersey and he’s pounced upon.
It doesn’t matter how many goals the forwards miss, the spotlight is always on the one error made by the keeper. Sad, but painfully true - it’s just the nature of a sport that, at times, can be maddeningly frustrating. One week the hero, the next the villain.
The two Cape PSL clubs swing back into league action on Wednesday night and they go into their respective games with the goalkeepers in contrasting situations. Cape Town City host Platinum Stars at the Cape Town Stadium (7.30pm), while Ajax Cape Town are in KwaZulu-Natal to take on a Maritzburg United side in superb form at the moment.
City’s veteran shot-stopper Shu-aib Walters was in supreme form as the Capetonians took care of champions Wits in Johannesburg last week - but, for young Ajax custodian Brandon Petersen, the Parow-based team’s 1-1 draw with Golden Arrows was a night to forget.
Not only did the 35-year-old Walters pull off some excellent stops during open play against Wits, he also brilliantly saved a penalty from Malawian Gabadinho Mhango. For his efforts, Walters was named man of the match.
The 22-year-old Petersen, however, was responsible for the blunder that gave Arrows the lead, after which, fortunately, Rivaldo Coetzee equalised to spare his teammate’s blushes. Petersen, initially, had done well in anticipating the threat of an Arrows through-ball; he got there to snuff out the danger, but then, instead of hoofing it clear, he decided to pass and the ball hit the opposition striker and rolled into the net. It was an embarrassing moment for the young keeper, but, at the same time, a good learning curve too.
Experience is the greatest teacher - and, for Petersen, the next time he is confronted by such a game scenario, he will know that safety is the first option: Put the ball in row 539 and it will allow his team to start all over again, without having conceded a silly goal.
Ajax coach Stanley Menzo is certainly holding nothing against his young goalkeeper. In fact, as he readily admits, he knows the feeling.
“It was just unlucky,” said Menzo. “I understand the situation - remember that I, too, was a goalkeeper during my playing days. So I won’t criticise, I won’t hammer him for the mistake. It happens in football”
The good thing about a quick turnaround of fixtures is that there is no time for Petersen to dwell on his error. He can place it in the past, learn from the experience, and endeavour to do well for the team against Maritzburg tonight.
As for Walters, after his fantastic performance against Wits, he also revealed the importance of a goalkeeper doing his homework. Walters is frank about how he studies penalty-takers, he remembers which side they prefer to kick, and the information then becomes useful. This type of study can be valuable not just for goalkeepers, but for every position on the field. In essence, the message is, ‘know your opponent’.