Goalkeeper: Why has the Position Changed so Much?

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Everything about soccer changes throughout the the past 4 decades, technically and tactically, the rules, new foul rules and now with the introduction of the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR), things have taken a new dimension.

The role of the goalkeeper has evolved more than any other role on the field and it has drastically. I’d say that in the past 35 years the only aspect of the keepers game that hasn’t changed is that they’re put on the field to stop the ball going into the goal.

How many of you knew that the soccer ball itself has actually changed. In 1970, the size official size soccer ball was a size 5.2, it was bigger! That changed in 1971, taking it down 0.2 to today’s official size. Today’s soccer ball is also lighter. in 1930 weighed 20 ounces. Throughout the years it slowly got lighter and today’s soccer balls weigh in at 14.1 ounces (FIFA average). As a result, the smaller and most of all the faster soccer ball often will change direction after it has been kicked, and consequently, the goalie has also had to adapt.

YouTube: Dino Zoff and check out some of his saves, then search for Manuel Neuer and check his videos out as well and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

Goalkeepers in today’s soccer react a lot faster and deal with constant ball direction changes and you’ll see that Neuer today had a harder time dealing with air-born shots rather than Zoff did in the 1970’s.

Neuer invented the art of being a field player as a goalkeeper and revolutionized this position, to where coach Pep Guardiola, after winning the Bundesliga championship with Bayern Munich in 2015, seriously came up with the idea of putting Neuer in midfield for a game.

To effectively adapt to these changes, Goalkeeper Gloves absorbent foam and specific 4mm German Latex for a quality grip have become more important than ever. The ability to get a fingertip touch on the ball and divert it away from the net has become vital.


Since 1970 the increase of speed in the ball being shot has had a huge impact on how many times the goalkeeper will deflect the ball rather than collect it with a “W” save. When I was a child in the late 70’s and 80’s we were specifically trained to catch the ball period (no matter how it was shot at you). Now however, the speed of the ball has drastically changed all of that, deflecting the ball has become a tool each modern goalkeeper must have in their toolbox. Today’s pro-keepers reaction times is faster than ever before and throughout the years it will get even faster.

Goalkeepers worst nightmare happened 28 years ago (back in 1992), and that was the “Backpass” rule. For us goalkeepers of those days it was horrible! No more picking up the ball if passed to you by a teammate GRRRRR!!! It was introduced to reduce time wasting and it worked! However, it also pushed goalkeepers to become field-players with their feet. Many top-pro goalkeepers at the time of the changes really sucked with their feet and a lot of extra training had to undergo. Today goalkeepers have the ball at their feet more than they do in their hands. A FIFA report of 2017 stated that a keepers will use his feet 52% of the time against the 48% of their hands.

Goalkeeper today spend a significant amount of time making sure that their feet are totally comfortable with the ball. Failing to control the ball with their feet can result in being scored on, as many of us have seen during the 90’s. However today these mistakes are seen less than ever.

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