Thursday, December 14, 2006
When I first began watching footie, knowing nothing really about the sport, I was instinctively drawn to the keepers. The position seemed to me a lonesome and existentially absurd one, in which long stretches of boredom are punctuated by moments of sheer panic. That says more about the kind of lousy keeper I'd make (my sporting philosophy, born of a black eye inflicted by a poorly passed American football when I was in the fifth grade, is to run away from, not toward, the ball) than it does about the actual job itself. Still, my initial affection for the keepers of the world was only reinforced when I discovered no shortage of eccentrics and ne'er-do-wells who'd held the line against the final onslaught of the opposing squad, like Colombia's Rene Higuita. Of these keeper-eccentrics, one of my favorites is the erratic and unreliable French national Fabien Barthez. I was terribly disappointed when he went into a forced retirement following the World Cup, when, following his resignation from Marseilles, basically no team wanted him (imagine!), and I'm delighted to report Fabien's about to be out of retirement and prowling the pitch once again: he's due to sign a contract with struggling Nantes and could be between the sticks again before the end of the month. Look out, Nantes--er, I mean, all you other Ligue 1 contenders!