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The Mass Media

Goalkeepers: The first line of defense

Olivia Reid
Men’s goalkeeper, Victor Reyes, in their recent home game. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

Goalkeeping, in association with soccer, is arguably the most critical—as well as demanding—position. It is not only physically draining, but takes a toll on the athlete mentally as well. The position is dynamic, unpredictable and constantly changing. With the constant change in the responsibilities of the goalkeeper, every game presents a unique challenge to these silent heroes. Goalkeeping is the most misunderstood position of soccer, as it holds different magnitudes of meaning for various people. They almost always do not receive the same love and appreciation from the audience as the field players do. These unsung heroes need more appreciation as well as understanding. 

UMass Boston Men’s Soccer has three players who very gracefully share this dynamic role, they each contribute to the game in their own unique ways, and bring skills and energy to the field that completely contradicts the others’. The one thing that makes UMass Boston’s goalkeepers stand out is the lack of competition among them and the rapport that they share; their relationship stretches much further than the field. As the armor that protects the rest of the team, they stand tall so that their teammates can look back and see how far they’ve come.  

Men’s soccer has a total of three goalies: J.J. Devine, Qasim El-Ashkar and Victor Reyes. When interviewed each of them had a special perspective to share; goalkeeping as a position holds different, unique meanings for each of them. Devine, a junior at UMass Boston who has been a goalkeeper for the past 10 years, was asked why he chose goalkeeping as a position.

“I chose goalkeeping because my first thought was, ‘I could get to be the hero,’ and to be very honest, I wasn’t that good on the field when I first started playing. So, I got thrown into goal, and I ended up just being successful at it, and my team liked me there the most. I helped them a lot that season,” he said. 

El-Ashkar and Reyes both had similar outlooks that they brought to the table; goalkeeping was not something they willingly chose. Instead, they were forced into it by their coaches and teammates.

“A coach pushed me into it because I was wicked fat when I was younger. So he was like, ‘you are going to go into goal, because you can’t run on the field,’” El-Ashkar said. “Honestly, I just enjoyed playing the position after that…I thought it was unique— different from the field player’s position. I could be vocal, I could use my hands,” he said. Reyes had similar things to say, and as all three of them became their teams’ respective net-minders, the love for goalkeeping was inculcated in them. 

Even with all the preconceived notions toward goalkeepers, they flourished and proved that they are a force to be reckoned with. But goalkeeping was not the first preference for any of them. Devine claimed that “he wanted to play as a striker, as he could have been more of a hero, by scoring goals.” Reyes used to be a striker; he initially started as one when he began playing at the age of six. Although, he switched positions relatively quickly and has been a goalkeeper since he was eight years old. He got a shot at goalkeeping when his coach subbed him in place of their previous one. One man’s loss is another man’s game.

“I just turned out to be really good at goalkeeping, and the team then preferred me there,” Reyes said.

As compared to field players, being a goalkeeper is more challenging. There is no right or wrong when it comes to playing the position, and there is certainly no room for mistakes. When asked about the difficulties that come with protecting the net, Devine stated, “It is harder, especially mentally, because at the end of the day, you can be the hero as quick as you can let the team down. It’s tough. The other players on the team can make as many mistakes as they want, but if I make one mistake, it can change the whole game.”

El-Ashkar chimed in with his own perspective, stating, “I think goalkeeping is tougher than any other position compared to any other sport; I don’t care what sport it is. It could be football, baseball or tennis. Quarterback is nowhere near as hard as being the goalkeeper, shot stopper is nowhere near as hard as being a goalkeeper. I think it is 100 percent the hardest position in sports.” 

Reyes agreed with his teammates, and provided an overlooked aspect of the game.

“If you mess up on the field, there are ten other players to help you out. But if you mess up as a goalie, it really messes up the whole team,” he said. The position is both physically and mentally taxing. The goalkeeper single-handedly holds the entire team together, diving head first at even the slightest possibility of a threat, quite literally. Yet they receive nowhere near the same amount of appreciation from the audience or their teammates, when in reality, they should be getting more.  

Soccer is an extremely sought after sport in America. The love and respect that the audience has for the field players is immeasurable. This is where the goalkeepers are left behind. Even though they hold together the whole team, they sometimes tend to get ignored by the audience.

“[Goalies] receive a lot of appreciation when they come out big and make big saves, but it is hard when you’re at the other end of the stick. You can let your team down as easy as you can bring them up.” Devine said. “The other teams’ fans try to get to the goalies’ heads more than the field players because mentally, if you’re not locked in, the game can change in 10 seconds.” 

The way they play decides the fate of the team; every save is loaded with enthusiasm and every miss takes away from their confidence and self-esteem. Since the goalies carry such a massive weight on their shoulders, the defense and goalies work hand-in-hand in trying to lighten the load. They both have a unique understanding and always have each other’s back. The defense and goalkeepers are like the wheels of a car; if any of them fails, it takes a toll on every other one.  

Goalkeepers deserve so much more than they put up with, whether it be with opposing players and fans or even fans of their own. UMass Boston Men’s Soccer is extremely lucky to have goalkeepers of such great caliber, all of whom put the sport before their well-being. When they are on the field, nothing else matters; to them, the team comes before everything else. They are always overlooked because they do not score goals, but no one makes a save like them. Their dedication and grit are what makes them stand out. Their contribution is much bigger than just making saves. They motivate, instruct and guide the team throughout the game, which by the looks of it, is so much more valuable than just being seen as the players standing near the goalpost.  



About the Contributor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor