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Oct 2011
Different countries, different styles

Professional Football

Xavi Valero

Style and efficiency don’t always go hand in hand and we often hear interesting debates regarding how convenient it is to prioritise one or the other when, as coaches, we take on both the complexity of the learning process and the need for keepers to perform. If we look at football in different countries and observe in detail the solutions that each goalkeeper uses to face similar game situations we can find various common denominators which influence and model the style of each keeper. However, the existence of these characteristics doesn’t always mean that there is an explicit consensus over this subject. It concerns the inherent form in which we understand the role of the goalkeeper within the game of football in each country. Although it is true that in the last few years there have been a growing number of specialised publications and organisational initiatives that are contributing to the creation of a differentiated identity of the goal keeper.

For those that enjoy analysing the skills and strategies that keepers use to resolve a certain game situation, the diversity of styles enriches our point of view and broadens our views. Across football pitches in England we see keepers with great physical strength and reliability in goal. In Spain we find keepers who participate and are more implicated in the collective game. Italy centres its attention to forming keepers with an elegant and fine technique. Many keepers in South America have shown us how to be accurate in launching counterattacks and how to be unbeatable in 1 v 1 situations. What we see on the pitch reflects years of intense work, different ideas over the responsibility which the keeper must assume and diverse methodological tendencies. This last point deserves great attention given its consequences on the learning process. Additionally, I would say that even today it surprises me the general isolation of the keeper in training sessions.

Imitation is always the main form of learning for young goalkeepers who try to replicate exactly what they see in professionals. At the same time as we accompany this innate process, we as coaches have the opportunity and responsibility to give continuity to the good and improve what is not useful and inefficient.

Football and its protagonists are always changing. Identifying such changes in time is key to continuous improvement. The globalisation of the football market and media has facilitated a multicultural form of teaching and learning which is leading to the formation of more complete goalkeepers capable of giving reliable responses to the demands of a game which each time is becoming quicker and more unpredictable. Each country with its style and its football offers us the possibility of bettering ourselves and forming goalkeepers who are each time more complete and efficient.