Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech lies on the ground  after colliding with Reading’s Stephen Hunt during their English Premiership soccer match at
Chelsea's goalkeeper Petr Cech lies on the ground after colliding with Reading's Stephen Hunt during their English Premiership soccer match at Madejski Stadium in Reading, England, on Saturday. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)


Tuesday, October 17
LONDON — Television pictures of England's Paul Robinson flash around the world after the goalkeeper completely misses a kick and turns to see the ball rolling into an empty net.

Three days later, Chelsea's Petr Cech dives to reach the ball and winds up with a skull fracture after an opponent's knee thuds into his head.

In the same game, teammate Carlo Cudicini is rushed to the hospital unconscious after he collides with an opponent while jumping to catch the ball and crashes to the ground. Cudicini is back home; Cech is recovering in the hospital.

In the world of goalkeepers, embarrassment can rub shoulders with danger.

The hurt and dazed Bert Trautmann, Manchester City soccer team’s German-born goalkeeper, center, being helped from the Wembley pitch in May 1956 at
The hurt and dazed Bert Trautmann, Manchester City soccer team's German-born goalkeeper, center, being helped from the Wembley pitch in May 1956 at the end of the FA Cup final by teammates Dave Ewing, left, and Bill Leivers. (AP Photo/PA)

And they don't have helmets to protect them or facemasks to hide the shame.

"Robinson Clousseau" was one headline that followed the England goalkeeper's blunder after his team lost 2-0 at Croatia in a Euro 2008 qualifying game. The same tabloids that likened Robinson to that fictional French detective made famous by Peter Sellers were horrified by the injuries to the Chelsea goalkeepers against Reading on Saturday.

It's said one has to be slightly mad to be a goalkeeper. Because goalkeepers alone can use their hands, teammates expect them to dive among the flying boots to grab the ball. Once there, they run the risk of being hurt.

Bert Trautmann was a German prisoner of war who stayed in England after World War II and played for Manchester City. At the 1956 FA Cup final at Wembley, Trautmann dived at the feet of Birmingham City's Peter Murphy and injured himself. He continued playing for the last 15 minutes of his team's 3-1 victory. He later discovered he had a broken neck.

In 1931, Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson dived at the feet of Rangers striker Sam English and his head smashed into his opponent's knee. Thomson never regained consciousness and died soon after.

The goalkeepers' arena is largely confined to the penalty area. For most of the game, the job involves watching the action in front of them.

Goalkeepers playing behind strong defenses usually have little do. They spend much of the game joining the banter from fans behind the goal or dodging the coins, cigarette lighters or cell phones hurled at them.

There are scores of examples of what happens when goalkeepers stray from the goal. Ask former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman of the time he left his line and watched the last kick of extra time from Zaragoza's Mohammed Nayim float over his head for the winner in the 1995 Cup Winners' Cup final.

Or the time Seaman was playing for England in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals and Ronaldinho floated a free kick over his head for Brazil's winner.

Embarrassment for one goalkeeper can lead to glory for another.

In 1967, Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings scored with a huge punt from his own area that bounced over the head of Manchester United's Alex Stepney. More recently in a World Cup tuneup, Colombia's Luis Enrique Martinez scored a similar goal against Poland. The Polish goalkeeper was Tomasz Kuszczak, who now plays for Manchester United.

Sometimes goalkeepers overstep the mark.

West Germany's Harald Schumacher was lucky to avoid a long suspension at the 1982 World Cup when he raced off his line to halt France's Patrick Battiston with a blatant body check. The Frenchman wound up with a concussion and a few broken teeth. The referee didn't even award a free kick.

Although Reading striker Stephen Hunt has declared his innocence for the play put Cech in the hospital, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is demanding disciplinary action.

With his top two goalkeepers out, Mourinho will have to rely on an untried third choice against defending champion FC Barcelona on Wednesday in the Champions League.

His name? Hilario.

It may be a name that sums up the crazy world of goalkeepers.

Once he's back between the posts, even Petr Cech may find it funny.


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