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The long and troubled history of Brazilian goalkeepers

From Barbosa to Alisson, Brazil has finally learned to appreciate its extreme defenders

The long and troubled history of Brazilian goalkeepers From Barbosa to Alisson, Brazil has finally learned to appreciate its extreme defenders

In the first place in the world ranking of the sunniest people in the world, before divorcees, single and presidents of the various councils, there are goalkeepers. The most rudimentary role par excellence stands on the Mountain of Solitude and looks all from above, with that convinced melancholy characteristic of those who have reached the top, but arrived there alone.

Not far from this mountain, however, there is another, and is even more impressive, even more majestic. Here they call it the Peak of Insulation, and up there, on the highest step, sit all those people who belong to the only category even more alone than the extreme defenders: the Brazilian goalkeepers, arranged in a circle, pray their God Gilmar hoping to understand the future, like today's guessers with the task of predicting Brazil's next victory at the World Cup.


From the absurd Barbosa's story to the myth of Gilmar

At the beginning it was not easy. The first pages of this story tell of children chasing a ball between dribbling and double steps, inspiration and imagination in power, when the technique was the salt of a world of lack. Which madman in Brazil would choose to be a goalkeeper? Pelè's son, Edinho, also tried, but he was stopped almost immediately: "Your father has scored a thousand goals, you will suffer as many: leave it".

In Rio de Janeiro, on the other hand, the question was even more drastic: "If you decide to play on goal or you're crazy or you're a fag" it was said, and it was enough to discourage all possible young talents. The ball was then placed on the ground and kicked, and those who touched the ungrateful task of stopping it with their hands did not remain even a shred of glory.

Moacyr Barbosa, one of the first, iconic Brazilian goalkeepers, has experienced it on his skin, which is remembered almost exclusively for the Maracanazo of July 16, 1950, when Brazil incredibly lost the World Cup against Uruguay 2-1. The goalkeeper, on the occasion of the second network of Celeste, left his post of competence and allowed Ghiggia to achieve the victory goal. From that moment on, Barbosa was held to be the bearer of all the ills of the world and fell into depression.

A much better fate, however, is up to Gilmar. He, yes, the first true legendary Brazilian defender, without mud thrown on him but covered in the opposite of eternal glory. Only goalkeeper to win two World Cups (consecutive, among others), in Gilmar is contained all the revenge of a category that in Brazil has been too mistreated. Twice big, twice hero: first in Sweden, in 1958, then in Chile, in 1962.

Gilmar was a distinctive character, extremely recognizable: unlike today's goalkeepers, he did not wear gloves and went out in the field with shorts so as not to be too limited in his movements. A good choice, given the results: elegant and long, high but at the same time reactive, leader in the field, leader of the dressing room. "He was the father of modern Brazilian goalkeepers, he did discover this role for young people" commented José Altafini once. Gilmar sure, on one occasion, looked like Pelé's father. A memorable photo, directly from Sweden '58, taken after the green and gold triumph.

World Ascent

In the years to come, then, other names engraved in history have also been added to the list of heroes. Some are inextricably linked to the other Brazilian victories at the World Championships, as happened to Felix on the occasion of Mexico 1970 or to Marcos in 2002 in the Korea-Japan edition, while others are simply memorable by implicit importance and without the need for medals around the neck, like Emerson Leao and the incredible Rogerio Ceni, capable of scoring over 100 goals in his career.

As for the Serie A, however, the first to let us know closely the green and gold strength between the posts was Claudio Taffarel: World Champion in USA '94, arrived in Emilia also with the aim of exporting the Parmalat brand abroad, Taffarel has inaugurated a tradition that, in our championship, has continued surprisingly over the years.

In this sense, Dida and Julio Cesar certainly represent absolute excellence: one at Milan, the other at Inter; one able to win two Champions League as a protagonist, the other entered by right among the heroes of Triplete. Different for the style of being between the poles and the way of living the field, the two Brazilians have fought for years the enlightened monarchy of Gigi Buffon even coming to steal the tricolor cover on some occasions.

In addition to the Milanese, another Serie A team with a special relationship with the Brazilian goalkeepers is definitely Roma: the Giallorossi have started their path of "Brazilianization" of the poles with Doni, and then continue the story of the green and gold door with Julio Sergio. The real piece from the nineties, however, comes only in 2016: Walter Sabatini decides to withdraw from Internacional a boy who is no longer young (he was 24 years old) for 8 million euros, and throughout the first Roman season that Brazilian name remains almost always in the shadow of Szczęsny. Then comes his turn and he conquers the scene: Alisson convinces everyone thanks to decisive parades and played superfine, it seems a playmaker adapted between the posts, with the technique of a fantasy player and the explosiveness of a real goalkeeper. Liverpool decides to pay the record sum of 75 million and bring it to England, where he already militated (and still militates) Ederson, another leading figure of the Brazilian school in UK after the arrival of the first protagonist, Heurelho Gomes.

Strong and reactive, but also good with their feet and participatory: the Brazilian goalkeepers in recent years occupy leading roles and have recovered their revenge, finding the right mix between the technical skill ball to the foot (now fundamental) and defense. The extreme green e gold defender is now observed closely, appreciated, required. Recently, Genoa brought in our championship Jandrei (class of 1993, fighting with Radu for the starting position), while Inter decided to focus on Brazão (class 2000), shot temporarily on loan at Parma in a operation that is very reminiscent of that with Chievo for Julio Cesar. And both clubs hope to have in their hands the new Taffarel, the new Dida, the new Gilmar. Meanwhile, in Brazil, some child unaware of all this will already be dreaming of becoming the new Alisson. And the teasing seems only a distant memory.