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The Strange History of the Goalkeeper’s Gloves

The Strange History of the Goalkeeper’s Gloves

When you were a kid and had to play in goals in those halcyon days when you had jumpers for goalposts you never wore gloves. It would have appeared soft and sissy to put a pair of super padded gloves on as you took your turn in nets (even though there was no net.)

Before the 1970’s goalies only wore gloves if the weather was bad. Nowadays, not only does the keeper wear gloves but half the players do as well if there is a slight chill in the air. Gloves are all the rage.

History of the glove

Surprisingly the fist patent for goalkeeping gloves was in 1885. This is three years before the Football League was formed. A ball manufacturer called William Sykes created a rubber glove that your Victorian gentleman goalkeeper could wear to keep his hands nice and soft.

He was clearly ahead of his time. England’s greatest ever keeper Gordon Banks only wore gloves as an experiment when he appeared in the Mexico World Cup of 1970. That means he helped England to win the World Cup in 1966 with his bare hands.

As the game has developed so has glove technology and keepers can choose from different types of glove. Depending on their preference they can go for flat palmed gloves, padded roll finger gloves or negative cut gloves.

It is said that negative cut gloves are better for the handling of crosses but most keepers seem to prefer roll finger gloves as they find them to be the most comfortable to wear.

Providing protection

The modern goalkeeper wears gloves because they provide extra grip on the ball (yet some keepers still drop it.) A keeper needs to know that when he or she goes to catch the ball that it will stay stuck in their mitts.

They also provide protection against injury. The modern goalie does not want to face thunderbolt shot from a striker wearing modern football boots with their bare hands. If he or she did the physio would need to apply cold packs on the poor keeper’s burning hands.

The Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo famously dispensed with his gloves when he faced England in the penalty shoot-out in Euro 2004. He obviously knew how bad England players were at taking at penalties and Portugal went on to win it 6-5 and the gloveless Ricardo scored the decisive penalty.

Yet in normal match play the custodian of the nets will wear gloves because they do not want their fingers broken or to bend back. The modern goalkeeping glove protects the keeper’s hands and it means that they rarely need to use first aid kits or the physio supplies.

Keepers are crazy

The modern football is lighter than its pre-war counterpart. In those days they used to play with footballs that were not only bulky but would gain weight from the heavy, muddy pitches they used to play on.

It does seem mad that the keepers in those days were prepared to face shots coming at them with their bare hands. Some modern keepers, like Chelsea’s Petr Cech not only wear gloves they wear head protection as well.

Yet as the football cliché goes you do have to be crazy to be a keeper.

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