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Soup of This Day #254: He Sees The Things He Knows Are His

October 10, 2012

To protect a goalkeeper it’s sometimes best to form a wall. Just make sure that you’ve shielded yourself as well – Photo: HerbertT, 2006. HerbertT is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This post is a bit of a mixed bag – Quite literally as you’ll discover towards the end.

There is though a theme, best summed up by a Dilbert strip I read once that was structured around someone having eggs and bacon for breakfast. The punchline was that the chicken contributed but the pig was committed. This post then is about the pigs in sport – Those that go further and seriously risk their bacon.

For the record there is a biennial Pig Olympics, which features pigs competing in pig-racing, pig-swimming and pigball (aka swineball). None of the competitors are eaten and the event was organised by the Sport-Pig Federation so as to:

‘…deliver a different kind of entertainment to people.’

And I’m sure it does.

Pigball is the swine equivalent of football. Teams of 5 are let loose in a pen and they are required to progress a soccer ball into a half-circle that has been painted onto the ground and that represents a goal. For added porcine incentive the ball is coated with fish oil.

Which would be an interesting addition to human football, although goalkeepers might argue that the ball is a little too greasy for comfort. Of course, modern goalkeepers wear specially designed gloves that are engineered to provide better grip and hand protection. So ubiquitous are these accoutrements that it’s easy to forget that prior to the 1970’s such equipment was rarely used and probably frowned upon.

Yep, goalkeepers in the old days were tough. Broken fingers and stinging palms were surely common. Sometimes too the injuries got a bit more serious than that…

When it comes to going the whole hog as a keeper the stand-out example is post-war stopper Bert Trautmann, whose commitment to his craft is best highlighted by his abnormal efforts in the 1956 FA Cup Final.

To be fair to Bert his life to that point had hardly been a typical 1 – He’d served as a Fallschirmjäger (German paratrooper) during World War 2, fighting the Red Army on the Eastern Front. At the close of the conflict, just 90 of Bert’s original regiment were still alive. Trautmann himself had escaped capture 3 times – Once each by the Russians, the French Resistance and the Americans. When the latter looked to be staging a mock execution he fled into the hands of the British, who promptly shipped him off to England for a period of incarceration. Initially classified as a Nazi, he was subsequentally cleared of that tag and therefore was allowed to remain in England after the war.

This he did, working on farms and honing a goalkeeping talent that had come to light during his stay in a prisoner of war camp. He parleyed this skill into a role with Manchester City FC, early on enduring abuse for his militaristic past, but later winning over the fans by being quite decent between the posts.

Actually he was more than quite decent – He was in fact bloody good at stopping the ball from going into the net.

So good that across 508 appearances for the Citizens he retained a penalty-saving rate of around 60%.

It’s generally accepted to be pretty impressive if you can stop 30% of them.

For all that, it is for the 1956 FA Cup Final that Bert is most remembered, in particular the final 15 minutes of that game. With his Manchester City side leading 3-1 over Birmingham City Trautmann was knocked unconscious by a full-blooded challenge. Unfortunately the blue Mancunians had used up all their substitutes and so after a dose of smelling salts Bert was required to resume his defence between the posts.

In some pain.

During that tackle that had knocked him senseless he had received a knee to the neck. Consequently it hurt a little. It hurt enough that he was sure he’d pulled a muscle up there or something like that.

Regardless, he forged on – Making a key interception and heroically blockading his goal for the remainder of the match. During that defence of his goal-mouth he made what were described as ‘spectacular saves.’ It was in part due to those blocks that Manchester City duly won the Cup and Trautmann, in substantial pain, was helped up the steps to receive his winner’s medal. There, he met Prince Philip, who noticing the odd way that the keeper was holding his head, politely asked:

‘Why is your head crooked?’

Bert Trautmann’s response was a succinct:

‘Stiff neck’

It was 4 days later that an x-ray confirmed just how stiff. The former paratrooper had broken a vertebrae in his neck completely in half. The vertebrae below that had fortuitously wedged the 2 pieces in and those 2 vertebrae were part of a group of 5 that had been dislocated.

At this point it’s worth noting that, while he made ‘spectacular saves’ with a broken and dislocated neck, arguably his own life was the most spectacular save of all.

Bert Trautmann ain’t no chicken.

Neither is English Rugby League player Paul Wood.

Paul played this Saturday just past in the Super League Grand Final for his club Warrington against Leeds. Rugby League is a pretty tough game, often calling for repetitive sets of barging ram-raids on your opponents defensive line. There is little to no padding and players are expected to go in hard using their bodies to protect the ball.

Paul did that last bit ok – He just focused on securing the wrong ball.

If you’re a guy then maybe read this next bit only after a stiff drink. Even then be prepared to wince, because this next bit is just not right. Not. Right. At. All.

A minute into the 2nd half Paul Wood threw himself into the play and in doing so copped an accidental knee to the groin.

Knees are shaping up as the villains of this piece.

Regardless of what makes contact down-stairs, it generally ends up hurting. In this case Wood admitted later that the injury:

‘…did smart a bit.’

That is a stoic understatement – With a solid knee to the love-spuds there is some breath-taking physical pain which, on the old medical scale of 1 to 10, checks in around 11. Pretty much all you can do when you’ve taken a hit below the belt is to double up into the foetal position and mew like a kitten having nightmares.

Paul presumably did a bit of mewing but then, like the tough guy that he is, he got back onto his feet and saw out the next 20 minutes of the match before being subbed off.

And then he went to hospital where they discovered he’d ruptured a testicle and that they’d have to remove it. For good too – It’s not like they could fix it up and then pop it back into place.

See? Not right, is it?

To his credit the man maintained his sense of humour even as he failed to maintain the regulation number of testicles. As he left the hospital he tweeted a sardonic message to concerned followers:

‘Just coming out the hospital to go home… Seriously feel like I’ve left something?’

That would be a testicle Paul. 1 of yours.

Paul is clearly not a chicken. He is in fact a wolf, Warrington being the Wolves. Sadly for Warrington Leeds are known as the Rhinos. Now your average rhinoceros is a herbivore but if challenged by a wolf is likely to win that stoush, having a rather large horn and all. This is pretty much how the Super League Grand Final played out.

Leeds won 26-18, just to rub salt into Paul Woods’ 1 remaining testicle.

So it’s best not to be a largish animal, like a wolf or a pig, then. Perhaps it’s more prudent to be an animal that is relatively unobtrusive. An animal that has 2 testicles that are housed internally, safely protected from accidental knocks. An animal that contributes, without committing their bacon.

An animal like a chicken.

He Sees The Things He Knows Are His

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