The game through a goalkeeper’s eyes

The pursuit of perfection in a seemingly solitary place

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Photo of goalkeeper Jordan Thorsen in net
The luxury of being the only player in your position comes at the price of being put under a microscope. PHOTO: SFU Athletics

By: Clarence Ndabahwerize, Staff Writer

In soccer, the goalkeeper is the sole figure at the back of their team’s side of the pitch. In a fixed position and constantly close to the stands, they either receive support or harangue from fans of the opposition. Some might say this makes them the “odd one out” on the team. We interviewed Jordan Thorsen, #26 on the SFU men’s soccer team, to find out whether there’s any validity to these claims. 

“There’s a much finer line between good and bad performances as a goalkeeper,” said Thorsen. For an outfield player, making a few mistakes isn’t magnified as much, he explained. On the other hand, a mistake from a goalkeeper could “sacrifice their [team’s] result.” It’s a lot of responsibility for one player to handle at any given time in a 90-minute game. “Goalkeeping is polarized that way,” Thorsen admits, “You really are the hero or the villain. You are essentially an individual in a team sport, which can feel lonely, especially when you haven’t been playing well.”

Despite the position’s spotlighting nature, Thorsen knew he wanted to be a goalkeeper from the time he started playing soccer. Growing up, his biggest inspiration was Danish Manchester United goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel. His love for the goalkeeper came from his father, who grew up in Denmark and showed him highlight videos of Schmeichel in his formative years. It’s no wonder Thorsen’s current favourite club in the English Premier League is Leicester City — the same team Kasper Schmeichel, son of Peter Schmeichel, plays for.

When it comes to training, Thorsen acknowledged the athleticism required for a goalkeeper is remarkably different from outfielders. “Whereas outfield players are more endurance-based athletes, goalkeepers are all about explosivity, and training reflects that.” He likened training days to doing burpees for an hour. “Training as a goalkeeper reflects the perfection which is demanded by the position,” said Thorsen, “Repetition. Repetition. Repetition, until you can do it almost perfectly every time, because perfection is what is demanded from us.” 

So, how does Thorsen push down these thoughts of perfection during a game? Although he confessed to feeling nervous before matches, instead of letting it get the better of him, Thorsen has learned to turn the nerves into focus. “As soon as the starting whistle sounds, a lot of those nerves melt away. You’re still [nervous], but again, if your mental game is sharp, it’s far more of a blessing than a curse.” Being in goal has also allowed Thorsen to see everything on the pitch, like “team morale dropping in the face of a great challenge.” 

So, sure, goalkeepers may be hanging by themselves in no-man’s land for the majority of games, but it’s anything but quiet on their side of the pitch. Having the best seat in the house forces goalkeepers to have a “very vocal presence,” and be “great leaders in times of adversity.” Sometimes, it can be a much-needed save, and other times, it’s keeping your head up for the team because “no challenge is insurmountable in [soccer]. You have to believe that.”