30 years ago, Higuita revolutionized the position of goalkeeper

Today, Manuel Neuer, Marc-André ter Stegen, Ederson or Allison appear as prototypes of modern goalkeepers, capable of dribbling the ball at their feet and throwing back cleanly. An evolution linked to the ban on taking the ball by hand on a pass from a teammate, imposed by Fifa in 1992 after too many abuses. « Football greats like Pelé and (Diego) Maradona (were) very good players, but they didn’t change a rule at Fifa »declares, with a touch of casualness, René Higuita to AFP during a videoconference.

Nicknamed « Le Fou » because of his ball raids far from his surface and especially his legendary scorpion kick against England in 1995 (an acrobatic save with both feet thrown over his head), the former Colombia international has shown that goalkeepers don’t have all the square feet and can participate in the game.

Major change

« Fifa put an end to a horrible thing (…) almost all the teams were playing backwards to give the ball to the goalkeeper »

In 1992, just before the Olympic Games in Barcelona, ​​Fifa amended the rule of the « back pass » to the goalkeeper and decided that recovering the ball by hand would be a foul giving rise to an indirect free kick in the area. The only solution was therefore to use the feet. Higuita believes he « inspired » this major change, which revolutionized football at the time much criticized for its slowness. The 1990 World Cup in Italy had indeed been painful for the fans. « Fifa put an end to a horrible thing (…) almost all the teams were playing backwards to give the ball to the goalkeeper »sports historian Luciano Wernicke reminds AFP.

Argentinian Sergio Goycochea, Costa Rican Luis Gabelo or Italian Walter Zenga « held the ball in their hands for an eternity“to save time,” he adds. Higuita was good with his feet. Penalty and free kick taker, he scored 43 goals during his career and participated in the offensive animation. A style of play that his counterparts did not share…

« A Big Surprise »

« El Loco » is amused: in the first matches after the entry into force of this standard, some goalkeepers continued « to catch the ball with their hands ». « For us, it was a big surprise (…) We weren’t used to it »recently confirmed the former Spanish international goalkeeper Santiago Canizares. Others like Barcelona legend Andoni Zubizarreta were opposed to this law. She « limit the keeper« , he told the Spanish daily El Pais in 1992. Not sure that the current generation hears it that way. Ederson at Manchester City, Alisson at Liverpool or Neuer at Bayern Munich, do not hesitate to dribble an attacker in the laundry, nor to deliver decisive passes…

Football « is faster today, (there is) more mobility, every day the goalkeeper has to work a little more with his feet to support the team », says Higuita. Be careful, however, not to take yourself too much for an outfield player! Missed control, uncontrolled ball exit, hazardous recovery… Goalkeeper blunders have multiplied since the reform. Higuita himself made a big mistake at the 1990 World Cup, losing the ball in midfield against Roger Milla. The Cameroonian then scored in the empty cage and eliminated Colombia from the competition in the round of 16… « El Loco » continues despite everything to plead for change, 30 years later. « We talk a lot about establishing a real time (of play) like in basketball », he said. This is a less dangerous idea than a dribble in front of his goal line..

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