It’s often said that goalkeepers are a bit mad. Outfield players get the glory of scoring and creating goals for their team, while goalkeepers receive abuse for 90 minutes from opposing fans and are mostly judged on mistakes. They also dive to the ground thousands of times in their careers, but why?
Goalkeepers dive because it’s sometimes easier to save shots by launching their bodies from one side of the goal to the other. If goalkeepers stay on their feet, their hands are less likely to get to the ball in time compared to if they dive.
Long-time football watchers are no doubt aware that goalkeepers’ dives are occasionally referred to as “camera saves.” This term is used when a theatrical ‘keeper arches their back or dives unnecessarily while making a save.
Does it hurt when goalkeepers dive?
Throwing one’s body to the ground multiple times a match doesn’t seem much fun. Goalkeepers of yesteryear were fortunate enough to wear long-sleeved tops, which included extra padding around the elbows. Nowadays, goalkeepers usually wear short sleeves just like outfield players. With that in mind, how much does diving hurt?
It really depends on the surface. If a goalkeeper dives on artificial grass, there is a good chance they will suffer cuts and bruises across the side of their body after diving to save a shot. If a goalkeeper dives on regular grass, they are unlikely to feel the impact too much.
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The fact that many elite-level goalkeepers choose to wear short sleeves is proof that you’re safe to dive on standard football pitches without sustaining serious injuries.
Why do goalkeepers dive before the ball is kicked?
Goalkeeper v striker – the battle that settles the majority of football matches. You might have noticed that some goalkeepers dive before the ball has left the shot-taker’s boot. Why? The answer is simple: guesswork.
If the goalkeeper guesses correctly, they are already in position to save the shot by the time the shot-taker has kicked the ball towards goal. In theory, diving early gives the goalkeeper a better chance of saving the shot.
The problem, of course, comes if the goalkeeper dives the wrong way. When that happens in regular play, the striker usually makes them look a fool by slotting the ball into an empty net.
Why do goalkeepers dive the wrong way?
If we look specifically at penalties, goalkeepers often guess incorrectly and end up diving to the other side of the goal.
Needless to say, goalkeepers do not purposely dive the wrong way. They sometimes throw their bodies in the opposite direction to the ball after wrongly assuming that a penalty taker is going to aim the same way that they dived.
Penalties are a lottery, some say, and mostly come down to luck. Goalkeepers who dive the wrong way don’t usually get the blame. In fact, penalty shootouts provide goalkeepers with a rare opportunity to be a hero instead of the fall guy/girl when a team concedes goals.