There is a touching scene at the end of every ice hockey game when the goalie is congratulated by all his teammates, regardless of the result. ‘Rightly so,’ you might say, ‘the man’s just spent 60 minutes having a piece of vulcanised rubber lashed towards him at frighteningly high speeds.’ Football goalkeepers get no such solidarity, despite the flights of fancy of the modern-day football making them look foolish at times.
Manuel Neuer couldn’t blame the flight of the ball for the goal he conceded on his Bayern debut, but certainly didn’t need Philipp Lahm to say, “When he comes out, he has to get the ball.” As one of the world’s finest exponents of the goalkeeping art, Neuer already knew that, and was man enough to hold his gloved hands up at the end of the game, “Of course I looked stupid. I thought the ball was going to come into the box – I didn’t want to handle it outside the area and get a red card. It’s entirely my fault.”
That Neuer didn’t blame the hesitant Jerome ‘After you, Mr. De Camargo’ Boateng for dealing with the situation is to his credit, while also not mentioning the boos and whistles – presumably from ‘Gladbach fans, but quite probably from those Bayern supporters opposed to Neuer’s arrival – when Germany’s number one was handed his Footballer of the Year award before kick-off is also admirable.
Sadly for him, Neuer’s gaffe was highlighted further because the man – well, the boy – at the other end, Marc Andre ter Stegen, was named man of the match by German media. But as no-one else will help them, goalkeepers often tend to stick together, and the words of Sepp Maier, one of five Bayern keepers before Neuer to play for Germany, will have provided a crumb of comfort: “You don’t become world class without taking risks.”
The man Schalke brought in to replace Neuer, Ralf Fährmann, will have been cuddling up to his pet dog – a pug which sports its own Schalke bathrobe, apparently – for consolation on Saturday evening. Soundly beaten by Stuttgart, the former Eintracht Frankfurt man could have been forgiven for wondering what he had got himself into. “We’ve done much too well in pre-season and are at such a good level that a bad start is unthinkable,” said the 22-year-old, who clearly didn’t see much of Schalke Version Felix Magath 10.11.
At least Fährmann was better off than poor old Fabian Giefer, who suffered partial amnesia asLeverkusen got all Jason Bourne on us. It was probably a good thing as he – and I quote heartless German media here – “had a day to forget”. After giftwrapping Mainz’s opener with a shocking mistake, Giefer actually played quite well, keeping his side in it only to then be clattered into by Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and suffer concussion. “I’ve got a blank in my memory,” said the 21-year-old, who was taken to hospital post-match. “I didn’t even know how we’d played.” After being brought up to date with the harsh reality, there was more good news for Giefer – he is losing his place to freshly-signed loanee Bernd Leno. With Giefer having taken over from David Yelldell after the American conceded four in the Cup defeat to Dynamo Dresden, Giefer is to now make way for the 19-year-old Leno until Rene Adler returns after Christmas. The Robin Dutt School of Man Management is not for the faint-hearted.
Jaroslav Drobny will have needed a little TLC from Michael Oenning following Hamburg’s 3-1 mauling at Dortmund. If the Czech goalkeeper had been any more exposed, he would have been arrested for indecency as his defence were undressed by the champions. Michael Rensing must have had a similar sinking feeling with Cologne beaten comfortably by Wolfsburg, but those goalkeepers who enjoyed their Week 1 will not have been laughing at their counterparts’ expense – they know that this weekend, it could be them.
Eurosport 2 Bundesliga commentator
With no Friday night game, our LIVE coverage begins at 15:30CET on Saturday with champions Dortmund travelling to Hoffenheim. There will be our ‘Bundesliga Half-Time’ show at 17:30CET, featuring extended highlights of Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich, before Borussia Mönchengladbach take on Stuttgart (LIVE 18:30CET). Sunday sees Kaiserslautern take on newcomers Augsburg (15:30CET) before Leverkusen face Bremen (17:30CET).