I used to have a cousin who was a goalkeeper. Well, I still have the cousin, but he gave up the goalkeeping just as his team joined division one, many years ago. Maybe it was for the best. Who’d want to be a success in football? And cousin Wolf’s best pal was bought by a premiership team at the same time, so… (Hope you realise we’re talking Sweden here, not England?)
Despite this complete lack of interest I have in that ridiculous competition taking place in South Africa at the moment, it has made me read about football. Keeper by Mal Peet has had a bit of a wait here at Witch Towers, but it proved to be just as good, if not better than expected, once I actually got to it.
Keeper is a rather symbolic title when you know what it’s about. The main story is about El Gato, the goalie for Mal Peet’s imaginary South American national team, and they have just won the World Cup. He’s being interviewed by Paul Faustino for tomorrow’s newspaper, but the interview doesn’t go quite as Paul had thought it would. El Gato has his own agenda.
With the actual cup on the table between them, they have a very long conversation about El Gato’s past and how he came to be a goalie in the first place. It’s both an interesting journey he has made from his humble beginnings, and an inspiration. The end is enough to make you both cry and smile at the same time.
I’d go so far as to say that Keeper is more a novel for non-soccer-mad people than for fans, but I’ve been known to be wrong before.
And who could have imagined there were so many clever skills to learn to keep goals well? If I’m not careful I could end up having respect for the sport.
Mal’s foreword mentions how football can open doors when you travel. He’s probably right there, too. When things look dark and I have to try and explain to Swedes, yet again, that I live in Stockport, I sometimes get a glimmer of light when someone says ‘Stockport County?’ and I can say yes. The man responsible for sweeping our non-existent chimney over there is well versed in the lesser teams of English soccer.