Ever since I started playing Football regularly ten years ago I've been attracted to the position of Goalkeeper.
Goalkeeping is for the weird kids. Most Football players hate being between the pipes. But then there are the slightly eccentric, somewhat unhinged ones (oftentimes out-of-shape too) who don't mind getting shot at all game long. I'm in that department.
I've dabbled with being a goalkeeper in recreational play, and I've always owned a pair of gloves. But I tend to lean towards a style of Goalkeeping that I call Senyorito Goalkeeping: no diving, no sliding, just positioning.
And often times, I chicken out at the moment of truth, just when a shot is being launched. My motto in times like this: Make Yourself Big and Look Away.
In other words, I'm a poser.
I've stopped balls with my butt and my shoulder blades. Just the other week I made an Elbow Save.
My somewhat laissez-faire goalkeeping philosophy has failed me more often than it has worked. Last year during the Ateneo Football League I had to play GK for my team, Psykicks, because our regular keeper was out of the country. Playing against Agila in a 7-a-side, 60-minute game, I actually made eight stops.
But there were seventeen other attempts that my sieve-like defense allowed that were not snuffed out. Final score, 17-1.
However, recently I've realized that if I wear a long-sleeved shirt and my jogging pants, I can behave like a semblance of a real keeper on the pillow-soft surface of Turf BGC. That rubber infill has a way of reducing the Senyorito Factor with me, and I'm now able to dive about.
It is this recent interest in the position that spurred me on to take the free clinic of the Philippine Goalkeeping Academy at Turf BGC. The brainchild of former Ateneo and National Team netminder Rely San Agustin, the academy is probably the only Football program dedicated to the art of goalkeeping in the Philippines.
I show up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. There are hordes of kids at the venue already, each one perhaps harboring a dream of becoming the next Neil Etheridge or Ed Sacapano.
Rely is there, as are Dang Cecilio and current Azkals reserve Ref Cuaresma.
We are split up into groups and I'm in the adult group with ten other dudes. I know three other guys there, Aaron Palabyab, former Ateneo Futsal goalie, sports photographer Mark Cristino, and ABS-CBN's TJ Manotoc.
One of them has Reusch gloves. The German brand that specializes in goalie kit is the preferred glove supplier of many pros, and I embark in a spasm of Glove Envy. My cheap Umbros suddenly feel inadequate.
Our instructor is none other than the legendary Melo Sabacan, who hails from the cradle of Pinoy Goalkeeping, Negros Occidental. It is there where Ed Sacapano and Tats Mercado are from. Irl Tomodos, who is next in line to Mercado at Air Force, is also a West Negrense.
When the Philippines defeated Malaysia 1-0 in the 1991 SEA Games, it was Sabacan who kept the clean sheet. The Navy man was the country's number one keeper through 1998, and eventually became the national team's GK coach. He currently holds that role with Kaya.
Coach Melo starts us off with throwing drills, then simple shot drills. We start a step off the line then stop one of his shots. Melo is a kicking machine, each of his balls going straight at us or near us.
However, for some reason, he seems to have it in for Cristino. While we get easy balls, Melo makes Mark work with angled shots.
Eventually he steps back and asks us to narrow the angle on the shots. After a few shots he spots something amiss with Palabyab: he shakes and bakes to the side before moving forward. Coach Melo says you go straight up with little lateral movement.
Melo is obviously taking a lot off his kicks, but they sting anyway. I can feel them through my gloves.
We also do some penalty kicks. Coach tells us to read and react just as the ball is kicked.
I go in goal for a few shots. One of them gets past me after I tip it. The others are mostly wide of my right post.
The next drill is the most grueling of them all. Six balls from close range, all of them angled, from right to left. It has us flailing about like beached whales, scrambling to get up and parry balls away from side to side.
They say a goalkeeper has to learn how to get up from off the ground without using his hands. I say “yeah, right.”
For many, goalkeeping is supposed to be for the out-of-shape guys. But this drill needs as much stamina as any. After my stint, I'm absolutely winded, and my knees are sore and banged up.
In the final drill, Melo lets us do the shooting while one participant mans the post. We line up and take turns hoofing the ball at goal. The shots are of an embarrassing standard, most spraying wide of the mark completely.
“Now you see why so many of us want to be keepers” quips TJ.
The clinic ends at 9 a.m. My palms are raw and my knees even worse, but I'm happy. I'm one step closer to being a true shot stopper.
San Agustin, Sabacan's longtime understudy in the national team, promises the kids more clinics in the new year. It looks like the demand will be healthy.
This Football Academy is here to stay. As the saying goes, it's a keeper.
You can follow the Philippine Goalkeeping Academy on Twitter @PH_GKAcademy. The academy's page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineGoalkeepingAcademy.
Follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.