Why overage keepers are preferred at the Games

Heredia reckons experience won the day in Tokyo

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Guillermo Ochoa #13 of Team Mexico reacts during the Men's First Round Group A match between South Africa and Mexico on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Dome on July 28, 2021 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan.
Guillermo Ochoa #13 of Team Mexico reacts during the Men's First Round Group A match between South Africa and Mexico on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Dome on July 28, 2021 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan.
Image: Masashi Hara

Five of the 16 men’s football teams at the ongoing Olympics in Tokyo opted to draft overage goalkeepers into their squads.

SA went with 29-year-old SuperSport United's Ronwen Williams, who started all of Mzansi’s Group A games against hosts Japan, France and Mexico.

Mexico went with Guillermo Ochoa, 36, who kept at cleansheet in their win over SA yesterday.

Ochoa has skippered Mexico in their games. The experienced shot-stopper is playing for local Mexican club FC America. Group C’s Egypt and Argentina also boast older keepers in Mohammed El Shenawy and Jeremias Ledesma respectively.

The 32-year-old El Shenawy, who’s in the books of giants Al Ahly, also captained his nation in their  three games.

Argentina first choice, 28-year-old Ledesma, plays for Spanish La Liga outfit Cadiz. Brazil also opted for 31-year-old Aderbar Melo dos Santos as first choice in the games against Germany and Ivory Coast. Santos plies his trade for Brazilian side Athletico Paranaense.

SA-based veteran goalkeeper trainer Alejandro Heredia has given his insight into the trend of opting for overage shot-stoppers at the Games. The Argentinean, who previously served as a keeper coach at Bafana Bafana, is an advocate of experienced keepers at the Olympics.

“Look, goalkeeping is a very sensitive position. For me you must only take young goalkeeper to the tournaments like Olympics only if he’s extremely talented. It’s very important to have an experienced keeper at bigger tournament,’’ Heredia told Sowetan yesterday.

Heredia suggested SA had no choice but to select Williams, pointing out that upcoming keepers in the country lack necessary experience to compete on international stage.

“In our [SA’s] scenarios, younger keepers are not on the same level as Ronwen. Ronwen is 29 but he played his first game in the top-flight when he was 18…he’s more than a decade of experience,’’ said Heredia.

“If you look at our second goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto, he has never played regularly in the PSL. So it’s hard to use him at the Olympics. We haven’t got a completely talented young keeper who plays regularly at club level. We have Ricardo Goss but he’s not experienced.

“Even in Argentina, I speak to the federation there, they have young keepers but they went for experience because this position is important, especially at tournaments like Olympics.”

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