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Jacob Sweetman: Better the devil you know

Mentioned on the forums and in the papers, Jan Glinker has got powers. His voodoo dolls are at home, and anyone who tries to take his place in goal for 1. FC Union Berlin will suffer. The Sportsdesk casts a scientific eye over the evidence.

There are chairs in my house with greater cognitive powers than Sepp Blatter and on one of them lies a bed sheet that understands the idea of the fans’ true ownership of football better than Michel Platini ever will. Outside my window prowls a shifty looking cat that has more compassion for the birds it stalks than Jack Warner could ever have dreamed of in his shady dealings, and the worms that said birds prey on understand more about the damage caused to the beautiful game by leveraged buyouts than the heads of the FA could learn in an interminable hundred days and hundred nights of watching SKY Sports news.

It is not news that football is run by, certainly not exclusively, but mostly, by idiots.

Fortunately, however, these peoples’ power is fleeting and contained to this world. Sure, they have the comfiest chairs, and are even able to force nation states to change their sovereign laws on simple capitalist whims to ensure that, for instance, certain beers are allowed to be sold within World Cup stadia, but Blatter and his ilk are powerless when one looks through the eyes of the goalkeepers of the world, when one has seen what they have seen through their thousand yard stares.

Goalkeepers understand that the game is, really, run by malicious spirits, trickster Gods and all other manner of fork tongued little bastards, bored of their dull, inconceivable existences, and desperate for a bit of fun on the side. This is why they are often the most thoughtful players on the side. They have got bigger fish to fry than flicking the diamond studded earlobes of the golden boys on the pitch. They are waiting to become the butt of a joke on a cosmic scale – hence the often contemplative manner, intellectual leanings, philosophical depth and quiet generosity.

They have to bare the responsibility for failures, and they rarely get the screaming waves of adulation for victories. They have to keep their concentration levels at a critical level in the most boring games. They have to keep their wits about them when others’ go to the wall. A goalkeeper’s mistakes are rarely forgotten.

Goalkeepers face a fight every day against the malignant spirits of Jamaica, the duppies that made Lee Perry burn down his ark, or the Pookas, made famous by the beautiful, but playful giant rabbit in the film Harvey.

They have to pacify them with rituals and become their friends in times of adversity – there is simply too much to be taken to chance in their business otherwise. Iker Casillas knows that if he fails to touch his crossbar after a goal, then he has risked his whole teams’ fate. Sergio Goycochea couldn’t take part in a shootout without having already pissed on the pitch. The greatest of them all, Lev Yashin, wore black for a reason, and it wasn’t because he was a big fan of Johnny Cash.

Goalkeepers, so the old phrase goes, are different.

Jan Glinker is not only a goalkeeper. For many of the fans of 1.FC Union Berlin he is their goalkeeper, a true Fußballgott (although the phrase loses a little bit of its lustre when bellowed out with such metronomic regularity). He has been a part of the side, through thick and thin, since time immemorial. Only he, Torsten Mattuschka, Christian Stuff and Daniel Göhlert pre-date Uwe Neuhaus in a story stretching back to the bad old days of the Oberliga and long before. His fourth game for the club was in May 2004. To date this it is worth remarking that one of Wacker Burghausen’s three goals that day (they won 3-1) came from a sprightly, only 29 years old, Macchambes Younga-Mouhani.

It was a very long time ago.

Since then Neuhaus tried to up Glinker’s game. He bought the towering blonde presence of Marcel Höttecke, with the express intention of creating a competitive atmosphere to bring the best out of his ‘keepers. Glinker won that battle with the help of the trickster gods. Höttecke got injured a couple of times, by which point Glinker had got over a shaky patch and was playing his finest in years.

He had taken his position back.

This was demonstrated by a point blank save he made at Braunschweig towards the end of last season, an exceptional, one handed point blank parry that kept Union in a game that they were struggling through. The demons were on Glinker’s side again, but again this season Neuhaus decided he wanted some fresh blood, and he signed the great prospect that is Daniel Haas from Hoffenheim.

Haas was given the Nr. 1 shirt, but he didn’t stand a chance. Glinker will start the coming season in between the sticks again for Union as Haas got injured almost immediately in training and is out for six long weeks.

He has been positive about his competition in the press, he’s a genuinely nice guy, but at some point one should start questioning whether anyone should try and cross Jan Glinker.

The man has obviously got some friends in some very high places.