Goalkeepers: Mad as Hatters

This week Bruno Fernandes, the former fan’s favourite at Flamengo has been in the headlines. Linked to Barcelona and AC Milan and touted for stardom in the national team, his life spiralled out of control when his former mistress demanded child support at the same time that he was discussing a lucrative transfer away from the club. The woman in question, Eliza Samudio, disappeared and mysteriously, their child, turned up with Bruno Fernandes’ wife. The football world was shocked when it came out that Bruno Fernandes had taken part in Eliza’s kidnapping and murder, and fed her to his dogs.

This week, much to public surprise, he was released from prison on a technicality after just seven years.

Goalkeepers are known for being headcases and while none of the following have done anything near as bad as Bruno Fernandes, they did make a name for themselves due to their outrageous behaviour.


William ‘Fatty’ Foulke

William ‘Fatty’ Foulke was a giant of a man who manned the nets at Sheffield United, Chelsea and Bradford between 1894 and 1907. He also played cricket at county level for Derbyshire. Standing at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) and carrying 24 stones (152 kg) Foulke put on weight over his 10-year career but was renowned for his shot-stopping abilities. Foulke was also one of the first prima donnas in football and if he thought his defenders were not trying hard enough, he would walk off the pitch. Some people say that in later life he was so hard up, that he became a fairground act, taking part in a ‘beat the goalie’ sideshow at the seaside resort of Blackpool.

Carlos Roa

The Argentinean goalkeeper played 16 times for his country, knocked England out of World Cup 98 and was in superb form at Real Mallorca, who were a force to be reckoned with in the late 1990s. Carlos Roa was a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist and a strict vegan who was nicknamed the lettuce (lechuga) due to his eating preferences. At the peak of his career, Roa was convinced that the world would end in the year 2000 and refused to sign a contract extension, instead going on temporary leave to do charitable acts in what he believed would be his last year of life. When the world didn’t end at the turn of the millennium, he was forced to scuttle back to his club with his tail between his legs. Roa never reproduced his earlier form and played out his career at less fashionable clubs.

Roberto Rojas

Rojas took patriotism a step too far when he famously concocted an elaborate plan to ensure Chile qualified for the 1990 World Cup. Chile was playing Brazil and if Brazil won, Chile would not make it to Italia 90. Rojas had a backup plan, though. Towards the end of the game, a flare was thrown on the pitch and Rojas went down holding his head, which was now covered in blood. Brazil faced elimination due to the bad behaviour of the crowd and Chile would qualify in their place. There was just one problem, a later photograph revealed that the flare landed several metres from Roja. In fact, what had happened was that he had concealed a razor in his glove, which he had used to cut his own head and had organised a Brazilian woman in the crowd to throw the flare in the first place. The plan backfired big time and Chile was banned from the following world cup (1994) as a result.

Jens Lehmann

‘Mad’ Jens Lehmann, guarded the Arsenal goal for much of the last decade including ‘The Invincibles’ run of 49 unbeaten games. The short-tempered German made few friends and managed to get up the noses of opposition fans and players. A good goalkeeper on his day, his saves are less likely to be remembered than some of his more mad moments. Lehmann nibbled on a football, urinated behind the advertising boards, stole a fan’s glasses and borrowed five euros off a journalist and then refused to give it back. Towards the end of his career, controversy outweighed quality.

Rene Higuita

The ultimate madman, Rene Higuita, aka El Loco, was a flamboyant goalkeeper who fancied himself as a goalscorer. A true showman, he would often dribble past players and pulled off the most spectacular save against England for his home country Colombia when he launched himself into the air and performed a ‘scorpion’ kick. He was no less controversial off the pitch, famously acting as a go-between in a kidnapping incident in 1993, having got caught up with famed drug baron Pablo Escobar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the erratic goalie tested positive for cocaine in his later years.



Mad as a hatter, hard up and get up somebody’s (or someone’s) nose are examples of idioms. Many foreign language learners struggle with idioms but that need not be the case. George Sandford’s 101 English Idioms Explained is a series of books that puts these quirky phrases in to context and helps you learn them with ease. If you head to our shop, you can now buy the paperback 505 English Idioms Explained as well!

If it’s mad sportsmen you are looking for, then Crazy English may be more up your street, where you can learn about cheese rolling and other bizarre English sports.


touted – tipped

stardom – fame

to spiral out of control – to change very quickly in a fast and uncontrolled way

lucrative – producing a lot of money

turn up – when something appears unexpectedly

came out – revealed

technicality – a detail or small matter

headcase – a person who behaves strangely or violent

man the nets – to be in goal

put on weight – to gain weight

renowned – famous for something

prima donna – a vain or undisciplined person likely to throw tantrums

hard up – short of money

a force to be reckoned with – someone or something who is strong and cannot be ignored

scuttled – to move quickly

tail between his legs – feeling of being embarrassed or ashamed especially because one has been defeated

concoct – to devise, create

conceal – to hide

backfire – to have the reverse effect

get up somebody’s nose – to annoy

nibble – to bite something

urinate – to wee

dribble – to run with the ball

go-between – middle man

caught up – to get involved in activity without intention of having done it


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