Friday, July 09, 2010

Goalkeeper Gloves: a brief history

Come the final of the  FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa one thing for sure is goalkeeper gloves will be in full view. Very much part of a keeper's kit there was a time not too long ago it was the exception for goalies to wear gloves. The first pair of goalie gloves to be patented was in 1885 by William Sykes. Sykes made footballs but his glove patent featured an India (latex) rubber layer, to give the goalkeeper protection from the ball. Goalkeeper gloves were not especially popular and it took until the 40s before Argentina's, Amadeo “Tarzán” Carrizo started wearing them when keeping goal for River Plate. Keen to keep up with Continental and South American trends the first reported use of goalkeeping gloves in the UK came in 1952 at an Airdrie vs Celtic match. Whether the goalie had them on the keep his fingers warm is not recorded.

An early convert was Italian goalkeeper, Stefano ‘Stanno’ Andreotti who after a dismal game in wet conditions let the ball slip through his fingers and drop into the goal. Determined to improve his performance he designed a fingerless glove with ropes of leather on the outside to improve his grip. Later he substituted bits of rubber on the outside improving the grip further and providing the game with the first goalkeeper gloves specific to the task. He encouraged others to use his gloves and started the brand name “Standreo.” He later changed this to ‘Stanno’ for ease. Despite a growing number of keepers wearing gloves sales were poor and the company changed from glove manufacture to making football boots and footballs. “Stanno” goalkeeper gloves were reintroduced in the sixties and remains among the more popular gloves today. Other companies keen to compete in the glove market during the late sixties and early 70s were Sondico , Reusch (Est. 1934) and Uhlsport (Est. 1948) .

Televised events such as the World Cup saw attitudes gradually change and by the early seventies, about the same time boots became more streamlined, goalkeepers started wearing gloves. German company Reusch worked with goalkeeper Sepp Maier (FC Bayern Munich ) to develop quality goal keeper gloves. Individual keepers like Neville Southall (Everton and Wales) were experimenting with gardening gloves and washing-up gloves to improve their goal keeping skills. Since the 1980s significant advancements have been made in the design of gloves, which now feature protectors to prevent the fingers bending backwards, segmentation to allow greater flexibility, and palms made of materials designed to protect the hand and to enhance a player's grip.

Depending on the way the glove is cut and stitched determines its properties. The ‘cut’ refers mainly to different ways the glove palms are stitched around the fingers. There are three basic styles: Flat palm gloves, Roll finger gloves and Negative cut goal keeper gloves. Other styles are made up of a combination of these three types. Flat palm gloves are the more traditional cut and make a continuous flat surface between the hand and the goalkeeper gloves. Roll Finger goalkeeper gloves have extra latex foam between the fingers which allows grater surface contact with the ball than the palm alone. Wider area to distribute force reduces peak pressures on impact. Alternatively the negative cut goalkeeper glove gives a ‘glove like’ fit between the hands and the ball. Negative cut goalkeeper gloves fit more tightly to the hands. Like Roll Finger goalkeeper gloves these have latex between the fingers for greater contact. Unlike roll finger gloves have stitching on the inside of the glove on the palm side to pull the latex closer to the fingers. Goalkeeper gloves come with the option of latex foams in widths of 2mm – 5mm, plus backing foam, and goalkeepers have different preferences about which type of glove they feel best in. There is an optimal mix of latex foam and spacer fabric to protect the hand without interfering with natural movement. Gloves are often lined with latex to prevent slipping and some cold weather gloves have an inner fleece to keep the fingers warm. The three main functions of catching, punching, throwing are catered for in the hi-tech designs of modern gloves.

Goalkeeper gloves improve grip on the ball as well as protect and cushioning the keeper’s fingers, palms and wrists. The ball travels at astonishing speeds and goalie needs to protect and shield hands and wrists. Better quality goalie gloves are engineered for feel not durability and because the quality materials usually mixtures of new polymers are less durable than cheaper materials the gloves wear out quickly. To give better grip, gloves are internally stitched with no outside seams on the fingers or palms. adidas were one of the original pioneers of the finger protection gloves which they launched in the early 90`s. To allow better grip in wet conditions gloves may include minute titanium shards in the foam for added traction. Some gloves incorporate removable curved bones which provide optimum finger protection without affecting the flexibility of the hand. Others include extra EVA foam cushioning around the ‘punch zone’ for painlessly clearing the ball with the clenched fist. To help backhand flexes most gloves are now lined with foam on the back of the glove. Most professional goalkeepers have two or more pairs and keep their favoured gloves for games.

Goal keepers gloves need to fit the hand snugly although the dimension of the gloves must be physically bigger than the hand to give extra surface area to catch the ball. Most gloves strap on at the wrist or have a full-wrap bandage style wrist closure. Glove designs now incorporate ventilation for added comfort.

No self respecting keeper of the goals would dare play without their hi-tech gloves today. Indeed Portugal's Ricardo Pereira was heavily criticised in the Euro 2004 tournament when he dared remove his gloves in a penalty shoot out against England. Not only did he save the penalty he also scored the deciding penalty to send Portugal to the semi-finals.

1 comment:

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