Oxford’s World Cup All Stars #1 – Andre Arendse

Andre Arendse didn’t look like a goalkeeper. He wasn’t impossibly big and/or fat and/or funny looking like most ‘keepers. He was slight and immaculately turned out and wore tracksuit trousers whatever the weather. He looked like the effete twat at school who hated football but hung out with the cool girls. The one you’ve since found out, via Facebook, is living in a gay civil partnership in a North London townhouse with a trademark lawyer and their two adopted Vietnamese children.

The timing of his arrival wasn’t good. Austerity measures were biting and Arendse was the latest solution following the Phil Whitehead firesale. Becoming the new ‘God’ was always a tall order.

But, he was an international. South African, yes, but with African football starting to lose its naiveté stigmata, there was a ripple of optimism around the place.

The club seemed to have two first choice ‘keepers. The other was Pal Lundin, a ‘keeper so stereotypically Swedish he could have been a Roy of the Rovers character. Looking like a Nordic woodsman with flowing locks he was already a Manor favourite. He even scored the winning penalty in a Full Members’ Cup tie against Wycombe – it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Arendse was above all this competitiveness. He indulged only in his favourite bits of the goalkeeping craft. For him, only shot stopping was worthy of his attention. The more prosaic elements of his profession; crosses, kicking, organising your back-four, were indulges of the peasantry. Arendse never belittled himself with these trivialities.

Fittingly for his stature, he played in the underwhelming World Cup of 2002 where he used his three group games to demonstrate his goalkeeping philosophy.

As a pure aesthete, Arendse’s performance was less sporting more an art installation. Against Paraguay he charged out to a cross missing his punch, conceding the first goal. Against Spain, unchallenged, he let a harmless through ball squirt out of his hands to the feet of Raul who gratefully slotted home. By demonstrating the futility of these guttural goalkeeping qualities, he was able to emphasise the beauty of his shot stopping.

Arendse managed just eleven appearances for Oxford in a failing team. He sloped off after one season playing for clubs that sound like holiday camps; Santos, Mamelodi Sundowns and Supersport United. His international career ended in 2004, although his credibility as an international goalkeeper departed some time before that.

According to Wikipedia he’s still with Supersport at the age of 42, Supersport’s website has no reference to him. It seems he’s lost in the wilderness somewhere. Which pretty much describes his positional sense.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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