As with folded arms I leant back against the left goalpost, I enjoyed the luxury of closing my eyes, and thus I would listen to my heart knocking and feel the blind drizzle on my face and hear, in the distance, the broken sounds of the game, and think of myself as of a fabulous exotic being in an English footballer’s disguise, composing my verse in a tongue nobody understood about a remote country nobody knew. Small wonder I was not very popular with my team-mates- Vladimir Nabokov
There are stories emerging from the Czech Republic this morning that goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka will finally be joining West Ham United on loan for the forthcoming season, with a further option to make the transfer permanent. The 26-year-old international reportedly informed idnes.cz that a deal had been been agreed between United and his current club, Ukrainian side Shaktar Donetsk after complications had stymied negotiations last week. The proposed deal originally stalled when Donetsk unexpectedly raised their demands but the goalkeeper is now due to fly into London tomorrow to undergo a medical before rubber-stamping his return to the Premier League. Lastuvka served a previous spell on loan at Fulham in 2006 and last season was spent with VfL Bochum of the Bundesliga. The German side, however, declined to meet Shaktar's £2million asking price.
"An agreement was reached; if there is no problem with the medical, I will join West Ham," said Lastuvka, who admitted he was excited by the opportunity to work with Ludo Miklosko, United's former Czech international goalkeeper coach. "I hope everything will be fine. I am eager for the experience to train under Ludek Miklosko. The Premier League is the best league in the world, so I would like to fight for a chance." Lastuvka will play understudy to United number one Robert Green and effectively ends the search for a back-up keeper that has troubled the Hammers since Richard Wright made it clear that he wanted to leave the club at the end of last season. Wright, of course, eventually departed to join Championship outfit Ipswich Town earlier this month.
Lastuvka, like his new mentor Miklosko, made his name at Banik Ostrava in the Czech Republic. He now follows the same path to Upton Park where there is already one Czech keeper in residence in the form 18 years old Marek Stech. The highly rated youngster recently penned a new 5 year contract with United and has been getting a chance to impress in pre-season friendlies. It is hoped that the arrival of compatriot Lastuvka will only help Stech's development.
Interestingly, Lastuvka is a former philosophy student and is just one of many goalkeepers who have united those two seemingly disparate disciplines. Albert Camus, the renowned existentialist, claimed that all he learnt most surely about the obligations of men he learnt whilst playing sport. Playing in goal for Racing Universitaire offered him time and space to contemplate the nature of being, meaning and truth. Goalkeepers are both part of, and apart from, their team, perfectly positioned for observation, detachment and occasional bouts of intense involvement. The goalkeeper has a long view, often the longest view of any member to the team. They tend to be counter-intuitive - after all, keepers are the only ones playing with their hands in a game called football, the only ones playing in a different kit in a team game, the only ones who do not need pace and stamina so much as focus and patience. They are often loners, thinkers who are always a slip away from catastrophe. Camus, Vladimir Nabokov, the last Pope (a dead ringer for Ron Greenwood, incidentally) and Che Guevara all guarded the goal. Which leads to another important question: does the philosopher become a goalkeeper or does the goalkeeper become a philosopher? After all, who has more time to think than the goalie?
Anyway, all the above serves only to allow for the greatest (and not strictly related) football/philosophy comic crossover of all time...