It is often said that goalkeepers are a breed apart. Fulfilling an often-thankless task that requires great mental fortitude, they walk the fine line that separates triumph and disaster every time they take to the field. It is no surprise then that the position has been filled by some of the game’s greatest extroverts, inimitable characters who sometimes stand out as much for their dress sense as their exploits between the sticks.

Here, pays tribute to the game’s goalkeeping fashionistas, the glovemen who have pushed the boundaries of style - often a little too far - to create sartorial niches all of their own.

Plain is in
One of the trade’s earliest trendsetters was the celebrated Russian keeper Lev Yashin. His all-black attire earned him the nickname the Black Spider, his ability to defy opposing strikers often giving them the impression he had eight arms and legs. “It makes it harder for strikers to get their bearings,” Yashin, a veteran of three FIFA World Cup™ finals, used to say of his classic kit.

The Russian is not the only famous custodian to be associated with a single colour. Italy captain Dino Zoff was rarely seen on duty without his distinctive grey jersey, which he sported during La Nazionale’s triumphant campaign at the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain.

Manchester United’s shotstopper Edwin van der Sar is also a one-colour man, although the Dutchman has an extensive wardrobe ranging from all-yellow outfits to green, blue and violet ones. Germany’s current second-choice Tim Wiese, however, broke new ground, donning a pink jersey for Werder Bremen a couple of seasons ago.

No accounting for taste
Van der Sar’s current preference for relatively understated plain outfits probably has something to do with the fact he had to sport multi-coloured tops during his time with Ajax in the 1990s. Garish goalkeeping gear had already made its presence felt at Italy 1990, when Germany’s Bodo Illgner helped his side to the world title in an outfit that would not have looked out of place in a nightclub.

Cutting a dash in the same tournament was Argentina’s Sergio Goycoechea, who wore an eye-catching jersey that may well have contributed to his penalty-saving heroics during the tournament, though it could not help him keep out Andreas Brehme’s decisive spot-kick in the Final.

Yet all those designs pale in comparison to the outsized, fluorescent shirts regularly worn by Mexican legend Jorge Campos, which caused quite a stir at USA 1994. Always happy to be in the limelight and also known as a part-time striker, Campos had a very good reason for drawing attention to himself with his blindingly bright tops. “It distracts opponents and makes them lose their concentration,” explained the wily keeper.

The garishly-attired David Seaman seemed to be following the Mexican’s lead at UEFA EURO 1996, although the England No1 was upstaged that year by Tunisia’s Chokri El Ouaer, who pulled on a quasi-psychedelic number at the African Cup of Nations. Featuring a pattern that could only be made out by staring hard at it, the shirt proved something of a lucky charm for the Tunisia skipper, who helped his side reach the final and was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper. Nevertheless, he later discarded it for more conventional apparel.

A little bit of everything
Few keepers have proved quite as outlandish between the posts as St Etienne idol Jeremie Janot. A one-club man, Janot has forged quite a  reputation for himself over the years. Aside from using an Argentina shirt because of his lifelong admiration for La Albiceleste, he has also played in a Spiderman costume, although his finest hour came one St Patrick’s Day, when, confusing Ireland’s national day for Scotland’s, he ran out in a kilt!

Printed designs have also been a feature of goalkeeping fashion through the years. One of the leading innovators in Argentina was the naturalised Colombia-born keeper Carlos Fernando Navarro Montoya, otherwise known as El Mono (The Monkey). In tribute to his nickname, Navarro Montoya added a picture of a lorry-driving monkey to his gaily coloured Boca Juniors jersey.

His arch-rival at the time was none other than Velez Sarsfield’s Paraguayan entertainer Jose Luis Chilavert. Habitually decked out in black, Chila adorned the front of his shirt with both a snarling bulldog design, underlining his reputation as a streetfighter, and a Tasmanian Devil, the famous cartoon character known for its short fuse. But, when a large question mark appeared in their place one day, it was clear that the search for a sponsor had begun.

In contrast, the recently retired Oliver Kahn used to use his shirt to raise money for charity. On the day he played his last game in 2008, some 5,500 fans paid €150 each for the privilege of having their names printed on his jersey. Khan donated the money to the charity 'Ein Herz für Kinder' (A Heart for Children), a warm gesture that belied the former Germany international’s somewhat stern exterior.