Volume 76, Number 7 | July 5 - 11, 2006

Sports

Young goalie gets a thrill in net, and from World Cup

By Judith Stiles

Cory Schramm has been avidly following the World Cup
A highly contagious fever is sweeping through countries all over the world, even in pockets of the U.S.A., with soccer fans sweating bullets over the outcome of the 2006 World Cup games in Germany. Soccer, better known as “football” in other countries, is the most popular sport worldwide, with the exception of here in the States, where it trails behind American football, basketball and baseball. But with millions of young people playing soccer in America, coupled with a growing immigrant population, you will find people in Greenwich Village watching the World Cup in the middle of the day at the Riviera cafe, or sneaking peeks on the TV in the deli. Some youngsters are watching at home with alleged high fevers, in the safe haven of living rooms, as school is still in session for many.

Once every four years, 32 teams that are the best of the best qualify to compete against each other for the coveted honor of winning the World Cup. This year, the United States qualified and was ranked fifth in the world, a ranking which is highly disputed even among American fans. But, without a doubt, we have one of the world’s top goalkeepers, Kasey Keller, who has given his fans a stellar performance throughout the year in the Bundesliga, the German professional soccer league. Yes, Keller is a revered goalkeeper, but as our local star goalkeeper, Cory Schramm, will tell you, a goalie is always on the hot seat, held to a higher standard of perfect play.

Schramm notes that “Keller, or any goalie is as good as his last game and can go from hero to chump with one bad play in the eyes of spectators.” At 12 years old, Schramm, of course, would never be busted for skipping school during the World Cup, but, curiously, he knows a great deal about the performance of all the goalkeepers so far, as he has kept a close eye on how Keller and his counterparts have been doing, although the U.S. team did not make the cut through the first round in Germany.

“Since I was 8 years old, I knew I loved playing goalie. And now when I play for the Manhattan Kickers Soccer Club, when I see the whole field in front of me, sometimes it feels like I am watching TV, only I am in the game,” he says as he juggles his omnipresent soccer ball off his foot. Schramm knows too well the lonely life of a goalie, who shares responsibility with his teammates for wins, but is often singled out for goals against, in a loss. “Although the ball has to get past 10 other teammates for a goal to be scored, people often blame the goalie and they forget that the defenders also made mistakes when the ball got past them first,” adds Scramm philosophically.

Before a game, young Schramm prepares himself by warming up with the ball and going through small rituals, such as plucking some grass and tossing it off the goal line to check which way the wind is blowing.

“I think goalies tend to be more calm and focused, and I am always ready on my toes,” he adds. Many soccer nuts agree that goalies are a rare breed, and they are often described as a bit crazy. Schramm insists that he loves the exhilaration of the ball rocketing toward him, which is a tense situation that most field players can’t stomach, often turning their backs when a blast comes hurtling their way at close range. Rather than feeling panicked, Schramm, like many goalkeepers, craves the intense thrill of being the last line of defense. He believes being in extreme situations is almost a natural habitat for goalies, where they feel at home.

In the World Cup, his favorite goalie has been Dida from Brazil — which also was knocked out of competition last weekend — followed by Keller. Schramm praises Keller for making several great saves in the second half of the U.S.A. versus Italy game, which kept the score tied 1-1, in spite of the fact that two American players were sent off the pitch, one with a red card, and the other with two yellows.

Guy Tchoumba, who formerly played on the Cameroon national team and now coaches young Schramm, says, “In a few years Cory will be one of the best goalkeepers around because he has a passion for the game, great reflexes and he is willing to work hard.”

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