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One of a kind

In celebration of Rogerio Ceni – the phenomenal goalscoring keeper

The Sao Paulo legend retired aged 42 having played 1237 games for the club, scoring 131 goals

If you tried to bet on a goalkeeper to score first in the next game you watched, you’d have to contact the bookies directly for odds.

You’d probably also be told to quit betting for life and be advised to speak to a psychiatrist.

But in the days when the legendary Rogerio Ceni occupied the eight yards between the sticks, betting on the No1 to break the deadlock would have been smart money.


Ceni is a miracle in more ways than one.

His mother was advised by a doctor to abort him as he was considered a ‘high risk’ to her health.

The world of football thanks Mrs Ceni for ignoring the advice.

Ceni could have only come from Brazil.

It stands to reason that a country which produces ‘defenders’ like Roberto Carlos, Dani Alves and Marcelo would also birth a keeper with 131 career goals to his name.


Although two other football powerhouses also sprinkled their influence into his genetics.

Ceni is of Italian and German descent and prefers rock music and suits to traditional Brazilian music and beachwear.

But when it comes to free-kicks, he’s as Brazilian as you can get.

Capable of bend, dip, fade and power, Ceni scored 61 free-kicks before he hung up his boots in 2015.

But he was no novelty act.


Take away the set-pieces (he also converted 70 penalties) and he would still be good value for his 1237 appearances for Sao Paulo on goalkeeping merit alone.

This mammoth total of games makes him the Brazilian with most appearances for a single club, ahead of some forward named Pele, whoever he is.

In an age when high-profile Brazilian players were almost obligated to move to Europe, Ceni remained at Sao Paulo, fiercely loyal to the club and the league as a whole.


So how did a shot-stopper end up as the most feared free-kick taker in South America?

It was Muricy Ramalho who first noticed Ceni’s shooting ability.

When the manager spotted his keeper popping in free-kicks after a training session, rather than tell him to stop wasting time, he advised him to keep practising.

Six months later and 15,000 free-kicks later, Ceni had improved so much that Ramalho decided it would be worth dragging his keeper 90 yards out of his goal to take free-kicks in competitive matches.

A few years later he was made club captain and even though he was lining up alongside a promising playmaker named Kaka, he remained on free-kick duty, finding the net so regularly that fans almost expected to see their keeper’s name on the scoresheet.


In the 2005 season he 21 goals in all competitions; just take a moment to think about that for a moment.

Now imagine Brad Guzan waving to the crowd having just rattled home his 20th of the season.

Ceni is so loved because he made the world’s most popular game look ridiculous. 

2005 was also the year he produced one of his most eye-catching saves on the world stage.

In the final of the Club World Cup, Steven Gerrard curled a a free-kick towards the top corner only to be frustrated by a full-length dive and fingertip deflection.

Sao Paulo held on to their 1-0 lead to lift the trophy, replicating the famous class of 93, sparking typically flamboyant celebrations.


For all the saves, years of service and trophies, Ceni’s legend will live on in his goal record.

Football is full of absurd oddities that defy the sport’s logic.

But a goalscoring goalkeeper (or goleiro artilheiro, goalkeeper marksman) laughs in the face of even the most fantastical fan’s imagination.

So often us hacks write phrases such as ‘he was one of a kind’ and ‘there will never be another like him’ but for Ceni such platitudes are truly appropriate.

Never forget the man who flipped football on its head.