The Best FIFA Football Awards
- This is the fourth time that FIFA has recognized the best goalkeeper of the year.
- Slovenian Jan Oblak is one of the goalkeepers appointed for 2020.
- “I am a guardian because I imitated my father when I was a child”, he confides
When it comes to the best goalies on the planet, Jan Oblak’s name has been a constant feature of the discussion for several seasons. The Slovenian, who is part of the managers and captains of Atlético de Madrid, where he is playing his seventh season, is nominated for The Best FIFA Goalkeeper award in 2020.
A model of sobriety and calm, even in hot weather – how can you forget your performance at Anfield in the last UEFA Champions League? -, the 27-year-old doorman talks about his childhood dreams, the keys to the “miracles” he achieves in the cages and his thirst for titles with the club mattress.
Jan, Slovenia has only a little more than two million inhabitants, but it produces many top athletes: stars of the NBA, great cyclists like Pogacar or Roglic, footballers… What is its secret?
It is true that we have excellent athletes, whether in individual sports or in team sports. We have always had great basketball players or footballers who stood out from the crowd … I think that is explained by our passion for the sport and by our state of mind. We have composure and in sport it is very precious.
How did you start football?
As a child, I played in a lot of sports, but football has always been my priority. My dad played it, even though it wasn’t pro. He was a guard and I imitated him, I wanted to be like him. That’s why from an early age, I wanted to be a guard. At the beginning, I made a few matches in attack, but I always wanted to stay in the cages. I still adore sports like basketball and tennis, which I play and enjoy watching. Before turning professional, I also did a lot of skiing.
Did you grow up admiring a particular goalie or player?
When I watched big European clubs matches, I focused on the goalkeepers. And as the form of the players could change, my heart swayed between Buffon, Casillas, Schmeichel or Dida, from AC Milan, depending on the years… I admired all these goalkeepers, but my first idol was my father.
Was it a childhood dream to become the best goalie in the world?
When I was a kid, it was difficult to follow international football on TV, so my first dream was to play for the club I trained at. Then, as I progressed and made certain dreams come true, others came to be added. So yeah, when I realized I could turn pro and play at a high level, I started dreaming of being the best and winning every title I could. This is what I train for every day.
How do you feel about the fact that there is now a The Best award that recognizes the work of goalies?
In general, people notice those who score the goals and not those who make the saves. Some great goalkeepers have never been recognized as such, among the best. In the end, on the pitch, we are all equal: some must score and others must make saves. So it’s good that there is a distinction for the keepers. This allows them to be recognized beyond comments like “What is he playing well!”, By giving them rewards. It’s good for football, for us and for the supporters.
This year, you are nominated for The Best award alongside Alisson Becker and Manuel Neuer. What would this trophy represent if you received it?
It would be a great time. Being among the nominees already shows that I am on the right track. These are individual rewards, but they are linked to collective performance. In the end, the goalkeeper and the player who have the most chances of winning The Best prize are those who have won the Champions League, their championship… It is by winning collective titles that we give ourselves the most. chances of winning these individual distinctions. We didn’t get there last year, but I’m glad I was appointed. It would be huge to get this distinction, either for me or for theAthletes, because a goalie does not play alone. He must have the support of the team to be nominated and win.
Some of your saves can be considered “miraculous”, like this triple save against Bayer Leverkusen. What is your favorite intervention?
It is clear that when people talk about me, it is this triple parade that emerges. She’ll probably continue to tour on TV or the Internet for many years to come, but I’m not the type to focus on any particular procedure. All saves are important because they help avoid goals. Some saves may seem easy at first glance, but as a goalkeeper you know they can be more complicated to achieve than a dive that will look pretty in a photo. It’s all about the placement.
Speaking of placement, what is the most important quality a goalie should have?
One of the most important qualities is placement. By always standing in the right place or by making this effort, we make things easier and we have to work less. Then each team has its own way of playing. Each coach asks his goalkeeper different things and in the end, we carry out the coach’s instructions. If he asks to play kicking, we will play kicking, if he asks to clear far, we do it too… In any case, I believe that the placement is one of my main qualities.
On the pitch, the goalkeeper enjoys a panoramic view of the game. Are you one of those who talk a lot to your teammates or do you only intervene at specific times?
I’m pretty vigilant, so I talk a lot during matches. Not that I’m the smarter player than the others, who can see things better from behind. But I try to help the team, especially the center-backs, full-backs and defensive midfielders. Sometimes I notice open spaces that they think are closed or they can’t see what’s going on behind their backs, while I do. In the field, the more we talk to each other, the more we communicate, the easier things become for everyone. We help each other.
You have won the Zamora Trophy four times, which rewards the most airtight goalkeeper in La Liga. This season, you have conceded only four goals in 11 matches. Is a fifth trophy one of your goals?
I am not focusing on statistics, because things can change very quickly. Suddenly, we can find ourselves conceding several goals over a series of matches. Instead of staring at this trophy, I try to take as few goals as possible, because that increases our chances of victory.
You have never won La Liga. Today, Atlético is second with 9 points ahead of FC Barcelona and 3 over Real Madrid. There is also the Champions League, which you touched on in 2016. If you had to choose, which title would you prefer to win this season?
I can’t pick one because I would like to win them all. It’s very complicated because we are playing in a La Liga where there are big clubs, and it’s the same in the Champions League… We came close in the Champions League but it did not smile. I dream of winning it, I believe in it, but I don’t have a favorite title. As long as I’m atAthletes, I will try to win all the competitions I participate in. I hope we can win something this year. In La Liga, we are off to a good start, but there are still many days to go. We must continue on this path.
Supporters generally idolize offensive players, but those from theAthletes adore you. They even dedicated songs to you. Do you feel like you’ve found your place here?
The first few months after my arrival were difficult, but when I started to start, I always felt the affection of people. Right now, I miss them a lot when I’m on the pitch. I know people like me and I’m here to help Atléti. As a footballer you never know how long you’re going to stay at a club, but I’ve been here for seven years and so far everything has gone well. Everything is easier when you have the supporters behind you. It is a source of confidence and it helps to give the best of oneself.
We started by talking about the Slovenian miracle. It is more difficult to qualify for major international competitions with Slovenia. What would qualifying for the FIFA World Cup ™ or UEFA EURO mean?
When I was young, I saw Slovenia play in the 2002 World Cup and qualify for EURO 2000. Later, they played in the 2010 World Cup. When I think back to how happy people are… I would love to give all that joy back to the country. Not just for our people. For me, it would be a dream to play in a World Cup or a EURO, a childhood dream that I would like to realize. I will do everything to make it happen.
All winners, including those of the FIFA Fan Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award, will be crowned on December 17, 2020 in a live television broadcast that begins at 7 p.m. (CET).
Join the discussion on this year’s award winners using the hashtag #TheBest.