- Did Marcelo Grohe commit the greatest save in football history?
- * How did he hurl himself like a supermanoeuvrable fighter jet? *
- * How did it blow up the internet?*
‘The save of the century’ and ‘The hand of God’ are phrases used to immortalise actions which unfolded across the Americas. And they were headlines splashed publications across the globe on Thursday morning.
This time, however, they didn’t refer to actions on Jaliscan or Guadalajaran grass. There was no Pele. No Maradona. And no English goalkeepers.
When Barcelona’s Damian Diaz flicked a cross on in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores semi-final at home to Gremio, it gifted fellow Argentinian Ariel Nahuelpan the simplest goal of his long career. He was merely two yards out, staring at an unpoliced net, with the ball virtually placed on his left boot. “Touch it and it was a goal. Simple,” said Gremio coach Renato Gaucho.
Ariel did just that. But ‘twas not so simple in this act of Shakespearean heroism.
Marcelo Grohe hurtled his 6ft 2ins, 80kg-plus frame east like a Sukhoi Su-35, hyper-extended his right arm, got his hand to the ferocious strike, was sufficiently cement-wristed to keep it out, and pounced on the loose ball beneath him to complete arguably the greatest save in football history.
I believe that Grohe’s save was even more difficult than Banks’s. As well as Ariel being closer to the goal, Grohe had to measure the position where the header would go.
The sheer incredulity on Ariel’s face, clasped desperately in his hands for seconds, said it all. And the imperishably-grounded Gremio No1... well, he got on with it as if it was any old save.
“I must admit that at the time of the save, I had no idea of the repercussions it would have, the magnitude of it,” revealed the twice-capped Brazil international. “During the game I didn’t have the faintest clue that it could become *that *save. I realised the magnitude of it in the dressing room, when everybody came to hug me, congratulate me, show me the play.”
It immediately shook the World Wide Web. ‘Hand of God’ read the headline on *The Sun’s *website, where it was described as arguably ‘the greatest save of all time’. All and sundry juxtaposed it with Gordon Banks’s preposterous repellence of Pele’s header at the 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico™. Danrlei wrote a moving post on Instagram, using a Chinese proverb and inspirational quotes from Albert Einstein and Walt Disney to panegyrize his successor in the Gremio goal.
And Twitter exploded. Hashtags were created. Tributes were made. GIFs abounded.
“I believe that Grohe’s save was even more difficult than Banks’s,” said former Brazil goalkeeper Joao Leite. “As well as Ariel being closer to the goal, Grohe had to measure the position where the header would go, and count on reaction and concentration. It was an extraordinary save. I don’t know how he did it.”
Nor, really, did Grohe. “It’s difficult to put into words,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s all so fast – there are thousandths of seconds to make a decision on the pitch.
“I remember when [Diaz] headed it, I looked sideways and I saw Ariel preparing to finish it. What came into my head was to fling myself, to outstretch my arm. It was intuition.
"It was my greatest-ever save, without doubt. For the save’s difficulty and its importance. If they’d gone 2-1 up, at the start of the second half, it would have ignited the stadium, got their supporters pressuring us, given them energy.
“Not in our wildest dreams did we imagine winning a Copa Libertadores semi-final 3-0 away. But we’ve still got work to do. Barcelona will go for broke. Hopefully we’ll have a wonderful end of the year.”
That is dependent on Gremio appearing in December’s FIFA Club World Cup. The next step towards getting there unfolds in Porto Alegre on Wednesday evening. Barcelona need a miracle. So, too, did the one club-man from Campo Bom to awaken debate over the greatest save in football history.
And isn’t it hard to look past ‘The Miracle of Grohe’?
Gremio's official Twitter account reacts to Grohe's incredible save.