5, September 2017
Veteran Gianluigi Buffon has confessed his own inspirations behind him being a goalkeeper, beginning with Cameroon goalie Thomas N’Kono. The goalkeeping talisman for both Juventus as well as the Italian national side has had a footballing career that has spanned four decades, and he has revealed how watching the 1990 World Cup at aged 12 moulded his dreams of his professional goalkeeping career.
It was not by watching the Italian team at the tournament that made him want to pursue a career with football – it came, instead, by watching goalkeeper N’Kono play for the Cameroon national team. Defending In Numbers is a new Deezer Originals football podcast, created by Squawka. Listen to the latest episode and subscribe to the podcast on Deezer and iTunes.
“When I was little, there was someone mythical in my life: Thomas N’Kono, the Cameroon goalkeeper,” said Buffon to Marca. “I saw him play at the 1990 World Cup and, after Italy, Cameroon were the team of my heart. It was at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. I remember the day of the first match, it was Argentina-Cameroon.
“Cameroon won and, at that moment, I decided to become a goalkeeper.” N’Kono is widely believed to be the greatest goalkeeper Africa has ever produced and similar narratives have surrounded Buffon for years. The 39-year-old veteran often being lauded as the best goalkeeper his international side has seen.
Last year, he established a record for most consecutive unbeaten minutes in the Italian league. This calendar year, he was the goalkeeper who drove Juventus from the group stages to place in the final of the Champions League, amassing 600 unbroken minutes of clean-sheet football.
The Italian shot-stopper, however, was met with harsh criticism following his side’s 3-0 defeat to Spain in a World Cup qualifying match last weekend. Ever since turning 35, Buffon has had varying levels of consistency, with critics debating whether or not he was already in the twilight years of his career – looking a bit sluggish when Isco’s free-kick had flew past him on the night.
“If you aren’t attentive against Spain, they’ll hurt you a lot. Spain’s players change but not the philosophy,” said Buffon about the match. These World Cup qualifying matches could be Buffon’s last-ever on the international scene, as he has already announced his decision to retire from national team duty following the 2018 finals.