There have been two penalty shoot-outs in my life that have brought me to tears. Last year, Didier Drogba slid the ball home neatly into the far left corner, his last kick of a football in a Chelsea shirt, to win the Champions League for his beloved club.
It was incredible, the stuff of dreams, especially when you consider it had been Drogba who had scored the 89th minute equaliser to take the game to extra time. He'd also been involved in something that became, in the context of the final result, something of a footnote: giving away the penalty that could have given Bayern the advantage in extra time if it had not been for the calmness of Petr Cech in goal, diving smartly to his left to parry away his former teammate's strike.
Yet Cech doesn't quite get the accolades that Drogba does, even though he went to on to make two key saves in the shoot-out, as well as diving the right way on every single Bayern penalty. Incredible stuff, a performance that spoke of immense preparation and meticulous attention to detail:
I'd seen all the Bayern penalties since 2007 on a DVD and it took me two hours to go through them. On the flight to Munich, I watched some of the penalties, Ross Turnbull, Henrique Hilario, Jamal Blackman and our goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon watched the others. Then we took notes and discussed it in a meeting. Before the shoot-out I said ‘So guys, the notes... ' and Hilario just said ‘Don't worry, you'll save everything.
But Cech suffers from something I'm going to call ‘lasting-image memory'. That is, that because Drogba scored the penalty, because we won the Champions League through him, his moment is the one we remember as ‘the' moment. If it had been a Cech save that had secured the victory, had his palming of Schweinsteiger's strike onto the post been enough for Chelsea to win the shoot-out, then I think we'd remember Cech a lot more fondly. At any rate, I believe his double save was more valuable to the shoot-out than Drogba's lone strike, as memorable as they both are.
Mark Schwarzer suffers from this a bit too.
That was the first penalty shoot-out that made me cry afterwards. It's the moment in which Australia, my home country, ended thirty-two years of hurt by qualifying for the World Cup, a momentous achievement in a country dominated by four other sporting codes that are all well established and well supported. At the time, football was more or less on the backburner but thanks to Guus Hiddink and the Socceroos, they managed to take a huge step towards turning that attitude around.
But again, Australians tend to remember John Aloisi's penalty more than they do of Schwarzer's heroics. Like Cech, Schwarzer came up with two absolutely incredible stops at key moments in the shoot-out - helping to create the circumstances in which Drogba and Aloisi became immortalised in history. Again, the lasting image is of Aloisi's bare torso (and of the commentator's insane ramblings), rather than Schwarzer, who arguably - definitely from my point of view - made a greater individual contribution to the final result.
Still, neither Cech or Schwarzer will really care about "lasting-image memory". They're both still legends in eyes of their clubs and key protagonists in each story. I'm absolutely delighted that Schwarzer's come to Chelsea, not least because he's a fantastic option as a back-up keeper, not least because he's Australian, but mainly because he helped me fall in love with football.
I have been a Chelsea fan for a long time, going back to around the year 2001, when I was seven years old, but because a) there was barely any English league football on TV at the time and b) because when it was on, it was on at a time far too late for a seven year old, it took me a while to really become enamoured by Chelsea and the game.
It was around 2006, when I was approaching the teenage years and a time when football is starting to grow in prominence in Australia, that I really got into it - a process accelerated by Schwarzer's miraculous saves. So I have Schwarzer to thank for "bringing" me into football, just like I have Cech to thank for "bringing" me the greatest moment in my footballing life.
And now they're together! The excitement is overwhelming - and not just because Chelsea is now ridiculously equipped to deal with any penalty shoot-outs this season.