Arsenal are a club
who over the years have generally had one permanent first-choice goalkeeper who
is seemingly immovable.
If we go way back we had the likes of Bob Wilson, then John Lukic and David
Seaman was seemingly England and Arsenal number one for what felt like an
Once the Ponytailed Prince, although he was a bit old to be a prince but
nonetheless, had called it a day at Highbury, Arsene Wenger drafted in Jens
Lehmann from Borussia Dortmund who enjoyed a successful number of years at the
club; in two stints may I add.
Even recently, although he has had a blip this past season, Wojciech Szczesny
seems as if he is going to be sticking around for the long run.
One man who you probably won’t put on that list is Rami Shaaban.
Hands up if you honestly remember Shaaban? Anyone? Anyone at all?
Well let me jog your memory about the wonder that was Rami.
With Seamen coming towards the end of his playing career, having been around
for what seemed Donkey’s years, Arsenal scouted Shaaban from Djurgarden in 2002
who was touted as the eventual successor to moustache marvel.
Shaaban, who was
born to an Egyptian father and a Finnish mother and somehow ended up as a
Sweden international,grew up in Stockholm as a muslim but moved to live in
Cairo in order to balance the books with both his football commitments and his
university studies. Prior to moving to North London, Shaaban formerly worked as
a mountain explosives specialist. I myself don’t quite know what that entails,
but it’s exciting and dangerous. Whatever it is, he jacked it in and brought
his family, including a new-born son, to the Arsenal.
At 27 years of age,
Shaaban looked to make his mark on arrival by replacing the injured Seamen in
the Gunners’ Champions League campaign as he donned the gloves in Europe’s
elite competition against the Dutch giants PSV Einhoven at Highbury, as well as
making the trip to the Italian capital to face the intimidating AS Roma (a
certain Mr. Henry took care of the rest).
While he impressed
during those two matches, he also managed to make a single Premier League outing
before his career was dealt a huge blow.
It was the night
before Christmas at London Colney, and all of the little Arsenal players were
making sure that they were full of festive cheer…..that was until Rami was
presented with a horrible broken leg during training, that brought his season
to an abrupt end.
Some feared that
this would be the end of Shaaban, but he preserved throughout his rigorous
physical therapy and was able to resume playing once again in the near future.
him, Wenger had decided that enough was enough and was not willing to take a
chance on a stopper who had been sat on the treatment table for the best part
of a year, and with that he raided the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund to sign
curly yet whacky German keeper Jens Lehmann.
From then on,
Shaaban didn’t get a look in as Jens picked up the golden gloves in his debut
season at Highbury for turning out in every single game of Arsenal’s unbeaten
season in 2003-04. Shaaban couldn’t shake off frequently little injuries and
problems, and failed to get himself back into the first-team picture.
He tried his luck
with a loan move, as Wenger shipped him out to local rivals West Ham United in
January 2004, in order to try to get some games under his belt. This failed
miserably, and the Swede was unable to make a single appearance for the Hammers
during his one-month loan.
Shaaban didn’t give
up though, and he was flogged out to the coast where he was signed by Brighton
& Hove Albion on non-contract terms. He started to enjoy a bit more game
time and success with the Seagulls, making his debut in a 2-1 victory over
Sunderland and was then rewarded with a short-term deal lasting until the end
of the campaign just a few days later.
But just when he
thought he was starting to get somewhere, Brighton decided against offering him
a new deal, and he was plunged into the free agent pool.
Shaaban did manage
to strike up some silverware in his next move though and captured the coveted
City of Discovery Cup when making his debut for Dundee United as they saw off
Sheffield Wednesday; I’m sure you’ll have noted the sarcasm there, I mean what even
is the City of Discovery Cup? And who even cares? The down side was that match
was during a trial with the Scottish outfit, and he failed to earn a proper
deal with the club. He then moved back home to Sweden to sign for Fredrikstad,
where he remained for a further two years.
Now what some of
you may not know was that Shaaban has actually played in goal at the Emirates against
one of the best teams in the world. Yeah, I know you didn’t know and quite
frankly, I only stumbled upon this by chance. Remember back in 2008 when Sweden
and Brazil clashed in a friendly at the Emirates? No? Well this is how, ahem,
well it went for Shaaban.
He concluded his
career by penning a five-year deal with Hammarby IF in February 2008, before
calling it a day and retiring in January 2012.
Despite his Arsenal
days being sadly cut short, Shaaban certainly made a number of friends at the
club through his down-to-earth and genuine personality. He particularly struck
up a fine relationship with compatriot Freddie Ljungberg, who he still catches
up with over coffee to this day.
To finish, here is
a video of Shaaban getting his beard trimmed. You can thank me later.
And now you know.
Matt has been the editor of the site since June 2012 and was born into a Gooner family 21 years ago. He recently graduated from Southampton Solent University with a degree in Sports Journalism and strives to work in the Sports Media industry. As well as currently working as a reporter for Sports Mole and TIBS News, Matt has been providing football commentary for the visually impaired since 2008 at Arsenal, Exeter City and Wembley.
His earliest Gunners memory is watching the ‘Boring, boring Arsenal’ VHS as a six-year-old on repeat, to the extent where he could recite most of the commentary from that season. Matt was lucky enough to witness Arsenal lift the Premier League in 2002 as well as being present during the last match at Highbury in 2006, and at Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial a few months later at the Emirates Stadium. Matt’s favourite players include Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Tony Adams, with the 5-3 comeback victory against Middlesbrough in 2004 the best match he has ever spectated.
Matt is an optimistic ’In Wenger we trust’, kind of guy and believes that the glory days are not too far away…
Apart from his editorial duties, Matt will also be bringing his Arsenal knowledge to a column called “Where Are They Now?” – which focuses on former Gunners.