World Cup champion with Italy in 2006, former goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon recently defended that the size of the goal in professional football be increased, in order to also increase the number of times that attackers find the net in a match.
The goal in professional football has been the same size since the end of the 19th century, measuring 7.32 meters wide by 2.44 meters high. The measures were defined at the time by the FA (Football Association, the English football federation) and have not been modified since then.
The argument used by the former Italian player with spells at Juventus, Parma and PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) is that the stature of goalkeepers has grown over the last few decades, while the dimensions of goals have remained the same, which, in theory, it could make life difficult for attackers to defeat archers.
“When I started in 1998, I was among the five tallest players in Serie A. Last year, when I was with Parma, I was always among the five tallest, but out of the 22 on the field,” declared Buffon, who is 1. 92 meter, in an interview with the Italian publication Tuttosport.
In fact, the size of goalies has increased considerably over the past four decades. According to a survey carried out by Sheet based on data from the specialized website Transfermarkt, while in the 1982/83 season, the average height of goalkeepers in the first division of the Italian Championship was 1.83m, in the 2022/23 season, it rose to 1.91m.
Last season, the tallest goalkeeper in the tournament was Serbian Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, from Torino, at 2.02m. Four decades ago, the tallest were Guido Bistazzoni (Sampdoria) and Stefano Tacconi and
Giovanni Cervone (Avellino), 1.92m.
According to Júlio Cerca Serrão, coordinator of the Biomechanics Laboratory at the School of Physical Education and Sport at USP (University of São Paulo), the average height of people, in general, increases over the decades, a phenomenon known as secular trend.
“This is a human tendency, an evolutionary characteristic, and it will continue. Therefore, the discussion regarding the dimensions of the goal makes perfect sense”, says Serrão.
However, despite the increase in goalkeepers’ stature, the phenomenon was not accompanied by a reduction in the number of goals. On the contrary. In the 1982/83 season, the average number of goals in the Italian Championship was 2.1 per match. In the 2022/23 season, 2.7.
Contrary to the opinion of the former Italian goalkeeper, goalkeeper trainers at Brazilian clubs do not see the need to resize the goal in football.
“I believe that the dimensions of the goal are within an adequate parameter for what football requires today”, says Rogério Godoy, goalkeeper trainer at Palmeiras. “The relationship between the dimensions of the goal versus the size of the goalkeepers is very fair today”, says Edson Júnior, goalkeeping coach at Corinthians.
In the current dimensions, it is already very difficult for goalkeepers to make quick decisions and save shots from inside or even outside the area, says Douglas Costa, goalkeeper coach at Ska Brasil, a club in Santana de Parnaíba chaired by five-time champion Edmílson.
“I don’t see much point in increasing [as dimensões do gol]”, says Costa. If he were still active, perhaps Buffon’s opinion would be different, says Ska’s goalkeeper coach, with spells at Red Bull Bragantino and Grêmio Audax.
According to Godoy, from Palmeiras, although there is a common perception among ball players that long-distance shots have decreased in recent years, he points out that it is also necessary to consider that the plays that lead to a goal today are often constructed from the defensive system, with the exchange of passes until reaching the opponent’s area.
Edson Júnior, from Corinthians, also says that increasing the size of the goal would not be something positive for the continuity and evolution of women’s football.
The Corinthians goalkeeper trainer states that the women’s sport is in the process of development and predicts that the position’s demands will become increasingly greater.
“Ten or 15 years from now, the average height of goalkeepers will be greater than it is today. It’s a natural process of development”, says Edson Júnior.
The financial cost of making the change also appears as an additional impediment to the change advocated by Buffon.
“Increasing the size of the goal has been proposed in the past but was rejected. The global implications of such a change, especially the costs involved, make it impractical and financially prohibitive for the vast majority of football across the world,” said IFAB (International Football Association Board), the body that regulates football rules worldwide, in a note sent to Sheet.