“the kind of penalty that only a goalkeeper could have invented”

The BBC reports that planning permission has been granted to erect a memorial in Milford, County Armagh, to William McCrum aka “Master Willie”, son of linen millionaire Robert Garmany McCrum, great-grandfather of the Observer’s literary editor Robert McCrum, member of the Irish Football Association, goalkeeper for Milford Football Club.. and, in 1890, inventor of the penalty kick.From the Wikipedia entry

The original proposal read: If any player shall intentionally trip or hold an opposing player, or deliberately handle the ball within twelve yards from his own goal line, the referee shall, on appeal, award the opposing side a penalty kick, to be taken from any point 12 yards from the goal line, under the following conditions: All players, with the exception of the player taking the penalty kick and the goalkeeper, shall stand behind the ball and at least six yards from it; the ball shall be in play when the kick is taken. A goal may be scored from a penalty kick.

As Robert McCrum wrote

As a goalkeeper, Master Willie had every opportunity to witness the way in which the purity of the sport was being corrupted by such foul play. Then he had his big idea. Offenders should be punished with a penalty. And not just any old penalty. A ‘penalty kick’. From his goalmouth vantage-point on the muddy, low-lying Milford village football pitch, during the 1880s, William McCrum slowly developed the idea of the penalty kick as a way of curbing excesses on the field.

The penalty kick , of course, is the kind of penalty that only a goalkeeper could have invented, a supreme moment of drama and self-sacrifice that places the goalkeeper, generally a bystander, at the centre of the stage. Yes, it stacks the odds against the goalie, but it does make him, heroically, even tragically, the star of the show. Master Willie was not just a sporting show-off. He also devoted hours of recreation to amateur theatricals in the Milford village hall, the McCrum Institute.

And the memorial itself.. according to the BBC report

The memorial to Mr McCrum, on which work is due to begin later this year, will consist of a memorial plinth and bronze bust.


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