Former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar has revealed some of the effects the struggles of war had on him during his military career and how football perhaps saved his life.
Before the former Zimbabwe shot-stopper was capturing the imagination of fans at Anfield, Grobbelaar had to deal with the horrors of war as he was part of the then Rhodesia army.
“My first time was at dusk. As the sun sinks you’re seeing shadows in the bush. You cannot recognise much until you see the whites of their eyes. It’s you or them,” the former Durban City keeper recalled, according to the Guardian.
“You shoot, you drop and there’s overwhelming gunfire. You hear voices on your side: ‘Hey, corporal, I’m hit.’ You whistle to shut them up otherwise we’re all getting killed. When the firefight is finished you see bodies everywhere. The first time everything in your stomach comes up through your mouth,” he added.
Football though, certainly played a major role in the goalkeeper’s personal life as it helped to somewhat erase the moments of sheer brutality that he had experienced, which others unfortunately did not have the luxury of.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Grobbelaar responds when asked about the number of people he killed during the war.
“Yes. This is why I’ve always lived my life for today. I can only say sorry for the past. I can’t change it,” he continued.
While the images of war continue to live with Grobbelaar, he reveals that the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 affected him just as much.
“It was worse. In the bush you knew what could happen. At Heysel it was innocent people. To hear the crumbling wall and the falling bodies was terrible,” he revealed.
“I was near gate number 13 and there was this soft sound – like air coming out. I saw the faces squashed against the fence. I went to get the ball and shouted to the policewoman: ‘Open the effing gate.’ She said: ‘I haven’t got the key.’ When the ball came back a second time, I shouted again,” he said.
“I saw they had a key and people spilled on to the ground. I kicked the ball out and ran to the referee. That’s when the barrier went over and the bodies came down. I could hear the air coming out of them. One of the faces squashed against the fence belonged to a girl called Jackie. I had given her that ticket but luckily she survived. I saw her last night at the book signing,” he expressed.