There are soccer players around the world whose lone moment will be remembered forever. Even a stellar career can be ruined by an embarrassing own-goal or a costly penalty miss. Luckily for Pat Bonner, he belongs to a more encouraging breed of people. Due to one very special save, the beloved Irish goalkeeper will forever be synonymous with his name for the rest of his days and doubtless beyond.
Despite being one of the best he had ever played, it was by no means his best. Pat Bonner played 642 matches for Celtic, his only club, and made 80 caps. In the 1990 World Cup, one of the most memorable dives was the one that blocked a penalty and sent the Republic of Ireland into the quarterfinals by blocking a penalty from Romanian Daniel Timofte. Even today, many Irishmen can say where they were when ‘Packie’ took his place in history as the nation’s “JFK moment.”
Pat Bonner told the History Of Soccer team that he is still amazed at the impact that save has made on everyday folk. “Every day, people come up to me and talk about it. This one save has been a milestone in my life in regards to recognition. It’s beautiful, although there are times when you do feel like saying, “I have made other saves too.”
“However, I still feel very fortunate because the World Cup experience brought the nation together in a way that has never happened before. It was a time of economic weakness in Ireland, a time when there was some pessimism, and seeing us out there in Italy, taking on the world, fighting our corner against the very best, I believe, changed the country’s mindset. I truly believe that soccer can be that important,” said Pat Bonner.
Approximately 500,000 people packed Dublin’s streets when Jack Charlton’s team returned from Italy, scenes that Pat Bonner will never forget. The Republic of Ireland had become a force to reckon with in the soccer world. They returned to the international stage four years later. However, something was very different in the USA.
“Coming from a soccer-crazed country, Italy, to the United States, where most people are not even aware of the World Cup. I remember the game in New York against Italy the most, not because we won but because the Irish fans completely took over that stadium. If we had been in that part of the country for the whole tournament, I think we’d have enjoyed it much more.”
Pat Bonner Coaching Career
After ending his 15-year reign as Ireland’s first-choice goalkeeper in 1996, Pat Bonner worked for Celtic and Reading before returning to the Republic of Ireland as goalkeeping coach under Mick McCarthy.
He then became technical director of the Football Association of Ireland. Bonner said it was a big task. Regarding developing our players, we could not have professional academies as they have across the water in England and Scotland. So an effective plan from grassroots to the senior team had to be implemented.
“We had 110 staff working for me, and we hired a performance director, (former Netherlands international) Wim Koevermans. I’m thrilled to have contributed to Irish soccer development and hope to have contributed to its future success.” During a wave of redundancies in 2010, he lost his job as technical director. Pat Bonner has worked in a part-time coaching capacity with UEFA and said he would appreciate the opportunity to discuss returning to Irish soccer someday.
Since his niece Una was born with spina bifida 30 years ago, Pat Bonner has been an SBHI ambassador. “After Una was born, I played my benefit game here in Ireland and decided to donate the money to the cause that was closest to my heart.
Pat Bonner has become a respected sports pundit and has appeared on TV3, Sky, and BBC TV and Radio in Scotland. I still get out to the matches, which is excellent,” he says.
Packie is exceptionally proud of both his career with Ireland and Celtic. His entire career was spent with one club. As it would have been challenging, he would have loved to play soccer abroad. However, Pat Bonner is most proud of his soccer career.
Main Image: Celtic FC