Ali Ahamada 22 Goalkeeper Toulouse France
2013 has been…
“Do not condemn people on one or two mistakes. It was a great season last year, then this season he has been less consistent. But he will come back strong.”
Encouraging words from Toulouse coach Alain Casanova for Ali Ahamada at the end of a disappointing 2012/13 season. The campaign just gone had been a disappointing crash down to earth for the young goalkeeper from the south of France, a seemingly endless succession of mistakes with varying levels of punishment.
He made his name by scoring a goal, but there is no doubt that Ahamada cost Casanova’s side points last season. Since the beginning of 2013 the Toulouse goalkeeper has conceded from weak parries, flapped badly at high crosses, fumbled the ball at the feet of opponents and lost his footing more than once. He was sent off for a professional foul after a reckless decision to race out from his goal against Nice in April; the ball was nowhere to be seen.
After his suspension, Ahamada returned to the side after an unfortunate 80-odd minutes for his replacement, veteran back-up custodian Olivier Blondel. The former Troyes man made an appalling error of his own before limping off in tears and evidently in a lot of pain. Goalkeeping in Toulouse isn’t exactly in rude health.
A few weeks previously Ahamada had escaped more embarrassment in a goalless draw against Bordeaux. The goalkeeper dropped the ball into his own net under minimal pressure from a corner, his blushes arrested by a poor call to award a free kick in his favour. Fast forward to September and little had changed. Another lucky escape against Marseille (this time a mis-read high ball) was followed by a terrible handling error from a cross against Saint-Etienne, swiftly punished by Romain Hamouma.
Inevitably, Ahamada’s club form has had an impact on his international prospects. After featuring prominently in France’s quest to reach the Under-21 European Championships in Israel this summer, he has not played for the team since the dramatic playoff loss to Norway last October. At 22, he now has to compete with the big boys and he’s got quite some way to go before a senior call-up comes his way.
2013 is not going to be remembered as a vintage year for Ahamada. While he is too frequently left exposed by the Toulouse defence, the errors are simply too common. Nevertheless, he has some good points and he shouldn’t be written off. He looks for all the world like a purpose-built goalkeeper, standing at over six feet tall with good reach and a large frame that should lend to him maturing into the dominant, commanding goalkeeper that began his Toulouse career with a flurry of clean sheets.
Only Ahamada and his coaches will know exactly what’s needed for him to regain his form. The ability seems to be there, but there’s some lack of confidence, concentration or protection that’s been stopping it coming to the fore. As a goalkeeper he could have another 15 years in the game and is in the relatively rare position of having been a solid first choice by the age of 21.
There’s every chance he’s simply making his mistakes more publicly than most, but unless he gets himself back on an even keel in 2014 international football may have eluded him for good. Starting matches young has benefits but there are risks too, especially for the pressurised role of the goalkeeper.
We remain hopeful that Ahamada can cut out the errors to escape the deep end and prove his worth. He’s got plenty of positives to weigh against the errors, and is rated highly by his team-mates. He hasn’t had a great year by any stretch, but time will tell on his career prospects. Sadly, he’s already not what he might have been.
"No longer the prospect he threatened to be, too many crucial mistakes. Has fallen down the French pecking order. Nothing more than a shot-stopper." - Andrew Gibney, French Football Weekly
"Ali Ahamada made seven errors leading to goals in the 2012/13 Ligue 1. No player made more." - Opta
E One mistake after another but gaining experience by the week