Jose Luis Chilavert scored 48 goals for Vélez Sársfield in ten years and became the champion of both Argentina and South America. Source: Vélez Sársfield (
Jose Luis Chilavert scored 48 goals for Vélez Sársfield in ten years and became the champion of both Argentina and South America. Source: Vélez Sársfield (

When goalkeepers score: the maestro of free kicks, nicknamed “The Bulldog”

Football OlyBet 18.05.2024

Scoring goals is a real art in football, which of course is best done by strikers. Although, some midfielders and defenders are undeniably good at it too – we have already introduced you to the latter on Olybet.TV. 

However, it can happen sometimes that the goalkeeper’s name also appears on the scoreboard, and it is not connected with an own goal. We’ll now introduce you to these extraordinary goalies as part of another ten-part series. 

2nd place – Jose Luis Chilavert (67 goals)

One of the most iconic goalkeepers in football history was born in 1965 in Luque, Paraguay’s third-largest city. Now the population is almost 300,000, but back then it was ten times smaller and the living conditions were radically different.

It was a poor small town, where the lack of money pinched everyone, including the Chilavert family – for example, Chilavert only got his first pair of shoes when he was seven years old. As a result, little Jose Luis also had to work from the ground up.

The work was not difficult, but still, it was necessary to cope. Chilavert milked cows at the age of five and then went to sell the milk in the nearby town of Nu Guazu.

However, we will skip the hardships of his childhood and focus on the story of Chilavert’s football story, which began in … his backyard.

Little brother’s fate

For Jose Luis and his three brothers, soccer was just a game, a way to have fun. Like every child, Chilavert also wanted to play as a striker, but as the youngest, his older brothers put him into the goal instead. So, years later when Chilavert started training at Sportivo Luqueño in his hometown, he proudly pulled on his gloves. Because he already knew a thing or two about goalkeeping.

Or perhaps even more than merely a thing or two. Chilavert was pretty good, which was also illustrated by the fact that he made his debut in the Paraguayan Premier League at just 15 years old. Three years later, he already had a silver medal hanging around his neck, wearing Luqueño’s shirt, and in the same season, he scored his first goals, when he realized all four penalties entrusted to him.

Chilavert then moved on to Guarani, with whom they were crowned national champions. There were penalties involved yet again. However, it had also become clear that the home league was too small for the goalkeeper, which is why Chilavert moved on to the big Argentinian club San Lorenzo at the age of 20. And that’s where his other talent became apparent: free kicks.

A bet and a motivational loss

This happened largely thanks to the Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic, who used various bets to keep the team’s internal atmosphere in good shape. With Chilavert it started with a couple of bottles of Coca-Cola, which were thrown in during a penalty kick competition for fun – because Chilavert was already a good penalty maestro.

However, Milutinovic won the duel, but Chilavert, known as a poor loser, did not leave it at that and promised revenge. So, he started practising diligently, taking hundreds of free kicks after training to get the hang of it.

However, Chilavert did not get the revenge he wanted, because Milutinovic got an offer from Europe, from Udinese, and he moved on. Fortunately for us, however, Chilavert continued to follow the path he had already taken.

True, the following head coaches of San Lorenzo were not so enthusiastic about Chilavert’s alternative skills, which is why he did not reach his own goal with 122 matches for Los Santos. However, he was at a good level in terms of his basic skills, i.e. saves, which earned him the opportunity to move to Spain, more specifically to Real Zaragoza, in 1988.

Screams: get back into the goal!

He spent a total of three seasons there, but the vibe wasn’t right. It was as if Europe was not yet ready for his modern approach. In one of his interviews, Chilavert recalled how the fans started screaming when he kicked the ball and went out of the box.

“It was just an era like that, but a lot of people were really against my style of play. When I started to play the ball from the back and went up, they started shouting at me to go back to the goal. But I saw it as a way to help my team,” Chilavert, who also continued to train standards in Spain, said.

From that, he finally earned a real chance in the 1989/90 season, when Zaragoza earned a penalty against Real Sociedad and the right to take it was given to Chilavert. The goalkeeper realized the penalty, but…

“I went to take a penalty and asked one of the field players to stay behind, to protect the goal, so to say. I scored the penalty, and we celebrated it in the middle of the pitch. Then I slowly started jogging back to the goal: I didn’t do it too fast because I had left a teammate to cover the goal. But what I didn’t know was that he had also come to celebrate the goal with us. So, Sociedad quickly played the ball open and sent it into the net from far away. To be honest, I probably could have been killed for that, but luckily, we were 2-0 up at that point and ended up winning 2-1. But it was crazy,” Chilavert has recalled.

Blossomed in Argentina

In short, Chilavert didn’t find the right fit in Zaragoza, and when he was relegated to the bench in the third season, the Paraguayan decided it was time to move back to South America. Argentina’s top club Velez Sarsfield became the new stop.

There, Chilavert got Carlos Bianchi as his head coach, who was ready to use all the goalkeeper’s strengths. And then it happened: Chilavert started taking free kicks in the game! The first of them flew into the net on October 2, 1994, in a match against Deportivo Espanol.

It was the 89th minute of the game and the score was 0:0 when Velez earned a free kick from near the opponent’s penalty box. Chilavert looked at the head coach, who was yelling from the sideline, “Jose, Jose, go kick it, damn it!”

“Listen, Carlos, let’s not take risks like that now,” one of the fielders is said to have yelled back at the coach, according to El Grafico.

“Roberto, I’m the coach. Let the Paraguayan kick that ball in. Understood? Let him do it,” Bianchi put his foot down hard.

And that’s what Chilavert did, becoming the first goalkeeper in football history to score from a free kick in a major league.

Gates and prizes

In the following years, Chilavert earned more and more opportunities and scored more and more. For example, in the 1996/97 season, he scored 11 goals for Velez in all leagues, a year later he scored 10 goals in 35 matches in the Argentine Premier League!

At the same time, the goalie didn’t neglect his main activity, i.e. saving duties, but continued to perform well between the posts too: in 1995, 1997 and 1998, he was chosen as the best goalkeeper in the world by the IFFHS!

At times, his saves were so inhuman that even opposing players, led by the legendary Diego Maradona, applauded them.

“A good team starts with a good goalkeeper,” Chilavert explained his principles. “Take, for example, the 1982 Brazil team, which was fantastic, second only to the times of Pele and Garrincha. But their problem was that they had Valdir Peres as a goalie. Fortunately, they were able to easily score themselves when the opponents had already scored on them.”

The most famous goal came out of nowhere

As mentioned before, Chilavert scored 67 goals in his career. The most famous of them happened on March 22, 1996, in a match against River Plate. Namely, the opponents made a mistake in the midfield in a seemingly innocent situation, but Chilavert saw an opportunity there as well and sent the ball into the net from 60 meters away!

“There have been players who have scored from long range, generally it’s down to chance. But that was different,” Chilavert recalled. “I saw that [goalkeeper German] Burgos was out of the box watching the sky rather than what was happening on the field. So, I quickly sprinted to the ball. When I arrived, the referee was in front of me, so I shouted to him to “move!”. Luckily, he did, because that blow could have knocked him out if he hadn’t been able to duck.

Even the River players congratulated me after that goal. It was a special goal for me as my father was currently recovering from a heart attack in hospital and I dedicated this goal to him. We won that match, and I gave my shirt to the referee after the match. He deserved it for his reflexes; besides, it was his last game.”

In 1999, Chilavertis became the first goalkeeper in history to score a hat trick. He succeeded in the match against Ferro Carril Oeste when Velez earned three penalties in the match.

After ten years at Velez, where he scored a total of 48 goals in 341 appearances and lifted four Argentine championships and one Copa Libertadores trophy above his head, Chilavert decided to take another swing at Europe. By pulling on the shirt of the French club Strasbourg.

Although the club did not manage to stay in the Premier League in the 2000/01 season, thanks to Chilavert’s saves – and one goal – it was a wonderful journey in the French Cup, that ended with a cup win! In the final, which went to a penalty shootout, it was Chilavert who hit the decisive ball into Amiens net.

In 2003, Chilavert returned to South America, pulling on the shirt of Uruguayan top club Penarol. He had his symbolic swan song a year later with Velez, who also honoured him with a parting game in the summer of 2004. Yes, Chilavert scored in that match as well…

Paraguay and the burden of the World Cup

Having dissected his club career, we will also dedicate some sections to Chilavert’s national team career, because it was in Paraguay’s shirt that his most famous achievements were made. He played for the national team for the first time in 1989, when he was entrusted with penalty kicks in a World Cup qualifier against Colombia.

Gradually, the goalkeeper began to take free kicks, and when Paraguay qualified for the 1998 World Cup, many hoped that Chilavert would become the first goalkeeper to score in the finals. There was a basis for this hope because in the qualifiers he managed to send the ball into the Argentine net from a free kick.

So, when Paraguay faced Bulgaria in the opening game of the World Cup, all football lovers prayed for one thing: a free kick, please! These prayers were answered in the 72nd minute of the match when Trifon Ivanov pulled down Jorge Luis Campos on the 35th meter.

Chilavert’s time had come. The goalie, nicknamed “The Bulldog” jogged to the other side of the field, set the ball in place, gained momentum, and sent the ball spinning with his left foot…

… only to watch how the Bulgarian goalkeeper Zdravko Zdravkov made a brilliant save and cleared it from under the bar.

After the match, Chilavert praised his colleague but made a promise that although the long-awaited goal was not born on that day, he would still reach this mark. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

At the 1998 World Cup, Paraguay did have four matches – in the subgroup, they played against Spain and Nigeria and in the round of 16 against the later champion France – but Chilavert didn’t get another equally good chance there.

Four years later, it was the same deal: Chilavert defended the home goal in matches against Spain, Slovenia and Germany, but did not manage to threaten the opponent’s goal.

Although not making it into the annals of history at the World Cup can be considered a minor flaw, Chilavert’s name still stands boldly next to other legends in all other football books. In the Paraguay national team, he had 74 matches and eight goals, three of which were from free kicks.

When goalkeepers score article series:

P.S. If you’re interested in our “When Defenders Score” series, you can check them out here:


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