Grobbelaar: Football saved me

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar says football “saved him” after he had to kill opposition fighters while serving in the Rhodesian army.

Grobbelaar, 60, fought in the Rhodesian Bush War in the 1970s and told BBC World Service he still experiences “cold sweats” because of his experiences.

“You’re not the same person once you have done it,” Grobbelaar said.

“You have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life.”

Grobbelaar, who made 440 appearances for the Reds, winning 13 major titles, was conscripted into the army and immediately sent into the bush war – an uprising against white rule in Rhodesia, a country which later became Zimbabwe.

As well as having to kill enemy fighters, he lost three friends during the conflict.

“The memories have subsided somewhat, but there are times when you are with your mates back in Africa and they particularly like to speak about it. I don’t,” he says.

“After that, for about a two or three-week period, I do get cold sweats and wake up with those feelings again.”

Grobbelaar credits football with saving him after his conscription ended, moving to Canada to join Vancouver Whitecaps in 1979 before signing for Liverpool two years later.

“Over the years, I am very lucky that I didn’t submerge into a form of depression, because football saved my life really,” he says.

“Once I came out of the military, I had football to fall upon which took my mind off those incidents.”

Grobbelaar was Liverpool’s number one during both the Heysel and Hillsborough stadium disasters, and revealed the former was the first and only time his mother saw him play live.

Thirty-nine fans were killed following crowd trouble when fans were crushed against a wall that then collapsed during the 1985 European Cup final at Heysel between Liverpool and Juventus.

“None of the players wanted to go out and play. We were asked by Uefa to go out because they thought the fighting would escalate if not,” Grobbelaar says.

His achievements during his playing career were overshadowed when in 1994, it was alleged he had accepted money to throw matches. 

He was ultimately cleared in court but says the allegations blighted his career.

“From start to finish, it went on for about six years, and then it took six years for my marriage to end. It took 12 years,” he says.