When Ryan “Godda” Thompson, former goalkeeper for the University of Tampa Spartans, signed a deal with the Shamrock Rovers FC in Dublin, Ireland, he did not know the magnitude of the impact that it would have on his life shortly after.
The past few months for Thompson have been full of both achievements and disappointments that have made it into the history books of European and Jamaican football.
Thompson arrived in Dublin with the expectation that he would be the Rovers top goalkeeper, but after a last minute decision by Alan Mannus, the 2010 recipient of the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland’s Goalkeeper of the Year award, to return to the club, Thompson was bumped to No. 2 where he stood for months.
“My first few months [in Dublin] were humbling and a learning process for me,” said Thompson. “After being used to playing on a regular basis in Tampa and in Jamaica, being a second choice keeper was definitely a challenge.”
Following months of training and preparation with the hopes that he’d one day get his chance to be the club’s No. 1, Mannus left the Rovers to become part of St. Johnstone F.C. of the Scottish Premier League.Thompson was left with the new responsibility of being the club’s keeper – something he gladly, but nervously accepted.
Thompson’s first game as the team’s starting goalkeeper was of vital importance. His and the Rovers’ performance against FC Copenhagen in the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round made Thompson the first Jamaican to play in a Champions League match.
The Rovers’ tournament hopes were dashed, though, when they lost 1-0 in the first leg of the Champions League final and 2-0 in the second.
While the losses were disappointing, the club still had a shot to perform in another prestigious European football tournament – the Europa Cup. The Rovers drew yet another European power, Partizan Belgrade. The football world was in shock when the small club from Dublin, Ireland defeated the giant that is Partizan Belgrade in extra time by the score of 2-1.
Thompson’s performance in the game lasted all 120 minutes and included multiple saves that, had he not made them, may have cost the Rovers the match. Thompson stated that, after the victory, the crowd in Dublin has begun calling him the “super keeper.”
The victory also marked the Rovers as the first team from Ireland to reach the group stages of the Europa Cup in what has been deemed a “famous win”.
“After winning that game against Partizan Belgrade, we didn’t know exactly what we did until we arrived in Dublin to see over 50 police officers waiting to escort us [through the airport],” said Thompson.
“There were hundreds of people waiting to give us a hero’s welcome. It’s a cool thing just to think about a team from Ireland qualifying for the Europa Cup for the first time and that I’m a part of it.”
Current player for the UT men’s soccer team, Karl Swan, who is also son of former Shamrock Rover Frank Swan, explained the importance of the game.
“It is a massive achievement in football because it has never been done before, and the popularity of the Irish leagues has been dipping in Europe,” said Swan. “The popularity has suddenly come back to life in the last few years with the success of our national team, and now with an Irish club team challenging some of the best teams in Europe in a major competition.”
Thompson continues to keep a humble approach and look forward to the upcoming years as he enters his prime.
“I hope and pray I continue to dream big and improve my game,” Thompson said in regards to his future. “[I want to]learn as much as possible and continue to give the best of me in whatever environment football leads me.
“I’m living a dream right now and I’m so grateful.”
Maya Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.