Tudorel Mihailescu has overcome much greater challenges than many to achieve his potential.
By Paul-Daniel Zaharia
Being a goalkeeper is perhaps the most pressurised position on the football field. Whereas outfield players have the consolation of knowing that their mistakes are usually not decisive, a goalkeeper knows that, if he makes a bad error, it will invariably lead to a goal.
Small wonder, then, that it takes a particular type of person to wear the No1 shirt; someone who is capable of accepting setbacks, learning from their mistakes and refusing to allow the pressure to wear them down. However, for Tudorel Mihailescu, the obstacles he had to overcome were far more challenging.
'Struggle and ambition'
The 36-year-old, who plays for Romanian fourth division side FC Academia Tehnica Militara Bucuresti, was born without the lower half of his left arm, but refused to let that overshadow his love of football. "Struggle and ambition have always led me in my life," he said. "I wanted to demonstrate that, despite the fact that I have a handicap, I am a human being like everyone else."
Mihailescu spent his childhood watching his local first division side, CF Sportul Studentesc, with his father. His idol was a famous goalkeeper, Dumitru Moraru, and after each game he tried to imitate his moves.
His love of the game inspired him to practice continually, and that dedication led him to another fourth division team, FC Prefabricate Bucuresti. Mihailescu's talent meant that he made a good impression upon the players, coaches and officials at the club, and his debut for one of the club's youth sides was marked by a fine penalty save.
'It was fantastic'
"It was something fantastic," he said, and admitted that he went to a trial, as a junior player, some years later at one of the giants of Romanian football, FC Steaua Bucuresti. However, despite the fact he failed to make the grade at the top level, Mihailescu refused to be discouraged and continued to play in the lower divisions.
Mihailescu has received help throughout his career from a number of important figures, none more so that his boyhood idol Moraru, who has been the goalkeeping coach of the Romanian national side for several years. Current Steaua goalkeeper Martin Tudor and the club's president Gigi Becali have also offered valuable aid.
Keeping it in the family
Despite his advancing years, Mihailescu is keen to play on for as long as he can, but as his career inevitably begins to wind down, he can at least take consolation in the fact that his 15-year-old son is following in his father's footsteps and is set on becoming a famous goalkeeper in his own right. If he has as much determination as his father, he could be capable of reaching the very top.