Goalie Craig Forrest to enter Hall of Fame, helped Canada to soccer highlights

Canadian coach Holger Osieck needed just three words to sum up Craig Forrest after the Gumby-like goalkeeper helped Canada to a 0-0 draw with powerful Brazil at the 2001 Confederations Cup in Japan.

“A different class,” Osieck said in praising the then-West Ham ‘keeper.

Brazilian coach Emerson Leao was equally pithy, if not as happy.

“My compliments to the goalkeeper,” Leao, who was dismissed days later, said through an interpreter.

Forrest’s heroics for club and country have earned him entry into the 2015 class of Canada’s Sports Hall of Famer. He joined the Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007.

The six-foot-five ‘keeper left Canada at 16 to play in England, spending 14 seasons with Ipswich Town before joining Chelsea briefly and then finishing his career with five seasons at West Ham.

Despite his size, Forrest moved with elegance as he patrolled the penalty box and was a fine shot-stopper.

Forrest retired in 2002 at 34. Despite beating testicular cancer, he was told by doctors that he wouldn’t be able to keep up the kind of fitness needed to play top-flight soccer.

He earned 56 caps for Canada between 1988 and 2001, with 18 shutouts. For a team often lacking in firepower, Forrest’s talents in goal were crucial to keeping game close.

At the 2000 Gold Cup, Forrest posted shutouts in three of five games as unlikely Canada won the championship of CONCACAF which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. He was named both tournament MVP and top goalie.

Forrest, 47, paid tribute to those teammates at a Toronto news conference Wednesday.

“I don’t know if I’d be standing here if it wasn’t for that 2000 Gold Cup team,” he said. “So I just want to share that with the rest of those guys, with the Canadian national team, as well as all of my teammates that I played with around the world.”

Canada’s reward for winning the Gold Cup included a trip to Japan for the Confederations Cup.

“The stuff of legends,” then-captain Jason deVos said of Forrest’s play at the Gold Cup. “He made some incredible saves.”

Forrest joined Ipswich Town in 1986 as an apprentice and went on to play in 263 games, helping the team to the then-Second Division title in 1991-92 and a place in the Premier League in its first season.

The genial Canadian saw ups and down in England. Forrest and Ipswich were thrashed 9-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford in 1995. Five years later with West Ham, Forrest lost 7-1 at the Red Devils.

“You don’t like coming here, do you?” asked a BBC reporter.

“No,” said Forrest.

Forrest made his national team debut on May 25, 1988, in a 1-0 win over Chile. His final outing for Canada was a 2-0 loss to Cameroon on June 4, 2001, at the Confederations Cup, two days after the tie with Brazil.

Today Forrest is an soccer analyst with Sportsnet.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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