England goalkeeper Ben Foster has revealed he ruled himself out of playing for his country in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers – so he could stay home with his 2 young children.
The 31-year-old West Bromwich goalie, who will stand between the sticks for England tomorrow in their friendly against Ecuador, ‘retired’ from international football for 22 months in 2011, just after his second child was born.
“It was a very big decision. But family is a very important thing for me and it felt like I was missing out on them growing up,” he told The Guardian.
“I had a newborn baby and another child under a year old,” Ben added. “They’re like sponges at that age, taking everything in – and not being around was too much for me to deal with. Whenever I went away, all I was thinking about was being back at home with the family, and it was affecting my football. It’s a kind of home sickness, really.
Ben has 6 England caps and, although he usually plays understudy to England’s No 1 goalie, Manchester City’s Joe Hart, his announcement surprised everyone at the time – including the then England manager Fabio Capello.
“I knew there would be criticism,” Ben said, “and people were entitled to criticise because most would give their right arm to be at a World Cup. But, even now, I stick by my decision.
“I spoke to my wife, my family, my mum and dad. We all talked about it. A few of them thought I was barmy; a few could understand it. It’s how you value family, where you place it on your scale of importance. For me, it’s super-important.
Now that his children are older – 4 and 5 – Ben’s come out of ‘retirement’ and is delighted to be playing is part in England’s 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil.
“I was always going to come back to the team, if the manager was happy to have me,” he said, “and thankfully [he] was. Roy [Hodgson, the current England manager] understands people and that footballers aren’t machines. We have kids and families.
“It’s easier to be away from my children now,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be here.”