How a World Cup in Brazil inspired 'Doctor Goals' to come out of retirement

The Arbroath striker and qualified doctor Kenny Deuchar is putting his patients on hold to play for the British Medical Team
Kenny Deuchar
Kenny Deuchar could face a written questionnaire at the end of each match at the Medical World Cup in Brazil this summer. Photograph: Victor Decolongon/Getty

"I would regularly do the 8pm to 8am Friday night shift at the hospital, drive over to play the game for 3pm and be straight back in the hospital on Saturday night for another 12-hour night shift in the evening." For Kenny Deuchar, known affectionately as Doctor Goals, balancing the pressure of treating patients as a qualified doctor and scoring goals as a professional footballer has been something he has balanced for well over a decade.

This unusual combination of vocations, not to mention the 143 goals in 390 competitive games spanning his career thus far – including a period at Gretna in which he had the best goals-per-game ratio in world football – has resulted in the now Arbroath striker achieving cult status in his native Scotland, with Jeff Stelling even referring to him as "The Good Doctor" whenever the striker was mentioned on Soccer Saturday.

After retiring from football in 2012 to focus on becoming a GP, Deuchar has recently been tempted back by the opportunity to play for the British team at this summer's Medical World Cup – 16 international teams made up solely of qualified doctors – which takes place in Natal, north-east Brazil. Natal is a host city for the full World Cup and will stage Italy v Uruguay and Ghana v US, among others.

"My plan was to play amateur football at the turn of the year, to get fit for the World Cup. In January, Arbroath manager, Paul Sheerin, sent me a message asking if I wanted to come out of retirement. I said no but I needed somewhere to get back in shape. I started going to training and soon they had me playing on a Saturday."

Recently relegated from the Scottish third tier – a league dominated by Rangers – Arbroath pay Deuchar a nominal wage to make the 140-mile round trip from his practice in Doune, near Dunblane, but the 33-year old admits he was happy just to regain his fitness and rediscover the feeling of scoring a goal.

"Now that he is old enough to come and watch, scoring in front of my son was amazing, maybe the best feeling I've had on a pitch since I scored to get East Fife promoted when I was really young. I don't think you can compare the feeling of scoring a goal with anything else. When I do a good job as a doctor you feel relieved more than anything!"

Sometimes responsibilities have overlapped for Deuchar, whether that be clearing swallowed tongues from the airways of unconscious team-mates or acting as a makeshift physio. "There was an incident where a player split his head open and some of the staff came over and said, 'we've not got a doctor on this game.' I waltzed into the away changing room in my tracksuit and the guy was already disorientated – but he was a bit more confused as to why I was the one that was going to stitch up his head! I spent most of the second half sewing him back together."

His medical skills could be put to the test on the pitch at the Medical World Cup, where he potentially faces a peculiar competition rule: that "any captain has the right to select two players from the opposing team to answer a written questionnaire based on fundamental medical topics at the end of the match". Deuchar is hopeful the rule is simply to "stop any ringers", although as a new player to the tournament, and arguably GB's best, he's a prime candidate to be quizzed. "I'm fairly confident. I had to scan and send my degree certificate [from Dundee University] to the organisers so that they'd let me play. My patients back home might be a bit worried if I got the questions wrong!"

While plying his trade in the cold, blustery conditions of Arbroath's Gayfield Park on Scotland's North Sea coast isn't exactly perfect preparation for the expected 90% humidity of Natal in July, Deuchar has played in similarly muggy climates during his time with Real Salt Lake in the US and was an integral part in helping the fledgling club to their first Major League Soccer play-off appearance in 2008, earning him the nickname Doctor Goals.

"Playing against Houston and Dallas, the humidity is absolutely horrible. I'm sure dehydration will be in people's minds in Brazil but if anybody does start feeling a bit off, there's probably enough medical people on hand to help!

"When they told me that this year's tournament is in Brazil, whilst the proper tournament was going on, I was sold. If I can win the World Cup with the British Medical Team, that will be a career highlight. Hopefully we will pick up some of the atmosphere from the full tournament but I'm not going to be able to stick around for the end of it – I've got to fly home to see my patients!"

Kenny will play for the British Medical Football Team at the World Medical Football Championship from 6-12 July in support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer UK