I had the chance a couple if weeks ago to exchange for my French blog with goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski following his first season in Sweden. Unfortunately the season there wasn't quite a success for him as he had a hard time establishing himself has the first keeper and the club eventually got relegated.
Optimum-Soccer: You started your professional career in 2007 with Toronto FC when the club was the hot ticket in town. Since then the hype died following 6 seasons if poor performance. Was that something that you thought could happen back then?
Tomer Chencinski: First of all, it was a pleasure to start my pro career off with TFC. I can honestly say, I did not think things would play off the way they have. I think TFC have all of the tools in place to be a top team in the MLS. I think they need to find the right mix and go with it. There have been way too many changes everywhere, and if you want things to go right, you need consistency. So, when I started in 2007, I always thought the club was in the right market. Things haven't been the best, but I'm sure they will turn it around.
O-S: After a spell in PDL, you found a club abroad for the first time, in Moldova, and played a couple of games with Nistru Otaci, how is soccer there and what did you learn from that experience?
T C: The football is not the best level. I went there with the ideas that were given to me about how the team is and how they play in Europe (Europa league). When I got there, everything was completely backwards. I was in shock of how things were. As far as my experience, I love to play football so I enjoyed the 2 or so hours a day I had of it. The problem was, how do I fill the rest of the day? In order for you to enjoy the football, you need to enjoy the life that surrounds it and that was something very difficult there. At the same time, it helped me grow as an individual, and I learned a lot of things about myself as I had a lot of time to self reflect, and by doing so helped me grow and develop both as a person and a player.
O-S: After that you came back to North America for a season before crossing the pond again, this time going to Finland. Do you think it's a good place for someone from Canada to try to start a European career?
T C: I think that the Finnish league is a great place for a Canadian to start their European career. The league is fast pace and technical. It's not as physical as the MLS, the English leagues or the other Scandinavian leagues, but it's a good place for players to get their feet wet.
O-S: You switched club again after one year in Finland, signing with Örebro of the Swedish first division. With you losing your spot as a starter after something like 10 games and the club being relegated to the second division were you frustrated about the situation and did you regret switching clubs at some point?
T C: I switched clubs because the team came in and I was transferred. I was very glad that after a great year in Finland, a big team in Sweden came in and bought me. It's a testament to all the hard work that I put in. As far as me losing my spot, it happens in the game of football. We as a team we struggling, so it wasn't my individual play which led to switching (my coach said this to me). I once again started the last part of the season, and played very well. I ended the year ranked 4 in the league in save percentage and had one of the highest saves per game averages. Was I frustrated? If you as a player are not frustrated or is happy about not playing, then you shouldn't be playing the sport. So yes, I was because I always want to play. But it's how you deal with the frustration. You can let it consume you, or let it drive and fuel you, and that's what I did. I used it as motivation to get better, and I have improved a lot over the course of the season. I do not regret for one minuet switching clubs. The football in Sweden is much much much better then Finland, and it helped open doors for me. I am very glad with the move I made, as it helped push my career forward.
O-S: After having to adapt to a new club pretty much every year since the start of your career, do you plan to leave Örebro now that you've been relegated or will you opt to stay with the team to fight to go back up?
T C: As far as adapting to a new club every year, it sounds bad. I have always liked every club that I have been a part of. I feel that every time I moved to another club it was because I felt it would be a step forward in my career. My plan wasn't to leave Finland after one year, but I had a great season and Örebro came and bought me. I wouldn't leave a club just because of one bad season. I always try to progress my career and keep improving as a player (keep moving forward). Right now the plan is to come back and get the team back into the top flight. If there is an opportunity, and a top team comes knocking, then I would need to look at that opportunity and see how it would fit my career. I have always looked to see what would be the best step for me because I always want to play to the best of my ability and the top level.
I would like to thank Tomer for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish him good luck for the 2013 season.
To continue the series of interviews that I started a few weeks ago I asked a few questions to Marco Lapenna. Marco, a Quebec native, is a young fullback who played with the Montreal Impact Academy, he now wears the colors of Erzgerbige Aue in Germany. He is also a regular of Canadian national teams at different age groups.
Optimum-Soccer : You participated with Canada at the U17 World Cup, did playing in such a competition made you a better player and at what level?
Marco Lapenna : When I played the qualifying tournament for the World Cup in Concacaf I did really well, that gave me a big boost in my confidence. Later we played against the Mexicans in a friendly match, I once again did very well on my left side of the pitch, I really defended well and I saw that Canada is not so far and that we are growing more quickly as a soccer nation.
OS : You left the Impact Academy a few months ago, what were your main motivations and how did they react to this decision on your part?
ML : I decided to leave the Impact after seeing the level of soccer around the world and how the sport is played in Europe. When I was at the u17 world cup I saw a lot of players from all around the world and I did not see a big difference between me and European players. I wanted to take a big step that few Canadian players have the courage to do. The Impact Academy staff reacted very well. They wished me the best of luck and asked that I gave them some news from time to time.
OS : After you left Montreal, you had a trial at FC Edmonton, how did it go there?
ML : I went to Edmonton before going to trials in Europe because I was just coming back from an injury and had been inactive for 3 months. I wanted to get 100% fit. For two weeks I trained with the first team and I think I did really well.
OS : You signed a contract with Aue in Germany, how did it happen and how things are going at the moment?
ML : I told my agent that I was ready to go to Europe. He trusted me and sent me to Germany, directly to Erzgerbirge Aue. The coach signed me to a contract after my first practice with the team. It's going really well for me there and I love the style of football we practice. I train once a week with the professional team and the rest of the time with the u19.
OS : You recently had Nick Dasovic as a coach with the U20 national team, what kind of coach he is and what it is would be a big loss for the Canadian program if he should leave the club to join FC Edmonton?
ML : I think Nick Dasovic is a great coach. He is really fair with the players. He gives everyone a chance to show their talent and puts the best players on the field for games.
We sometimes wonder why our soccer has difficulty to progress. I would say that the pictures of the last match in which Issey Nakajima Farran participated in the Cyprus Cup on th field of Omonia Aradippou, a second division club, are part of the problem. We must find a way to keep players like him in Canada so they can play in the best conditions possible. One thing is certain, we can not always say the grass is greener elsewhere.
Number 17, Issey Nakajima Farran
At the start of the Olympic tournament did you and your teammates have the bad performance of the last World Cup in your mind and when did you start to believe that you could really go far in the competition?
Rhian Wilkinson: No we didn't. When John Herdman came in as head coach he made sure we dealt with our "emotional trauma." In this way we had already gone over, talked about, and dissected what had happened in Germany the summer before. We knew what had not gone well and we had made the changes necessary to be successful, dwelling any more on our poor performance would have only been detrimental to us.O-S:
What was the principal difficulty you had to face when you joined LSK Kvinner in the middle of the season following your bronze medal in the Olympics.
R H: Joining LSK Kvinner in Norway wasn't very hard at all as I have played for this team for 5 seasons now. Even though there are a few new players and some of my old teammates have left or retired, the majority of the team is the same. I think it always takes time to getused to playing with different people, and for them to get used to playing with me, but on the whole the transition was pretty easy. The hardest part was probably just getting my mind back into soccer mode. After the Olympics I was very tired. It had been a long, roller-coaster ride of a road getting to that bronze in London, and I was exhausted afterwards. It took a while for me to want to workout again, I took my time though and listened to my body and I am now loving it again.O-S:
Why do you think there is not that many Canadian women trying to play in Europe?
R H: There aren't many international positions here in Europe, meaning that each team is only allowed 3-5 International players. This means that you really need to have good connections to get your foot in thedoor and, even then, it isn't always enough. I have a friend who really wants to play overseas. She was one of the best players in her American soccer conference yet she still can't find a team willing to take a risk on her. You not only need to know the right people, but they also need to know you, not an easy feat if you aren't playing for the national team. I also think that North Americans tend to want to play in North America, I'm not sure why. I have loved playing overseas and feel that I am a better player because of playing here, with new people, and with players with different soccer philosophies. It isn't always easy, but I think every player serious about getting the most out of their careers should try to play in another country.O-S:
With only 4 games left in the season in Norway what is the principal challenge you have to face in order to win what is turning out to be a really tight race for the top spot?
R H: I think that there are teams that are naturally fighters and others that need to find a way to find that fighting spirit artificially. This team is very talented, there are some fantastic players that I love to watch perform, it just turns out that together we aren't as connected as we could be. Our challenge as a team is going to coming up with a way to bring us together for the last remaining games of the season. As a veteran player this is not an uncommon situation. The age range on the team is 16-34, there are always going to be connection gaps with an age range like that. Great teams find a way to come together when most needed, and for us that is right now. We need to show real character strength and perseverance in order to win this season, our fate is in our own hands.O-S:
With hockey being so important in Canada and the next World Cup being at home do you feel the pressure of having to legitimize your sport in the eye of the Canadian public?
R H: I don't feel like I have to legitimize soccer in Canada, but I do feel responsible for keeping it in the public eye. I am a huge hockey fan, but I do find it sad that people believe it has to be one or the other. Why does it have to be a choice? Soccer is an amazing game, anyone can play it no matter what their age, athletic ability, or income level. By winning the bronze in London we showed the country, and potentially the world, that we are more than a hockey nation. There are more soccer participants than hockey in Canada and we finally saw the results of that. It is very easy now though to let that momentum slip away. I believe that with Canada hosting the 2015 Women's World Cup we have a real opportunity to stamp a place for ourselves on the world of soccer. If the women can keep the ball rolling I think that it can positively effect the men's game as well. For a long time our men's game has suffered, always being compared to hugely established European nations, if we can start winning consistently, then the fans will start to come. Men, women, who cares! Soccer is a beautiful, family sport, and I'm looking forward to it getting a foothold in the Canadian sporting mindset.
I'd like to thank Rhian for taking the time to answer my question and wish her and her team, LSK Kvinner, good luck for the end o
Since the end of the 2011 season, there is one fact that is inescapable, the Montreal Impact must have a minimum of three players from Canada. By the end of 2011 coach Jesse Marsch filled two of these holes by hiring two former players of the club, Greg Sutton and Patrice Bernier. Then for the third player, all eyes were on a group of five from last year who had to prove themselves. From this group veteran Eduardo Sebrango is the one that was chosen. Marsch could easily have stopped there, but another Canadian player caught his eye and overcame adversity and competition, midfielder Evan James.
Born in Ontario in 1990, James played his minor soccer in the biggest club in Canada, the Oakville Soccer Club which has just over 12,500 players. According to Evan with as many participants it is clear that this is a very competitive environment, "the Oakville soccer club is a very well known club. They are well known in the OYSL and the country to develop great, young, talented players."In 2008 the Scarborough midfielder crossed the border to join the Charlotte 49ers playing in the Atlantic 10 Conference NCAA. It was during his fourth season there that James achieved the most success. For the first time in the history of the university, the 49ers reached the final of the NCAA national tournament. To get there Charlotte beat had to beat in succession, Furman, UAB, Akron, Connecticut and Crighton before bowing losing 1-0 against North Carolina. This is the kind of experience that teaches a lot of things very quickly according to James: "it was a great privilege to be a part of a squad like that. We worked harder than every team we played against and won games we probably shouldn't have won on paper. So this past season, and really my whole college career, taught me that a team that has 11 guys committed to working hard for each other will be a successful team."
Invited to the MLS combines James distinguished himself enough to be the first choice of the Montreal Impact in the supplemental draft: "Honestly I was excited just to get picked up by someone. But I'm really glad to be coming back to Canada and to be in Montreal. I've always wanted to visit Montreal, and now I get to live and play one of Canada's most beautiful city's." That was just the first step, making team at training camp was not easy for James. Montreal also took 3 other offensive players in the supplemental draft. In addition to that Evan had to deal with an injury that nearly put an end to his adventure: "it was tough because you aren't sure were you stand on the team. So I found myself pushing through an injury trying to secure a spot for myself."
Now that he has the chance to wear the Montreal Impact jersey James can think about the future: "I am trying to develop myself as a player and get up to speed with the MLS. Hopefully I can become an asset to the squad and get some minutes this year." As the youngest Canadian player of the team Evan might not see much playing time this season, but it is clear that if he progresses he will have a place in Montreal. Maybe in ten years we will speak of him in the same way we talk today of Canadian players who have given their heart and soul for the club and who managed to find a place in MLS, Greg Sutton, Patrice Bernier and Eduardo Sebrango.
With the arrival of the Impact in MLS there is a new start for the club. With this in mind I think it's important to remember that this club has a rich history, I decided to present that past. Until the start of next seasonI I will do some interviews with former former players of the Montreal Impact. To continue the series, I talked with Jason DeVos.
Jason was played 55 games with the Impact before moving overseas where he had a great career in England and Scotland. He was also captain of the national team with whom he won the 2000 Gold Cup. He retired in 2008 after four years with Ipswich Town.
Optimum Soccer: You started professionally with the London Lasers in the old CSL at a pretty young age, was it a good place to start a career for a 16 year old?
Jason DeVos: The thing for me, and I always say that, is that I was in such a good environment. The old CSL was doomed to fail because the business plan couldn't support the league. But every week I was playing against some of the best players in the country, as a young defender I was up against Paul Catliff, the late Domenic Mobilio, Paul Peschisolido, Alex Bunbury, when you're playing against these player week in and week out, as a 16 year old, you're just a kid, you have to learn, it's sink or swim. It was a great environment for me to develop as a player and learn the finer points needed to be successful in the game.
OS: After the CSL you played in Montreal, how did you get that chance?
JDV: It was quite funny actually, when the CSL folded I came to Montreal with about 80 other players. Montreal and Vancouver were the only two Canadian teams that would continue to play and operate in the American league, the APSL it was called, unfortunately they already had a full complement of players.
Eventually I got a phone call from Montreal on a friday night telling me I had to get on a plane to be able to fly with the team to Italy on saturday because Mauro Biello I believe it was, had hurt himself and wasn't able to make the trip, so they asked if I could come along. Fortunately for me I was able to make it and within the space of a week in Italy I was offered a contract. One player's misfortune I suppose is another's opportunity.
OS: In 1994 the team won its first championship, what made it possible for you guys to win it all?
JDV: It's funny because I still talk to one or two of the guys that I played with on that team. Grant Needham I bump into every time I'm in Montreal doing an Impact game. We were talking about the caliber of players we had on that team. We had players like Nick DeSantis, John Limniatis, coming back to Montreal, I don't believe he was on the team in 1994, but when he joined he was a great asset to us, then there was Rudy Doliscat, Patrick Diotte, Pat Harrington, Patrice Ferri, Jean Harbour... We had an exceptional team, these guys were really good experienced professionals that were able to come together as a group and perform. I look back at that period of my career, as a young player to play alongside such teamatmes I learned an exceptional amount of things in a short amount of time.
Today the Impact is an important part of soccer in Montreal and in the whole country, the situation was different in the mid 90s. How was it playing in Montreal back then?
It was great, at one point the NHL was on strike and baseball wasn't playing, we were essentially the only major sport in town. The coverage that we received from the press was fantastic and the community was supporting us exceptionally well. When we won the championship in 1994 I remember having the parade through Montreal with all the cars that mister Saputo had provided for all the players, it was just a great experience. A real taste of things to come I suppose in many respect for me.
I always felt that as my career progressed, every club that I went to, I went there for a reason, I never went to a club because they offered me more money, it was always about what is the best environnement for me to learn. That was right up until I retired when I was 34. I was very fortunate to be able to progress, every club that I went to, I went for a reason and I learned and became more educated as a footballer. Montreal certainly contributed to that education.
OS: After three seasons with Montreal, you moved to England to play with Darlington, how did it happen?
JDV: I was very fortunate, I played with a number of players over the years and one of them was Nick Dasovic, he had moved overseas and was playing in Sweden at the time and his agent had asked him if there was anyone in Canada that he felt was capable of playing in England, Nick recommended me and to make a long story short I ended up in Darlington.
Initially the agreement was that I would go there on loan. But the club was quite impressed and they decided to make the signing permanent. Fortunately for Montreal they had a clause in the transfer that gave them a percentage of any future transfer fee. After a little over 18 months at Darlington I was sold for close to a million dollar to Dundee United and Montreal got a percentage of that which is fabulous. It gave the Impact the chance to put that money in their program and to continue to give young players in Canada the opportunity to play.
OS: After a couple of seasons in Darlington, you were transfered twice, first to Dundee United in Scotland and then to Wigan Athletic of England. Do you feel an additional pressure when you play for a club that spent a good amount of money to have you?
JDV: Yeah, but it's also just a part of being a footballer. You always have expectations on your shoulders and when you have a price tag that's attached to your name and people know how much a club has paid for you, you are always under pressure to deliver beyond the fans expectations and certainly beyond the manager expectations.
But ultimately that's why you play the game, it's to compete and to test yourself, to be the best that you can be. I think that most players put themselves more pressure than anything that can be exerted from an outside source like a supporters group or a manager. I, as a player myself, was my own worse critic. Most players are like that, when they play well they always look at something they did wrong or something they can do better the next time, and when they don't play well they feel like it's the end of the world, they just want to get back on the field to put things right. So yes there's pressure, but ultimately if you want to be successful you have to be able to deal with that pressure.
OS: You finished your career by playing four seasons with Ipswich Town in the English Championship, what is your best memory from that time?
JDV: Ipswich was just a wonderful club. When I left Wigan I was a free agent and I had the possibility to go to different clubs in the UK. I consulted David Hodgson who was my manager at Darlington. He was essentially the man who was responsible for bringing me in the UK. As soon as I told him that Ipswich was interested he told me: "get in your car, drive down there and sign for Ipswich. You'll love playing for them. They're a proper football club, they play the game the right way, you'll love every minute of it". That was the case, it was phenomenal. It was a great experience.
What I want to see happen here in Canada is that clubs become like Ipswich was. A place that was like a family, where everyone looks after each other, where everyone from the president of the club to the gentlemen that lets you in the player parking lot treats you and your family like you were one of theirs. That feeling allows you to go on the field and perform, it was a great experience. I can't really single out one moment, the whole four year period at Ipswich was just one great experience.
OS: You played in Great Britain for 12 years, was it easy for a Canadian player to establish himself in Britain?
JDV: I think now it's probably easier because there are guys that were there prior to me that kind of paved the way, guys like Craig Forrest and Paul Peschisolido. They've gone overseas and they had success. Frank Yallop, obviously, is another one who went over there and had a good success. They showed the English and the Scottish what Canadians could bring. The one thing that most Canadians that go overseas bring with them is a strong work ethic. They really do work hard and they commit countless hours to be the best they possibly can be. That is a real asset when managers are looking to sign a player.
You can make up for a lot of shortfalls in ability if you have a good attitude. I think that it's something that a lot of Canadians can bring to the table and now we've got players over in Europe that are doing well, players like Atiba Hutchinson in Holland, Simeon Jackson in England, Mike Klukowski and Josh Simpson in Turkey and Kevin McKenna in Germany. All of the Canadians that went overseas enhanced the reputation of the Canadian players in general.
OS: During your career you represented Canada 49 times. At the beginning was there pressure from your club to stay in England and not travel to play for your country?
JDV: Yeah, all the time. I'll be honest with you, it was really difficult and I really get annoyed when people question the loyalty of national team players if they don't come back to represent their country every single opportunity they get. They have no comprehension of what it's like to be told that the only way to get another contract is for you to quit playing for your country. It is intense pressure and I think a lot of the players that play in Europe have had to deal with such a situation at one time.
The reality is that the vast majority choose to continue playing for their country. When I joined Wigan Athletic, they were one of the only clubs that didn't tell me that I had to quit playing internationally. I was 27 I believe when I joined Wigan, I wasn't ready to retire from international football at the time, I still felt I had something to contribute in trying to get my country to the world cup. I went to a club that was in a lower league, it turned out to be a great experience and we were successful because we won promotion.
A part of me still felt I had to try to get Canada to the World Cup. That was the dream I had when I was a little boy and I wasn't willing to give it up for the sake of money, but that menace from your club is always there so I think that the men and women that play for our country deserve our respect as opposed to our criticism.
OS: I guess your best memory with Canada must be when you won the 2000 Gold Cup, what was different in that team that made it possible to succeed?
JDV: I think we had a really good mix of players who were really experienced, who complemented each other well on the field and who got along off the field as well. You talk about experienced players like Craig Forrest, Mark Watson, Paul Peschisolido, Carlo Corrazin... We had a good group of guys there.
Earlier I talked about attitude over ability, we didn't have the greatest team, we had our limitations, but in terms of work ethic these guys would run through a brick wall for you. That went a long way towards us getting results, we were disciplined, very well-organized and really hard to break down. We had an attitude of never giving up until the final whistle. That saw us through games, the semi final against Trinidad is a perfect example.
We did not play well against them and probably didn't deserve to get the result, but ultimately we had the best goalie in CONCACAF in Craig Forrest in net and we managed to grind a result. Just the composition of the team, the players and the character they brought in the dressing room I think that played a large part in the success we had on the field.
OS: After your career you worked in the media, that gave you the chance to see the advent of MLS in all three major soccer market in Canada and the birth of the Canadian championship, do you think it's what was missing in Canada to be a competitive soccer country?
JDV: You know, I think there's a lot of things that are missing for us to be competitive. Having a viable professional option for our young players is very important to the development of the game in our country. There is no question that if young players in Canada can aspire to play in Major League Soccer and earn a career as a soccer player it's certainly going to improve our chance on the international level.
We do have to do a better job as a nation of developing those players and that's not necessarily the responsibility of the professional clubs. It's more the responsibility of the grassroots club who are teaching the kids the introductory stages from the age of four onwards. How to kick a ball properly, how to control the ball, move the ball, be comfortable with the ball on your feet. Those skills have to be acquired at the right stages. That's not gonna be done at the professional level. That has to be done in a club environment, at the grassroots level.
I'm very pleased at the direction the game is going, I think that there are a number of former professional players and coaches who are now getting involved at the club level teaching young kids and teaching coaches how to improve the game in Canada and if we continue to do that as a nation I think we will have a much better success developing players at the international level.
OS: Talking about former football players we have a good number of them that are working with smaller clubs in Quebec, guys like Patrick Leduc and Sandro Grande, was there any players involved with the smaller clubs when you were young?
JDV: No, not at all. Club soccer when I was young was very unorganized. The vast majority of clubs were run by volunteers who had little or no experience in the game. And I'm really pleased to see that so many people are getting involved. Sandro is a good example of someone who I played with at the national level who is now working towards improving the game in Quebec and I think that's fabulous. There's also Lloyd Barker who's trying to make things better, also there's a guy like Jeff Clarke in Surrey British Columbia.
That network of colleagues is getting wider and wider all the time. The more people we have who have played the game at a high-level who the get involved and reinvest their time, their effort and their energy in the grassroots level the better job we are going to do of developing young players that can be competitive in the CONCACAF and in the rest of the world.
OS: You are also technical director of the Oakville soccer club, how many players are in the club?
We now have a little bit over 12500 players
OS: How do you manage to identify the talent at the club and how are you able to give them what they need to develop without forgetting the other players?
JDV: It's a monumental task. I've been here now for a little over a year and the vast majority of my time is spent in putting the infrastructure in place to do just that, identifying talent and nurturing talent. Every child that play soccer at our club needs an opportunity to have access to a top development program.
Not everyone is as committed as a young player who wants to train five days a week, but we have to give every child the opportunity to be seen by coaches, assessed by coaches who have the ability to identify players who could blossom in an environment like that. After that it's about maximizing the amount of time that they can spend in a good training environment.
We have challenges like every club has challenges, certainly the weather is an issue for us. We have to spend six months a year training in an indoor facility, we are very fortunate that we have a top training facility available, but again with the amount of players we have, the amount of coaches we have, giving them all the opportunity to develop is a challenge.
It's exciting, it's something I've enjoyed thoroughly, I've developed some wonderful relationships and friendships with a lot of people here in the community. We're moving things in the right direction. I would like to say that it's going to pay dividends in the next year or two, but I realize it's very much a long-term project.
OS: In 2011 we saw the beginning of FC Edmonton, were you surprised to see a squad of mostly unknown Canadian youngsters be able to compete with established players?
JDV: I was very pleased to see the direction that they took and I congratulated one of their executives when I met him recently. I thought they did a wonderful job of giving young Canadians an opportunity to play professional soccer. That's something there just isn't enough of. Certainly in Major League Soccer you look at Vancouver Toronto and Montreal, when you look at the percentage of players that are actually Canadian playing for them it's quite small.
I really want to see that change. Obviously their obligation is to win on the field to be successful, but I also think they have a moral obligation to try to develop the game in Canada and to give young Canadian kids an opportunity to play. We've seen good examples of youngsters who've achieved success, last year in Toronto Ashtone Morgan was a perfect example of a player who was given an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. I'm hopeful that that's going to happen on a more widespread basis.
I'm hopeful that more clubs like FC Edmonton are able to come into existence because it's a real challenge, there are so many difficulties we have in Canada in terms of starting our own league or starting a professional soccer club. It's not easy to do, there are a lot of financial sacrifices to be made in order for that to happen.
OS: Your former teammate Ian Westlake will start his MLS career in 2012, do you think the US is a good place for English footballers?
JDV: I think it depends on the player. When Ian had the opportunity to come over here last year to join Montreal, I spoke with him and I spoke with Nick DeSantis and kind of conveyed to both parties that the relationship could be a strong one.
From Ian's perspective I think he has all if the qualities needed to be succesful in MLS. He's a very, very good athlete, he's a very hard worker, he has a never say die attitude and he's willing and able to compete and that's something that's required in MLS. It is a very physical league and I think that Ian will have no difficulty adapting to that and succeed in that environment.
From Montreal's perspective I knew that they were getting a player who was committed, hard-working, who would be good in the dressing room and that would buy into the community has well. He's not someone who's just there to pick up a paycheck, he certainly enjoys his time in Montreal and he enjoys the city so he's hopefully going to hit the ground running, like all of his teammates in Montreal and have a very successful career in MLS.
With the arrival of the Impact in MLS there is a new start for the club. With this in mind I think it's important to remember that this club has a rich history, I decided to present that past. Until the start of next seasonI I will do some interviews with former former players of the Montreal Impact. To continue the series, I talked with Josué Mayard.
Josue played as a defender between 2000 and 2008. He is the older brother of Elkana and Pierre Rudoplh Mayard. He played for the Impact in 2000, before trying his luck in MLS. He later played with the Whitecaps and the Lynx, then finished his career in Norway playing with Pors Grenland and Nottoden FK. He also represented Haiti at the internationnal level close to twenty times.
Optimum-Soccer: You started your professional career with the Montreal Impact at the age of 19, how did you manage to achieve this?
Josue Mayard: It started when I was at an American university, and after bad experiences with the Canadian national team I was invited to play for Haiti. I did a camp with them and then they took me into the team trying to qualify for World Cup 2002. At that time in Montreal every summer there was a tournament that involved international teams. That year Haiti was one of the guests, I played well, we made it to the final and I was selected to the all-star team of the tournament.
I knew people at Impact, among other Valerio Gazzola, he was working at the national center for high performance at the same time I was playing there. Since that time, I just disappeared from the radar in Quebec. At the end of the tournament, Valerio approached me, he told me he wanted to talk to me, but I did not take him too seriously. I was pretty busy meeting all the people I had not seen for a long time in Montreal, so I just forgot.
A little later he showed up in our dressing room while I was in the shower and then he said, "I told you I wanted to talk to you, I'm waiting for you right here." He waited and he told me he wanted me to join in Montreal. On my side I had someone who took me under his wing and advised me, we looked at the contract they offered me and I accepted. I finished the season with the Impact.
OS: How did the season go that year?
JM: For me personally it went well, for the club it was a lot more difficult. When I arrived, there was also some other new signatures, including Ali Gerba. We were given starting positions and we were told it was up to us not to lose our place. We missed the playoffs but not by much. I think we depended on the results of other teams because we had won pretty much every game we could. Despite all that it was not enough. But on my side my performance had been good enough for me to be drafted in the MLS.
OS: The next season you joined the Dallas Burn in MLS, how did it happen?
JM: What has happened is that I had signed for only one year with the Impact. Eventually they contacted my agent and made me an offer for the following year, let's say it was nothing extravagant. We tried to negotiate, but my agent did not like what they offered me so we decided to look elsewhere. All this was before I learned that MLS clubs were interested in my services. What happened is that while I was negotiating, MLS clubs contacted Montreal to have some information on me, but the organization never told us about it.
Despite all that my agent was able to organize a tryout with Tampa Bay, back then they were in MLS. So before the draft I went to a camp there and it went well. Following the camp, they told me I would be part of their draft picks. The only problem is that at the end of camp I was injured. Just before the MLS Draft the league holds a kind of tournament with young players who are eligible. All coaches in the league are there and there are also many clubs from the USL. I decided to go even though I knew I could not play. It was an opportunity for me to meet the league doctors. They wanted to send me home, but I insisted on staying, I wanted to see how it worked. I watched the games and practices, but I never touched the ball.
On draft day I expected to be selected by Tampa Bay. In fact they were happy that I had not played, that way nobody saw me. They said they would be able to pick me a little bit later. In the end I got a little surprise. The Dallas Burn chose me.
It was a club that I did not know, so I went to see them at their table. We chatted a bit and then took pictures and everything. At one point I asked them how they had heard about me. They said they had scouted the USL and had talked to all the coaches of the clubs that I played against. They had good feedback. The only problem is that they tried to contact the Impact in order to have some information, but the club never called them back.
OS: was the difference between MLS and the second division great at that time?
JM: Yes, I have always found that there was a difference. Now, football is football and the ball is round for everyone, there are always some surprises. Sometimes a club is strong on paper and everything can happen in a match, but if you put this club in the bigger league and have them play every game you will surely see a difference. In my mind MLS was stronger and it stlll is.
OS: You subsequently were traded to KC Wizard where you did not play. How does it feel when you do not have the opportunity play for such a long period?
JM: Yeah, it was not easy. For starters when I got to Dallas I was still injured. I ended up missing the training camp and when I started to train the other players were ready. I found it very difficult to get back in shape. Initially the coach told me I was a part of their plans except that they traded for a defender with experience from New York. Then you know how it works, football is a business, I was not ready and they found someone to replace me. He played well and he took my place.
Despite this the club had liked what they saw and offered me another contract. In the end I missed my chance with them. They sent me to Kansas City and there too it went wrong, I do not know why. At one point the coach simply said that he no longer needed my services.
OS: Then you went to play with the Toronto Lynx, it's a club that has seen several of his players try their luck in Europe (Stalteri, Serioux, Hurchinson??) what was there that helped them to have these opportunities?
JM: In those days 75% of the Canadian national team was from Ontario, now it has changed a bit. All these players found themselves all in Toronto. It's the main reason why the Lynx ended up sending more players to Europe than other clubs.
OS: You managed to establish yourself there for a while, what made your spell there a success?
JM: When I came back to Canada I was looking for a contract. Montreal did not welcome me with open arms so I went to Toronto. Since I was young my goal was to play soccer, when I was very young my father was a fan of AC Milan. My dream was always to go to Europe, but I had not played in the last two years and I was aiming to find a place where I was going to play, just to find the rhythm and make sure people knew I was playing again. I wanted to create opportunities for myself. This is exactly the opportunity they gave me so I took it.
OS: At the same time the club had a reputation for being cheap was it deserved?
JM: Let's say it was not organized as well as in Montreal. In addition, the budget was smaller, and you could see it was not really soccer heads who ran the club. When it's like that you get less quality. On the other hand, I made more money there than I would have done in Montreal and probably more than many players out there. It was because of my status as a an international player and as a former MLS player. But when it was time to travel you saw that you were not with Montreal.
OS: You played a few games in Vancouver, you played for all three major Canadian clubsof that Time, is there a club where it was better for the players?
JM: If you were a young player who wanted to have some time then Toronto was better. If you wanted to win a championship then you had a better chance in Montreal. For my part I went to Vancouver because I wanted out of Toronto. I tested the waters on the Montreal side, but again there was no interest. I looked if there was a possibility with Vancouver, I liked the idea of trying something new without leaving Canada. It turns out they were interested and they had a player they wanted to trade. They made a deal with Toronto.
OS: After your stay in Vancouver you played in Norway, why did you leave Vancouver and how did this happen?
JM: While I was in Vancouver I contacted a U.S. agent, he arranged a trial with a club in the first division in Denmark. I went there, the test went well and at the end I was offered a contract to play as a left back. It was not really my best position, but it was interesting nonetheless. Except that the next day they changed their mind and withdrew their offer.
But at the same time Ali Gerba was in Sweden, a month or two before that his coach was looking for a defender. I have always been in contact with Ali and he spoke well of me. While I was in my hotel room in Denmark, my phone rang and it was the coach in question. He had just been fired and had found a job in Norway with Nottoden. On the phone he just said that if things did not work out well in Denmark he would be interested to give me a trial with his club.
After the week I did there, he took me aside and told me he wanted me to sign. There was only one problem, the club was in the third division and in Norway at that level you do not have the right to sign foreign players. As I do not have a European passport, I could not play with them. The coach contacted a friend that was coaching in the second division with Pors Grenland and I signed there. He told me not to sign for more then one year because he wanted me to sign with his club when he would be promoted.
OS: Finally is that what happened? Because if I remember correctly after your first season there, you switched clubs?
JM: Yes, that's what happened. I don't know how he was able to predict that he would win the championship. But in the end they actually won the championship of the 3rd Division.
OS: Was it difficult for you to adapt to playing in Norway?
JM: No, not that much. It's a bit different from what I was used to play, it's a style that was similar to what was played in England in the 80's, it's more direct, fast and physical. It was'nt that long to adjust myself.
OS: There was a lot of Canadians in Norwegian soccer at the time, did the players from Canada have a good reputation there?
JM: Yes, they liked our work ethic. At that time I feltvthat players from that players from Quebec were not appreciated on the Canadian national team it was because our style of play was different. I think we played more with the ball on our feet while in the other provinces they were playing a more direct style. They were alsoguys bigger then us and playing more physical too. I think that the fact that some guys from Quebec have done well in Norway opened doors for others. It was good for soccer in Quebec.
OS: After three seasons there you took your retired, how did you take that decision?
JM: During my second year there I was played in the Caribbean Cup with Haiti, the tournament was played in Trinidad and it was 32 degrees and when I travelled back to Norway I found myself with temperatures in the negative. I caught the flu, it was the start of camp there and it always starts with medical tests. I was already on medication, that way I was able to train a bit. In addition I have asthma since I was young. Finally, after the tests the club doctor called me back he told me that my results were abnormal, he said I had the lungs of a 70 years old. I tought it was because of the flu. I continued to treat it and I finally got better, except that the test results did not change. The doctor tought it was not normal for an athlete has to have results like that.
They sent me to see three different specialists and I ended up with a doctor in Oslo who made me take some medication. I also had to go there every two weeks in order to get some injections. The treatment lasted for several months. I still continued to play, until the doctors forced me to stop for eight weeks.
Again I was no longer available and the club had to buy another defender to replace me. The club finished the season well. I too had done well, but everyone knew that I had health problems. I went back there next season, I made all the physical tests, I made the camp, I participated in friendly matches. I started the season and after a few games I got a red card. After that the coach of the club decided not to play me anymore, probably not for my game because I had done well on the field. That's what led to my retirement.
At that time, I tried to find something else. The coach who had benched me even found a trial in England in 2008, with a club in League One (third division), in Hereford. He took me aside after a workout to talk to about ir, I still don't understand why. I was not good enough to play with a second division club in Norway, but he gave me a chance in a championship that was better. I played the game, I told him I would go. In my situation no footballer would have refused. I went there, I trained with Hereford for three or four days and then they offered me a contract. I was supposed to wait a few hours and then return to Norway, but they asked me to stay put, they made me sign the papers and told me that I would play with the club the following week.
OS: It is complex for foreign players In England if I remember correctly?
JM: Exactly, that's what I learned a few hours later. The other players and coaches had left the stadium, I was still there with the people from the club. I took the time to call the people that were close ro me, to tell them the good news. I called my agent, I called my wife, I called my parents, my coach in Norway... I made my phone calls on my side and then people from the club came to see me and to tell me that I had been denied the work permit that was required for a foreigner.
So I took my things and went back to Norway. I finished the season there. I had no contract, and I had to take care of my family. I had contact with a club in Scotland who was interested in me, I had a friend who played there. I finally knew that it had not worked because they had been told that I had health problems. They would not go any further after that. The clubs who wanted information about me called my old club, they all got the same news, apparently they put a lot of emphasis on the lung problems I had. It became really difficult for me. I went for a trial in China and it did not work. That's when I started looking for something else.
OS: You also played for Haiti almost twenty times,was it a goal for you?
JM: It just happened by accident, I had been invited by the Canadian team from the age of fifteen. I have always been released in the last cuts. Still they always called me back a year later. Then the year I was eligible for under 23, the coaches came to me and told me I had made the team. At that time, there was Antonio Ribeiro and Patrice Bernier from Quebec with me. I returned to Montreal to train with the High Performance Centre. I was supposed to play to in the Pan American Games.
Antonio received his invitation, Patrice, too, but I never got mine. I went to the center of high performance director. He tried to get some information by using his contacts. He too was disappointed, the coach told him about me personally, he told him that I had impressed everyone and that he wanted to take me. He finally heard that I was part of the club's reserves now. Each country must submit a list of 22 names, but could get only 18 players. I was in the four that were left out.
There were some players who were not supposed to be available because they were in Europe, but they came back and I was one of those that was cut. At that point I was really disapointed. Then right after that, while I was in college, Haiti contacted me and I went to see what they had to offer. It went well and I joined the senior team directly. They did not even send me to their U23 team.
OS: When you play at the international level you have to travel a lot, do you think it affects your performance at your club?
JM: No, not for me . Back when I played with Haiti, I was in the USL, we did not play more than six months in the year. So it did not bother me that much except maybe a year in Toronto where I had to miss several weeks. Then when I came back, the coach talked to me about it.
At the same time you can not really prevent your player to go play for the national team if he's called. In other leagues in Europe when there are international matches leagues are suspended, but not in North America. It works differently here and that makes it a bit more complicated. It often means you have to fight to regain your place later.
OS: Now the three Canadian cities where you played have a club in MLS, where to you think that there has been the biggest change?
JM: I would say Vancouver, they have, in recent years, established a system in which their club is almost like those in Europe. This is what the Impact is trying to do now with their Academy except that Vancouver has an edge because it was done long ago. For me it's the best way to be aware of what is going on in terms of local talent. The Whitecaos understood the game a long time ago.
OS: Your brothers, Elkana and Pierre Rudolph, also played with the Impact. I guess it must make you proud to see that they have followed your footsteps?
JM: Yes, it's nice to see that we have done that. There probably is nothing written about this anywhere, but I think it was the first time it happened and I don't think it will happen again. It's not necessarily my advice that led them to succeed even though I helped a Rudolph a little when I worked as a consultant with some agents. Elkana, when he signed with Montreal, he was a little older, he had his life in Montreal and he was not interested in going elsewhere. I also think that the fact that I was playing with Haiti made people stop mentioning me as a player that came from Quebec. It may have lessened our accomplishment.
OS Now that your career as a soccer player is over are you still involved in sports?
JM: Not since last year, now I work as a civil servant for the federal government in British Columbia.
OS: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me
JM: No problem, thank you.
With the arrival of the Impact in MLS there is a new start for the club. With this in mind I think it's important to remember that this club has a rich history, I decided to present that past. Until the start of next seasonI I will do some interviews with former former players of the Montreal Impact. To continue the series, I talked with Sandro Grande.
First part: http://tinyurl.com/c5wno88
OS: In 2007 you had knee problems and you chose to return to Montreal for the 2008 season, do you think you would have come anyway if there was no adventure in the CONCACAF Champions League ?
SG: I did not come back for that, it had been a year and a half since I had last played, I weighed around 173 pounds, when I should weigh 162. People were watching the games and saying "this is not the same Sandro" but this is not hockey, Sidney Crosby missed almost a year, he came back and returnef on the ice to score 2 goals and make 2 assists. Soccer is not comparable, if you take Lionel Messi and tomorrow you break his knee, he will return after eight months and it will be difficult. When I returned to the game, I thought I would start in Montreal because I needed to play games. I wanted to return to Europe, but the clubs out there talked only about my injury. So I went to Montreal to play six months to get back in shape and lose weight.
At the start with the coaching staff we talked about letting me play for about 20 minutes per game for a few games and then make me play in a friendly match and then play full time. But in the second game I played 90 minutes already. I was surprised at my fitness, but for the decision-making and all those little things I was half a second too late. The quality was not there yet. But still I enjoyed it and I played well in the Champions League and we managed to do something that nobody had done before. No one had even dreamed that we would succeed, we were told it would be too difficult. After that I should not have returned to Montreal, I should've tried my luck in Europe again. Except that Montreal is my team it's in my heart, I think the fans love me and at that time I was ready to sign a lifetime contract with Montreal.
In February it went well for the home game in Montreal, seeing the whole city in the Olympic Stadium and seeing true soccer in Montreal was something very special. For the return leg against Santos Laguna the crowd was really pumped, we felt at halftime that they wanted to go home, but in the second half when they scored three goals, you could feel that it was like hell in the stadium. I think some of our players were not ready for that. Me, I played in Italy and in Norway, but there were guys, especially a couple of Americans that played with us, you saw in their faces that they were not able to follow, they were afraid, they were afraid to win the game.
OS: Do you think a lack of experience is what cost you that game?
SG: Oh yeah, it's exactly that.
OS: In 2009 the team had a bad start with the defeat in the Champions League and you suffered an injury, then there was a change of coach and finally when everything began to go well there was the incident with Mauro Biello in Minnesota that led to your dismissal, I soppose that emotionally it was not an easy season?
SG: Oh no, it may have been the worst year of my life. It started as the best with the game against Santos Laguna but in the second game it was already over. It's really sad what happened here with Mauro, in Montreal everyone knew about it. A week after it came out the club said it was bad for their image. But at the same time a similar thing happened in Switzerland in their first division, over there the coach went to the journalists and said that the two guys apologized and that it happens in soccer, they were fined and that's it. Here in Montreal the club made their decision very quickly, they did not really take the time to think about it. For me it was very difficult after the incident and my dismissal. I was lucky that my family was there to help me get over it.
OS: Then you found a club in Lithuania, how did it happen?
SG: I sent emails to various agents around the world. There is a Russian agent who contacted me and told me there might be something for me in Eastern Europe, I sent him videos and I signed the contract right away with FK Sudava. When I got there I was really fit and mentally I was fine, the team there was full of good guys and the game system suited me well. It went really well.
OS: You and your wife had a young child at this time, it must not have been easy to end up in Lithuania?
SG: At the time I left Canada on my own, my wife and daughter came for two months during the summer. My wife had to work here, the reality is that when you go to play in Lithuania you will not make much money. We had no choice but me staying there by myself and my wife here. In terms of the contract it was not very good, but I did it to see if I could play at a certain level. The agent that I had there told me that if I did well he would try to take me to another country. That was the plan and I did everything for this to work, my agent was positive, he really thought that I would have a contract in a larger country with more money. There was some interest, but in the end it did not happen and it was always because I was 33 years old.
OS: Now that it's over do you have some regret when you look at your career or are you satisfied?
SG: Regret? Not at all, I think there are many players in Montreal, Canada or even North America who would want to do what I did. I had a great career, even though I made some bad decisions. The first was when I was in Brescia. I had the choice between staying or going on loan. I could have stayed there and continue to train, but it was hard, there was more than 30 players, and I really wanted to play. When I left there, it was over for me, I would never have another chance to play in first division. If I had stayed, it might have been different.
When I was there I lived with Andrea Caracciolo who is now playing with Genoa. At that time we were both in the same situation with Brescia, except that he remained there and now he played for ten or twelve seasons in first division. He too wanted to leave but he had no offers. Unlike him I had played a lot before. But today he is still in Serie A and he makes a lot of money. I did not make much money, but it is not important. It's really the experience that counts. Anyway, I am not poor either, although I am not rich. When you do something you love as I love soccer it is not important.
OS: Today in Quebec when we look around we see that there are many former players who are involved in coaching, do you think it's good for soccer in the province?
SG: Yes, it's a good. It's a good but I have one thing to say about that. Yes, it's really important that former players are involved and that the kids can dream of emulating you a little, but you also have to do it right. You can't be just a name with a resume and not really work. You have to use your experience, but you also have to work hard. You have to be there and you have to sacrifice a little bit of yourself for your young players. With my club in the last six months I got involved completely.
Last fall with the president of my club we were looking to organize our winter season. Before I arrived we had around 190 players in the program. When I arrived at the club, I told him it was going to change, he must prepare himself. He was not too confident. I worked every hour possible and this winter there is 530 players.
Then there's the soccer vs. hockey aspect, there are many young people that stop hockey because they love soccer. Then you have to work the right way, the kids are there look at you go, they're not stupid, they know if you are working properly, or if you're only going through the motions. After that the parents in the club are happy, they can see you get results. My president did not believe what I did in just six months and that already things are changing. Sure I can't take credit for the formation of the players yet, it takes more time than that to leave your mark, but I think we are on the right track.
Now I think it is time in Quebec to change things. For example if the kids are younger then ten years old and they want to play both soccer and hockey it's okay, but after that they should make a choice. Because at that age it is not normal that a kid can practice 3 or 4 timrs and a week, but that you have a hard time getting him to play soccer once a week. If I really want to train players in the winter they should be practicing at least three times a week. Young people in hockey are on the ice at 6:30 in the morning. For soccer when we practice at 8:00 in the morning they complain. I think the federation should set some conditions and let the young people choose. If you do that instead of having perhaps a 1 000 000 players in the country you will have 700 000. Except that you would have at least 600 000 players who are really dedicated. When you have young people who are willing to do that, everything is easier. That's why in South America, for example, they are so good. There in 9-10 years old they are already training several times a week.
The other thing is that here we give too much importance to games. It should not be like that for a young soccer player, you must first acquire the basic technical skill. If you do not do that, you cannot play soccer at a good level.
OS: Next year the Federation will launch its semi-pro league, do you think it can work?
SG: I think so, if the clubs do it properly it can work. In my club, for example, there are 1800 players, if you are able to increase the cost of registration of 5 or 10 dollars and then give a season ticket for your semi-pro club you start each game with tickets 1800 sold. It is not certain that everyone will come, but if 1300 of these young people come they will bring a parent, because they can not come alone. Parents should pay their ticket and even if it's only $ 5 it can start to be interesting. After that you have to see what kind of product you'll be able to put on the field, you must also think about advertising.
OS: You're a tecnichal director in a small club at the moment, but would you like to find yourself in a professional club as a manager?
SG: Yes, for sure. My agent found me an opportunity in Russia at the professionnal level for this season, but I told him that I was not ready for that. I know that on the soccer side I wont have any problem but I don't know If I am able to deliver my message. In the last six months I have learned a lot and if I have an opportuniy in Europe I will look at it but I think it would be preferable not to go there at this time. I have to continue to train to be coach. For me it's like when I was a player, I started at the recreational level and after that at the competitive level, then I went to the AAA. I did all the steps. As coach I have to do the same, we see too many professional players who think they can make the leap, but playing and coaching are two different thing. You must follow the right path and you have to learn before taking a challenge like that.
OS: Sandro Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions it is greatly appreciated. Good luck in your new career.
SG: thank you.
With the arrival of the Impact in MLS there is a new start for the club. With this in mind I think it's important to remember that this club has a rich history, I decided to present that past. Until the start of next seasonI I will do some interviews with former former players of the Montreal Impact. To continue the series, I talked with Sandro Grande.
Sandro was a midfielder for the Montreal Impact, he was born in 1977 in Montreal. He began his pro career by playing for close to ten years in Italy before he came back home to play in Montreal. He helped the team win the championship in 2004. At that time he also had the opportunity to join the Canadian national team. In 2005 he was transfered in Norway and later returned to Montreal after serious knee problems. He played a major role in the exceptionnal CONCACAF Champions League run. Later that year Following an incident with Mauro Biello he was fired and he went back to Europe to finish his career in Lithuania. He is now technical director of the Club de Soccer les Étoiles de l'Est in Laval.
Optimum Soccer: Hello Sandro, with the little snow falling this morning I was wondering if before there was Sandro the soccer player Was there a Sandro playing hockey like most young Quebecers in the early 80?
Sandro Grande: No, no, never, soccer has always been my favorite sport.
OS: When you you started your career in Italy there was also some interest from the Montreal impact, I was wondering if it would not have been easier to stay here in Montreal?
SG: No, it was not an option for me. My dream was to play in Europe.
OS: What kind of environment did you experienced in the lower divisions in Italy?
SG: Generally the conditions were good. In the first division stadiums are much bigger then here in Montreal, when you go down in the other divisions, sure there are still some beautiful stadiums, but there are also some that are'nt beautiful. There are many places that when there is a match on Sunday there are lot's of people in the stadium, it's a bit of a religion for them.
OS: During your time there you moved around a lot, you changed team nearly every season, I guess it's not easy to evolve as a player in such conditions?
SG: I think that it's the kind of thing that helps you become more mature. It always gives you new experiences and new challenges. To be successful, you have to do the job each year just as the coach expects you to and if you can do well it means that you can adapt well to the environment around you.
OS: In 2001 you signed a contract with a first division club, Brescia. How did this opportunity present itself?
SG: In 2000 I was with Frosinone in the fourth division, at the beginning of the championship I played very well. After a few games there were rumors in the newspapers about me. The president of the team knew many people in big clubs and during the season he told me the rumirs were true. There were several teams interested in addition of Brescia, there was also Udinese, Perugia, Ascoli, Pescara... He told me I had to continue to play as best as I could until January and I would probably have a good offer at that moment. I continued to play well and I did not let all the rumors affect me. Then in January Brescia paid a good amount for my transfer.
OS: Once there, you did not really have the chance to see the field, you played a single match in Intertoto Cup, how did it go?
SG: It was very nice. When I was bought by Brescia in January, I arrived at the club along with Andrea Pirlo who was on loan from Inter. Then when I went to training for the first time with my agent the first person I met was Roberto Baggio. He was my idol since I was little, I grew up watching him on TV. In the locker room everyone was nice, there was no "primadonna" no big heads.
OS: In 2004 you joined the Impact, was it you who decided to return to Canada or is it the club that contacted you?
SG: I had a little trouble in Italy with the payment of my salary with some of the clubs with whom I played, I lost around $ 100 000. Then in 2003-2004 I went back to the fourth division with Albalonga and I played very well, I worked hard, I could not believe that two years before I was with a first division club. I did well until January and then the third division team that was in first place wanted to buy me. I met with them and they told me they were really interested. I went to see the people at my club, when I signed with them a few months earlier I was told that if I had an offer in January they would let me leave. Unfortunately it was not written in my contract, with Albalonga we were in second place and it was the first time that this club was doing as well and they refused the transfer.
After that from January to March I did not play well, I was frustrated and disgusted. I talked with my parents and my family and I decided to come home. I left soccer, I was thinking about retiring. My plan was to join the Impact and sign up for university. Once back in Montreal I started playing with the Impact something in me changed, I think being at home with your family in difficult times is a good thing. My form came back, I was in a good mood and I had missed the deadline for registration at the university in the fall so I tought I'd register for January.
This is where everything changed. With Montreal I had done really well, we won the championship, I ended up with the national team. I played a match in Costa Rica where there were English scouts who noticed me. So I told myself that I would not go to university and that I would try my luck again, but in a country other than Italy. In November of that year, I went to England, I made a trial with Ipswich Town. I had done well, but the club did not want a central midfielder like me, but more a winger. After that I went to trial in Norway and I liked the country. In 2005 I returned with the Impact and I also played with Canada, after the Gold Cup I returned to Europe where I signed with Viking of the Norwegian first division.
OS: When you were looking to go back in Europe did you ever have the intention of returning to Italy?
SG: No. I did all that I could there. Certainly today I would tell you that I want to go back, perhaps to manage a team there. Not immediately, but one day I would like that. I really like Italy it's a country I have in me. I love everything there, the life, the food, the sea, the mountains, there's everything you need to be able to live well in Italy. But then there is the monetary aspect, it is always difficult to find a job in soccer and get paid. Many countries such as Greece, Spain or Portugal, they're beautiful country, but it is not like in Canada or Germany. If someone says he will give you ten dollars here, you know you'll get your ten dollars, while there you will have four. Then the government is not there to help people. There is a little too much corruption.
O S: In 2004 with the Impact you won the championship what was it that was special about that team?
SG: I think it was a question of chemistry. We were fourteen or fifteen players from Montreal. Since then things have changed, and the fans know about that. This summer it was easy to see, and I think it's why there was not as many fans in the stadium last season. When you looked at the games you could always see empty seats, there is always an excuse, rain, wind, cold ... In the past there was no excuse, between 2004 and 2007 there were still a dozen players who came from Montreal and it created a link between supporters and the club. I agree that you must bring players from outside, but they must be better than the player you have here in Montreal. That's not happening with the Impact right now, in Italy if I was not able to be better then a local I would not get a contract.
If you look at Edmonton this year they had over ten players that we had not really seen anywhere before, it was their first professional year and they still have done well. In 2004 there was a truly exceptional team spirit, if we went to a disco club we were all going out together. When we had a match on the weekend, Wednesday or Thursday before we went out together. After that we trained and then we rested after that on the field we were ready to fight for each other. Since that time it has changed and we see what happen on the ground. For me it's sad because it's a club that is always in my heart and to see how they treat the local players is a bit sad.
OS: When you were called to the national team for the first time was it a surprise or were you expecting it?
SG: It was not entirely a surprise, the first time I was called to replace an injured player if I remember correctly . We went to Costa Rica and I was surprised when after training the coach told me that I would play as a starter. I had butterflies in my stomach, but despite all I played well and I enjoyed the experience. After the game I said to myself "Look, this is your place, your place is not to study, your place is on the soccer field because you are capable"
OS: After that in 2005 you were called to national team for the Gold Cup with several of your teammates, you don't see that very often here, I guess it must have been pleasant and that there was a special atmosphere in the dressing room?
SG: Yes, it was really nice, in addition to me there was Greg Sutton, Adam Braz, Gabriel Gervais, Ali Gerba, and Patrick Leduc. On top of that there were Patrice Bernier and Olivier Occean who were also from Montreal. In the past there were rarely guys from Quebec in the National Team, since that time things have changed. This fall there were Patrice and Olivier in addition to André Hainault and Jonthan Beaulieu Bourgeault with Canada. It's good to see that players from Quebec can take their place. In 2005 the Impact must have been proud to see six of his players selected. Currently there is no Impact players who are called and you have to ask yourself some questions. You must not think only of the Impact, you must think about the whole country, the Impact is my club, but Canada is my country. A club must develop local players to be represented in the national team.
OS: When you went to Norway in 2005 there were already a lot of Canadian players in this country, why Norway, is it because the playing style in Canada fits well with soccer being played in Scandinavia?
SG: For me it was the opposite, it was not my style. Except that in smaller countries like that it's not like here in North America. Here there is the MLS and they do a lot of scouting in the NCAA. In Europe everything is closet, in two hours by plane scouts from AC Milan can be at your game, scouts from Manchester United can be in your stadium. All countries are close to each other and that's the key. Sometimes when I think about my career I think it was good to go in Italy and I was fortunate to have a chance with a first division club, but maybe that level was slightly too high at the time. If I had been in Norway or even in Lithuania like last year it would've been ten times better. I look at my season last year, I was really fit and I've had the best season of my career. I think it's special that at 32 years old I find myself in the country I should've gone to when I was 22. If I had done that, I would have ended up with a big club in a smaller lesgue that could've played in the Europa League, also Lithuania was a perfect fit for my style of play.
Second Part: http://tinyurl.com/7uo79nc
With the arrival of the Impact in MLS there is a new start for the club. With this in mind I think it's important to remember that this club has a rich history, I decided to present that past. Until the start of next seasonI I will do some interviews with former former players of the Montreal Impact.
To start the series, I talked with Giuliano Oliviero. Giuliano Oliviero is a Canadian midfielder who was born in 1974 in New Westminster, British Columbia. He began his career with the Edmonton Brickmen in the old CSL. He later found himself in the APSL with the Vancouver 86ers, where he was named rookie of the year, after two seasons there he joined the Impact for the 1997 campaign. He stayed with the club until 2002, except for the 1999 season when the club did not play. He then passed to the Toronto Lynx and finally found himself with the Milwaukee Wave, the club he still plays with today as player-coach. He is also Director of Coaching of SC Waukesha.
Optimum Soccer: You were born in the 70s, you began soccer in the early 80s, the sport was not as popular at that time, how was it that you found yourself with a ball at your feet?
Giuliano Oliviero: It was in the time of the old NASL, where many good players were playing, in Montreal there was the Manic and back then I loved to see the Vancouver Whitecaps play.
OS: Are you still a fan of the Whitecaps?
GO: The Impact will be my favorite team in MLS
OS: When did soccer begin to be sometging serious for you?
GO: I started playing seriously when I was selected to play in the provincial team. It was at U-15 level.
OS: You started as a pro with Edmonton in 1990, how did this happen?
GO: The club came to Vancouver to see some players, they wanted a young club with some veterans to surround them. I was 16 and I was one of three players who were signed by Edmonton.
OS: In 1995 you joined the 86ers in Vancouver where you had a very good season, it suppose it was fun to be so successful in your local club?
GO: It was really good, I was young and the club did not expect much from me, I had fun that year.
OS: After two years in British Columbia you switched clubs and you joined the Montreal Impact, how did this happen?
GO: At that time Montreal had a good team, each year they put a competitive club on the field and they were going in the right direction. I wanted to be part of that.
OS: What kind of player were you at this point in your career?
GO: I was a midfielder who cpuld play both defensive and offensive, capable of scoring goals and to prepare the table for my teammates and fully capable of taking defensive responsibilities.
OS: in 1999 the Impact took a break from outdoor soccer, how did the club explain the situation?
GO: It was a difficult year for all players at the club, we were a tight knitted group and then there was Mauro Biello going to Rochester, Nick DeSantis in Raleigh and I in Staten Island. Our focus was mainly to find a club. The club seemed to prefer to focus on the indoor soccer.
OS: Was it complicated to find a new club that year?
GO: There was a lot of clubs that were interested in the Impact players, it was a winning club with some of the best players in the league. For most of us, it was not too complex to find another place elsewhere.
OS: The next season you came back with the Impact and lived the fiasco of 2001 that led to the Save Our Soccer movement, I guess it was pretty stressful for the players?
GO: It was another difficult year, paychecks did not arrive, there were many people who worked hard and helped us, but we were still missing a lot of money. Then we had this game in Pittsburgh that was to be broadcast on Fox and we decided to play with SOS, Save Our Soccer, over the logo of our sponsor. I think everyone had a great sense of loyalty to the impact at that time. We believed that if we managed to finish the season there would be someone who could put the club back on track and that's when the Saputo family returned and the club has never stopped to move forward since then.
OS: What is your fondest memory of your stay in Montreal and who was the best player in the club at that time?
GO: The best was Mauro Biello. I played in Montreal about 7 seasons both outside and inside, and to have teammates as Mauro Bilello, Nick De Santis and Nevio Pizzolitto was really nice. They were excellent players, but more importantly they were great people and I loved to be around them on a regular basis. On top of that, in indoor soccer I was on the same line as Mauro Biello, he made the game much easier for others, he was fast and had a devastating shot. Playing with him is probably what I liked most on the field.
OS: At the end of your stay in Montreal you played indoor soccer in the winter, at that time was it a necessity for North American soccer players?
GO: Absolutely, even today with the winter months, the cold and the snow, indoor soccer has it's place in my opinion. You only have to see what is happening in Rochester, for example. They have a club that is successful outside and then they come to join the MISL and it allows fans to see soccer 12 months a year.
OS: What happened in 2003 that made you quit the Impact and go to Toronto?
GO: I had a bad 2002 season in part because of injuries and there were young players who were ready to graduate. In addition, indoor soccer became my priority. The organization decided to let me go.
OS: After one season with the Lynx you joined the Milwaukee Wave where you played your last season outdoors following the disappearance of the club, is that it was a decision you have taken or just a matter of circumstances?
GO: The situation was quite the same as with the Impact in 1999, the club decided to concentrate on the indoor season. my wife and I already had a child and with a second one on the way we decided to establish ourselves in Milwaukee. The Wave is a good organization, much like the Impact, it's a franchise with a great history, we just won our fifth championship. To be part of a competitive organization each season was one of my priorities.
OS: Do you think we will one day see anothet pro soccer club outside in Milwaukee?
GO: You hear about it from time to time, although since last year there was no development. It should be understood that the Chicago Fire is close to Milwaukee. That said I think it would be great and that the city is capable of supporting a club outside, but I do not know if it will happen.
OS: You are now playing and coaching for the Milwaukee Wave in the MISL, is coaching what you want to do after your playing career?
GO: This is probably my last season, I started playing 17 years ago. It is time I pass the torch to younger people. I love coaching, both as an assistant and with the kids. Being able to teach them and share with them my experience is very rewarding. I definitely see myself doing that. Not necessarily at the professional level, I am very happy in Milwaukee and for now I do not see myself moving my family. In addition the Wave coach has been there for twenty years, it's pretty much his job for life. I would still be very happy to stay as an assistant after retiring as a player.
OS: In 1995 you played a game for Canada at the international level, do you regret not having played any other games?
GO: It happened at the same time that the MLS was born and although I wanted to join this league that did not happen. At the same time I also started playing inside. I think that for the Canadian Soccer Association it was not the way to go tp get a place on the national team. They probably judged I had to take a different direction in order to be part of the national team.
OS: After being in the U.S. for seven years, do you still follow Canadian soccer?
GO: Yes, especially the Impact since this is a club where I played for a lot of years. And as some of my teammates, Nick, Mauro, Nevio and also Eddy Sebrango are still there it motivates me to take a look at what is happening in Montreal.
OS: Canadian soccer has changed in the last 15 years, do you think the situation has improved since you began your career?
GO: Definitely, having three clubs in the best league in North America is positive. I am a big fan of MLS, the league does all the right thing for the sport in my opinion. It can only help Canadian soccer. All three clubs will help train more professional players and if we compare the level of MLS with foreign leagues we see that the gap is shrinking. This is exactly what it takes for Canada and eventually I hope it will help Canada qualify for another World Cup.
OS: Giuliano Thank you for answering my questions and good luck for the season that just started with the Wave.
GO: Thank you.