In an exclusive interview with NJ.bet, an online casino and betting apps guide, former USA star Freddy Adu has come out saying that he is ready to get back to playing the game that he loves and so dearly misses. Adu has said that. He is working on his fitness to be ready for whatever opportunities may present themselves this summer.
Adu also spoke about how a parent-funded scholarship gave him his break in football, and called on The MLS to subsidise youth football to take The MLS to the next level and compete on a global scale, and get out of the shadow of The NFL, The NBA and The MLB on a domestic level.
‘I’m not going to say I’m too good for anyone’ says the winger, who says he will be ready for any opportunities that come this summer.
Adu heaped praise on the USWNT who he described as trailblazers both on and off the pitch, commending their fight for equal pay and standing by the Canada team in their fight for equal pay and equal rights, and how they are the people inspiring the young girls across the nation.
What’s the latest on your steps on getting back into the game of professional football?
I know that I have to get fit and haven’t played for a while so I would have to go in and do trials, which will need me to be super fit. I’m at the point where I’m prepared to do that and so it will be this summer, and hopefully it goes according to plan, that there are some doors that open up and I can have the opportunity to get back to playing.
I don’t know what opportunities will come, but I must be ready for any opportunity that comes. I’m not going to say I’m too good for anyone. I just want to get back to playing the game that I love and miss. I miss the atmosphere, I miss the locker room, I miss training every day in the morning, being around the guys – I miss it all.
I think that it’s not just what you bring on the pitch, but that you’ll also being the perfect person to guide youngsters as well?
Exactly. I’ve been from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea. I think I’ll also bring a lot of good mentorship to the younger players, and if people want to reach out to me – be it clubs or youngsters – I’m happy to take the call, because I’ve seen it. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t work hard and nurture that talent, it’s going to come back and bite you.
Can the MLS ever get out the shadow of the NFL and the NBA, and become as big as those sports are in the USA?
I don’t know if soccer will ever become as big as football or basketball, as they’re our sports in this country but I think it can get to appoint where it competes and is respectable when put up against those two leagues. It will take a long time before that happens as it’s hard to change a country’s culture, and everything here is about NFL, NBA and even baseball. It’s hard to change that, but I think in time the MLS will become a big league globally as the infrastructure is there for the league to become massive.
Do you think David Beckham starting a franchise in the US may be the thing that really helps to bridge the gap from what soccer has been, to getting it towards the popularity level of the traditional US sports?
There’s a lot more money in the league right now, and we are bringing in players in their prime versus at the end of their careers like we did in the past, so the MLS is definitely trending in the right direction. Having superstars like David Beckham own a team definitely bring eyeballs and good attention to the game, and as long as the product on the pitch is good, that’s what really matters.
Can the USMNT ever achieve the success that the women’s team has? What needs to happen in order for this to be a reality?
I think so. I think we are starting to get to a point where we are changing our youth policy across the country. A little bit of that still goes on right now where parents are having to pay for their kids to be involved in playing with a youth club team, and a lot of people don’t have the money to be able to do that. You get most of the best players not being able to play and develop, because their families cannot afford to pay for them to play.
This ‘pay to play’ system that exists is hindering everything. Until that changes, US soccer is going to keep on being where we are right now for a long time. Because we won’t get the best players playing, developing and having the same chance as everyone else to get to the next level. I strongly believe that.
Is the single most important thing that will propel the US Soccer to the next level, that the MLS need to start subsidising more youth football?
Yes – 100%. I think we should arrive at a point where teams are subsidising all youth programs and coming to their youth system. Philadelphia Union is doing the best job of that in the US for me at the moment, and they’re producing some absolutely brilliant players right now from their youth system.
Until we get all the other teams on that level, it’s just going to stay the same. I think we’re moving towards that point though, and I’m happy about that. We’ve noticed it as a country and we are slowly moving towards that point.
On Fred’s start in football, through the generosity of a parent-funded scholarship
I got so lucky. My family was poor and could not afford for me to play for a club team, but I got lucky because I was given a scholarship by the Potomac Cougars who saw me play. The coach saw me play and thought I was really talented and wanted me on the team, so he gave me a scholarship to play for the team. Every single parent on that team paid a little extra out of their own pocket for me to be able to play on that team. Unbelievable.
I didn’t even know about that until I was a few years into my professional career is. I’m so beyond grateful for doing that, because they didn’t have to do that. They all saw something in me and thought that I could go far in the game, so they did that. Not everyone does that, but I’m so grateful for it.
You were previously labelled as a prodigy and the next best thing in football; who is the next prodigy coming out of The USA?
I still think that Gio Reyna is going to be the next big thing. He has the potential to be a world class player. He’s got everything, that kid is uber talented. I think he’s in the right place playing for Dortmund over in Germany, which is the right place to develop his game. I would like to see him move on when he has developed his game to a place where he is a regular starter and playing 90 minutes every week, and I think that will take his game to the next level. To me, he is the next best thing.
The USWNT recently stood in solidarity with the Canada team before their game, over being treated equally to the men’s team and their search for gender equality. How awesome is the USWNT and have they been the trailblazers for the women’s game on a global scale, both on and off the pitch?
I think they’re amazing. On the pitch, the USWNT is the best team in the world, and off the pitch they are trailblazers – everyone looks up to them. What they’ve managed to achieve with equal pay amongst many other things, is fantastic for women’s sport in general.
The Canada women’s national team is also one of the best in the world and I hope that they are able to get the situation sorted and receive equal pay, and I am happy that the USWNT stood up in solidarity with them.
Is it also about giving power and voice to every young girl out there as well?
Exactly that. I know this as I do some private coaching sessions with kids, and I know certain girls who are very talented players but have told me that they don’t want to go pro because they don’t get paid that much and it’s not very enticing to them. They want to play, be able to get a scholarship to college and then they’ll basically be done. That opened my eyes, and it’s not good and needs change – I’m just glad that it has changed in the US and I hope that it carries over into other countries, and that it also carries over into the club teams as well. We should be seeing more money going into the women’s game and players being fairly paid.
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