Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An Interview: Playing Soccer Against Thierry Henry

As you may know, there was a little event a couple weeks ago, The Showdown in Chinatown, that may be fairly described as the ultimate pickup soccer game. Future NBA Hall of Famers Steve Nash and Jason Kidd slipped on boots along with Thierry Henry, Robbie Fowler, and Salomon Kalou. Thousands watched, scaling the fences, aching to catch a glimpse of some legends.

It was a show for the ages. And some people were lucky enough to lace up in the actual game. Through a winding path of connections, I was able to correspond with one of those lucky bastards, who was on the business end of several Thierry Henry shots. His words are after the jump.

Mike Quarino, an employee of Red Bull New York sat between the sticks in for Team Reyna at The Showdown in Chinatown.

Before I wade into the interview, I'd like to thank UF contributor Spectator for all of the pictures in this post. They were all his work and he did a great job. So, for all you photo borrowers out there, please be sure to credit him and UF has copyrighted all photographs on this blog of The Showdown in Chinatown.

First off, I have to apologize on behalf of Unprofessional Foul for misidentifying you in our initial post about the Showdown in Chinatown. We regret the error. [Ed. Note: We also put Mike on the incorrect team. It's all Lingering Bursitis' fault.]

No worries about that, the fact that I was even mentioned was enough for me. I just didn't want to take credit for the win. That honor goes Davide Di Malta (who was in goal for Team Nash).

You were able to participate in what was probably one of the most unique pickup soccer games of all time playing with all-time great soccer players and some all-time great basketball players. I know I am jealous and so are a lot of others. Can you tell how you came to be involved in the event and what your soccer background is?

A couple of years ago (2006) some members of the Red Bulls front office started playing some pickup games against Steve Nash, Simone Sandri, and some of their friends in Chinatown, so I have known those guys for a couple of years. I have gotten to know Claudio over the last couple of years since he has been here and he knew I played against those guys so when they were looking for a goalkeeper (for target practice) he asked if I wanted to be involved. Originally Ronald Waterreus (RBNY goalkeeper last year) was supposed to start, and I was just going to jump in late in the match, but something happened where Ronald couldn't make it and I got the start. I literally found that out when we were on our way to the field.

I was a late bloomer with soccer, I didn't start playing until High School when I fell in love with the sport. I was the worst field player ever, so I made the transition to goalkeeper pretty quickly. I took to the position and I played through college. I still play in a few competitive leagues and had a few call ups to the Red Bulls reserve team.

Prior to the match did you meet with your teammates to discuss "strategy" or anything else? Or was it more like running out on the field spotting the people in the same color shirt and game on? If there was any pre-game discussion what was covered? What formation did your team use?

There was a little discussion when we got to the field. We had a coach who went over a quick formation and set up the team photo. I think we played a 3-2-2, but it changed throughout the match. It was a pretty free flowing system.

Describe what was going through your mind when the game kicked off? Was it surreal or were you solely focusing on the game?

It's funny, when I heard Henry was going to be playing all I could think about was the Joga Bonito commercial from a few years back, and not getting embarrassed. The atmosphere there was amazing, so I got caught up in that a little bit. I just wanted to get a touch on the ball as soon as possible, lucky for me that touch came early, and there were plenty more to follow. I made a pretty good save on Nash early in the game and there was a big "whoaaaaa" from the crowd. At that point I was pleased with my performance and thought to myself, it is only going to get worse. I wanted to pull a Costanza.... "ALRIGHT, THAT'S IT FOR ME, GOOD NIGHT!"

What was the most memorable part of the match for you? Was it this?

Haha....well played. That was one of them for sure, but I prefer to remember the few saves I made on Henry instead. Funny how I can't find those photos anywhere on the internet. Getting shuttled around in the Escalades wasn't that bad either.


Don't be...I was expecting it at some point.

Since, I brought it up, what were you thinking at the time this photo was taken? It doesn't look like you got very far off your line? Is this something you will be telling your grandkids about?

Well before the game Baron Davis was telling me he wanted to play in goal, so when they called for the PK I asked Baron Davis if he was ready to jump in the net. He declined. Then I just thought that it's me vs Thierry Henry, and there is only 7 yards between us! I was thinking if I save this I would be a legend (at least in my own head). And then he hit it......and all I can say is it sounded fast. If I could have been any further back behind my line I would have. The grandkids are definitely going to hear about this, along with anyone else who will listen!

How about this one? Sorry, we only have pictures you getting scored on.

I see a pattern developing here. Honestly, I did make a few saves during the game. This was the last goal of the game, I was pretty exhausted and my legs didn't have much left in them. McManaman played a good long ball up to Steve who did a great job of taking it off his chest and hitting it with his left. It was a really good finish, but I knew it was coming since it was part of the script and I was told to let Steve score at the final whistle, you know since it was his event. He was supposed to score on a bicycle kick, but I guess we'll just have to settle for the full volley. OK, so that's not true at all, but it makes me feel better about myself.

[Ed. Note: We located a few pics of Mike not getting scored upon. See the pic up top and directly below.]

Since when did keepers wear Capri pants?

Haha, since Replay started sponsoring pickup soccer matches in Chinatown. I'm not gonna lie, I like them a lot and plan to get a couple more pairs.

Were you impressed by the basketball players' soccer skills? If so, which ones and why?

Absolutely, all of the guys are obviously great athletes, but that doesn't always translate to good soccer skills. Having played against Steve I knew what he could do and he impresses me every time we play. Out of the guys I saw for the first time I would have to say Jason Kidd really impressed me. He has the same style and vision on a soccer field that he does on a basketball court.

Of the soccer players, who were you most impressed with?

Henry put on a show, and I'm just glad I was as close as I was to watch it (refer to that picture above!). Kalou has amazing pace and his feet are incredibly quick. Fowler is just class.

Who was trash talking on the field? Anything good?

There wasn't that much going on. I heard some of the basketball guys having fun with each other. Baron Davis was involved in most of it. He stole the show.

One of the most amazing aspects of the game, I think, is the crowd that was watching. There were a ton of people there. How would you describe the atmosphere? Was it like an "And1" event?

The crowd was great, it was more than everyone expected. I'm just glad no one got hurt. I mean people were on fences, on street poles and in trees. The best part about it was that they were knowledgeable about soccer and applauded all the finer points of the game and not just the goals.
Finally, some quick hitters.

Besides Red Bull New York, your favorite club?

Barcelona and Juventus. But I find myself cheering for the European teams that have U.S. players on them. Everton, Fulham, Reading, 1860 Munich, Hanover, Heerenveen, and now Villareal.

Favorite all-time player?

Roberto Baggio and Diego Maradona

Favorite current player?

Lionel Messi

4-4-2 or 4-5-1?

4-4-2, but my preferred system is 3-5-2.

Thanks for your time.

I'd like to take this opportunity to extend a hearty thank you to Mike Quarino for taking time out of his day to answer my questions and for being such a good sport. I'm sure I can speak for all of the UFers in saying we are incredibly jealous of his experience.

Also, we located a few pics of Marc Stein that I thought we could throw up here for the benefit of Marc.

All photos property of Unprofessional Foul.


Mike Georger said...

good stuff, killer capris.

on a related note, i think we should still be allowed to use 'oriental' in reference to asian people. theres an 'occidental' college here for fucks sake, they just mean eastern and western. kiss my ass if it has negative conotations, thats what you get for running fucking opium dens and shangai-ing people in portland like nobodies business.


Andrew said...

If you spin an oriental person around, does he become disoriented?

/joke fail

JPE said...

Excellent follow up.

Hey I went to Occidental College for a year (If it the one in L.A./Eagle Rock)and funny thing is it seemed to be all oriental kids attending.