Unprofessional Foul


December 7, 2009

Four Minutes With Landon Donovan

Donovan speaks

Donovan speaks

At Niketown on Friday morning, Landon Donovan took a few questions and posed for a few pictures in support of Nike, the sports brand that dares to own us all. With a staggeringly large line in cleats, apparel and, most humorously of all, fancy gloves for outfield players — they understand their target market, the nimble-footed, slender Decos and Anelkas of the world — Nike is pre-eminent when it comes to this stuff. The second floor of their sprawling Manhattan shrine housed its own brand-new soccer corner, complete with kits from all their top club brands (Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus, Arsenal, Inter Milan, and, bafflingly, Celtic), balls, scarves, training gear… just about anything you could dream up.

The imagination really runs rampant when you get hold of the Nike ID concept, one that Landon was half-heartedly trying out to begin the press junket. Design any of their shoes just the way you want them — for a pretty price — and mix n’ match to your heart’s content. We even got ourselves a UF boot made (pic below the jump). If I recall correctly, Landon’s boot design was a rather simple red/white/blue, one that has about as much chance of making it to the World Cup as Ireland.

From there, he took a few questions in a Group Q&A before giving the journalists a few minutes of private time. After ESPN the Magazine and the New York Times picked clean his soul, Landon had enough left in the tank to give us a chat, and his answers were refreshingly honest for the kind of event we’d lucked ourselves into (again, thanks to Kickette for giving us a Golden Ticket).

Our Q&A after the jump. Note: this took place before the WC Draw (and as we’re bloggers, no way we could work on that tight a deadline).

Q. First of all, the World Cup draw coming up. Who would you like to avoid, and who would you like to see in your group?

A. Um, I’m not gonna say who I would like to see, because that’s dangerous… what if we see them and we lose…um, I would prefer not to see Brazil, I would prefer not to see Spain again… Argentina, even through they’ve struggled, they’re not a team you want to play against…

What about England?

England would be great.

You would like that?

I’d love to play England, just because the history of soccer… that would be a lot of fun.

You’ve already shown against Brazil that you can play them, you can match them.

Yeah, but, if at all possible you’d rather do that in the quarter-finals or the semis, if you can.

I heard the other guys here, the Spanish, talking about the Henry handball. And, we’ve probably got a similar question. In that situation, would you tell the referee, or in your mind, would you just celebrate the goal and just not think about it?

Well now that it’s all happened I might have a different point of view. At the time, no, I wouldn’t say anything. We’re all competitive, right? So, every day in training, somebody cheats in some way. The ball goes over the line and you keep playing, you know, the coach isn’t paying attention for that second, or didn’t see it or something, and you just play on. We all try to get little advantages.

Henry, knowing him as a soccer player, it’s not like he purposefully said “Oh, I’m gonna handball this.” It hit him, he reacted, and then it happened. It happened so fast. When you can watch it on TV and you can talk about it for three weeks, you think “Why would he do that?” But in the game it happens in half a second, and so I don’t blame him. It’s just sad that it happened in that situation.

Now, switching up, and a question from one of our contributors. All these new boots are great, and I’ve noticed over the years that the boots are getting lighter and lighter and thinner… they’re like wearing slippers, which is brilliant for the footballer. Do you feel like you’re risking injury because the boots you’re wearing are so thin?

I used to think so, and Nike does a great job of getting us the boots early so we can test them. They do a lot of research before, they let a lot of kids wear them, people around their campus wear them and try them and play games in, and then they give them to us and they take our feedback seriously. Sometimes, with all the different things that we do, people ask for feedback, but they don’t really listen, but these guys listen.

The cool thing about this now (pointing at Nike id) is you can fit it to how you want it to be. You can make it look how you want it to be, which is the aesthetic part. But for me, I’ve had this boot (pointing at Nike Mercurials) and the bottom they had on it just didn’t feel comfortable, and they were able to go and put on my old bottom that I liked, and it made all the difference.

Finally, a quickie about Beckham. After the Grant Wahl book came out, how difficult was it for you to establish a relationship with David on the pitch? Was it very easy? How about off the field?

Well on the pitch was never an issue because we both see the game similarly and our game kinda fits each other well, the way he passes and the way I like to run off the ball, so that part was easy. The hard part was just approaching it and dealing with it. To David’s credit, he completely surprised me and surpassed what my expectations would have been.

If I switch myself and put myself in his shoes, I’d have been pretty pissed off, but he wanted to get on with it and put it behind us and he’s been great since.

Thanks very much for talking to us, Landon. Best of luck next summer.

Thanks guys, and Go Norwich City! (in reference to Ned’s scarf)

Any guesses as to who designed it?

The UF Boot. Any guesses as to who designed it?

About the Author

James T


  1. Candid. He keeps winning points. I wish you would have asked him if he regrets the water fountain photograph.

  2. Dustin

    Come on now…I don’t think anybody regrets that water fountain photograph…AM I RIGHT FELLAS?!

  3. Precious Roy

    Wonder if his ex uses the same phrase to describe their wedding night?

  4. corky

    James T – Did you have to buy Ned a new pair of pants after the Norwich City mention?

  5. @Dustin – I certainly don’t.

    Wait, what?

  6. Georger

    @Corky, he wasn’t wearing pants.

  7. Norfolk Ned

    @The fans Attic. The question was on the list with many others but the Nike dude was in my ear telling me to hurry up. I managed to squeeze in the Beckham question before he jammed a T90 up my butt.

    @Corky. He spotted the scarf before we even spoke and I told him he should seek a move as we are the best in the world.

    All round top bloke. Candid, v, friendly and as TFA said, scored a lot of points.

  8. Precious Roy

    The UF Boot. Any guesses as to who designed it?

    Well given the size, I was going to guess a smurf, but the color scheme suggests it might have been a duck.

  9. Norfolk Ned

    @PR. I have actually decided that the front will be white not black. But my version will say NCFC for sure. Then I can live my Wes Hoolahan fantasy out 3 times a week.

  10. Then I can live my Wes Hoolahan fantasy out 3 times a week.

    I don’t even want to know what crazy foot fetish you have.

  11. Norfolk Ned

    @TFA, means I get to run past folk wearing fancy 200 buck yellow and green boots pretending I’m hoops.

  12. Matt

    Is it really that surprising that Celtic is a big seller for Nike, especially in the United States, especially considering the Irish American population? Now, I’m not saying many of these guys would know Parkhead from Central Park, but similar to the greased up meatheads on the Jersey Shore in the Italian National Team kits, a lot of “Kiss me, I’m Irish! BLARGH!” brigade see the four leaf clover and the name (which they all pronounce with a hard C) and buy it. Combine that with the fact that there is a large Celtic support in North America with the North American Celtic Federation of Celtic Supporters Clubs being one of the largest organizations of it’s type in the North America, I don’t see what’s so baffling.

  13. James T

    It’s pretty baffling to see Celtic gear being peddled next to Barcelona gear. Not knocking the tenuous ethnic connection or anything; just jarring to see it get such front-of-store prominence that it doesn’t really get in any English branch of JJB Sports.

  14. corky

    So Ned, what would Donovan be good for at NC during a League 1 season – 10 goals, 15 assists?

  15. Norfolk Ned

    @Matt Its baffling only because they are a s**te team, popular only because of bulls**t religious nonsense. And as JT said…I didn’t see Watford in there.

  16. Norfolk Ned

    Yeah, well he plays a similar role to Hoolahan, who is a wide left player who has excelled in the hole since we went to a diamond and have him behind God. League One Corky? 18 goals in a similar role. Hoolahan has 11 already, but God gets most of the chances (19 goals so far) he and Martin create. As you know, I think the MLS is toot, Donovan is far too good for this league as being in his prime and unlike the old men in the MLS, he should be at a top Colaship team/ bottom Prem team. Problem is, not many of those sides can afford a player who is at his best in a free role. Norwich adapt that system, so he’d be welcome. Besides, we’ll be back in the Cola next season.

  17. Precious Roy

    You British types are arguing this from your side of the pond. From a ‘tarded American standpoint, Celtic makes total sense pretty much for the reasons Matt cited.

  18. James T

    Fair ’nuff, PR and Matt. Arsenal shirts, on the other hand….

  19. Norfolk Ned

    @PR really? I have some Irish so I’ll wear a Celtic shirt? Maybe I should check why I’m buying a Scottish jersey? Anyway…

  20. Keith

    I could seeing him contributing at about the same level as, say, Patrik Berger in the prem. He’s not a prem starter, but he would do well as a change-of-pace super sub for a team looking to chase a goal in a close game.

  21. Keith

    And again, Ned, as Matt said, there’s not a lot of thought involved- they see the Green/White, the clover, and think “Irish!” (and even the people that know the club and are likely to identify as “Irish” would still know that Celtic is “The Catholic Club”)

  22. Norfolk Ned

    @Keith. Maybe, he really belongs in that hole/free role. Outside of Chelsea, Arsenal or Man Poo, no other team could accomodate that in the EPL. I can’t think of any Cola team that plays a diamond or EPL team except Chelsea. He is far too good for the MLS though, which is League One at best. Galaxy put a lot of stock in Birchall and he came from Brighton, who didn’t want him. Factor in the Carl Robinsons and Danny Dichio’s and its clear where the MLS sits standard wise.

  23. Precious Roy

    These are people who generally think Celtic are a basketball team and Rangers a baseball team, so they are not buying it with any kind of thought for the success or popularity of the club.

  24. David Murray's legs

    We are aware that Celtic was formed by an Irish immigrant for Irish immigrants, right? What’s the shock that, *gasp*, decedents of Irish immigrants take to them?

  25. Sarah

    “similar to the greased up meatheads on the Jersey Shore in the Italian National Team kits”

    The best is when they combine. On halloween night I met a guido wearing a Celtic shirt.

  26. Keith

    Ned- I could see Roberto Martinez using him just behind Rodallega at Wigan, or, now that Bullard’s out, taking the CAM role with Phillip of Orange. Actually, the best place for him might be Citeh- if Steven Ireland or Gareth Barry aren’t lighting the game up from midfield, on comes Landy. Or, Sparky plays a five-man mid with De Jong and Barry holding (or Ireland if Barry has to play LB), and a Bellamy-Donovan-SWP front line playing in Ade.

  27. ebullientfatalist

    @Keith: I see little opportunity for Landon at Citeh. Not a knock on his skill at all, I just don’t think he’d do well there. If he goes to England, he needs to go to a team with a wonderful supporting cast. Which – and you’ll like this Keith – is why I’d kill to buy a Donovan Villa kit.

  28. Keith

    See, that’s why I used the Patrik Berger reference- when O’Neill first got to Villa, Berger was perfect as the super-sub in the hole, and I think Landy would work perfectly to come on for whichever of our Large Strikers started the match. Right now, Villa’s seemingly found the recipe with Petrov and Milner in the middle (yes, I know, they’ve only beaten Pompey and Hull with that recipe, but you play the schedule you’ve got), and those two playing up to Donovan setting throughballs to Gabby in the last quarter of the game after the backline has been battered by Carew/Heskey would be absolute dynamite.

    But, you know, I’m trying to expand my horizons past being “just that crazy Villa guy” in these here comments.

  29. @EF – I read that as “I’d kill Donovan to buy a Villa kit”, and was seriously confused.

  30. ebullientfatalist

    @NYK: I may, if it’s match worn.

    @Keith: I was thisclose to being a Villa supporter instead of Arsenal, but Arsenal had Bergkamp and you guys had . . . Townsend? Dwight Yorke? They didn’t inspire my imagination at 13, so Arsenal/Bergkamp it was.

  31. ebullientfatalist

    And I just created a nifty little trequartista named Donovan Villa on FIFA10.

  32. Keith

    You didn’t like Magic Merse or Dr. Teeth?

  33. corky

    @Keith. But I love the crazy Villa comments. We need some variety beyond Arsenal, Liverpool, and Spurs. I’m a Fulham man myself (totally cliched, I know, but McBride was my hero).

  34. Precious Roy

    Keith: Loved Dr. Teeth.

    Corky: We are very Fulham friendly due to their love of Americans.

  35. [...] A little Q&A with Landon Donovan. [Unprofessional Foul] [...]

  36. ktbhoy

    Nike are not stupid. Celtic’s brand is one of the best selling worldwide. Admittedly the team’s been s**te lately (after winning 3 league titles in a row from 2006-08), but money talks. Wee bit of jealousy detected on here methinks.

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