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)