It is widely recognised that Soccer – or association football in its official term, is an emerging sport in North America as more and more people are taking up the game or just getting into the sport from a fan perspective.
Almost 25 million viewers tuned into the USA’s World Cup match with Portugal back in June – and Americans bought more tickets for the whole event in Brazil than any other nation apart from the hosts, which proves that the interest of the sport is on the rise.
In this article, we will discuss some of the past and present players of the National Football League, and how their career paths could have taken them into the sphere balled game as opposed to their oval shaped counterpart.
Bend it like Beckham?
Not David, but Odell Beckham Jr may have decided on a career in soccer before opting for football. Beckham Jr had the chance to take trials for the US national junior soccer team as a youngster, but he declined the offer – to the New York Giants’ ultimate delight. The Wide Receiver has already set many rookie records in the NFL this season, has wonderful footwork skills that he employs at any given opportunity – and he can thank his soccer upbringing for help on that.
The Detroit Lions defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh in his formative years grew up playing soccer as well as football in Oregon. Suh has footballing blood in his family, as his elder sister, Odette Lennon Ngum Suh operates as a midfielder in the Cameroon Women’s national side, due to their father Michael – who played semi-professional soccer himself – emanating from the African country. It was soon obvious that Suh would not be able to forge a career in the soccer world, due to being physically too big for the sport, but his fondness of the game still lingers. Suh is an avid Arsenal fan and continues to follow his team during the NFL season.
Former NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver, Chad Johnson attempted, at the ripe old age of 33 years of age to try and retrain himself as an MLS soccer player. Back in early 2011, the National Football League was in the midst of a lockout situation, so Johnson decided to take a trial with Sporting Kansas City. He was a promising soccer player in his younger days, and the colourful character loves to talk about the game – and his beloved Real Madrid – via social media. However, his trial in Kansas did not yield a contract, and he continued his career in the NFL.
Pierre Garçon – wide receiver of the Washington Redskins – was also a fine soccer player as a youngster. Garçon – of Haitian descent – played for several travel teams in competitions in his native Florida and across the US. As a high school junior, he helped his school to the state soccer playoffs. His signature goal celebration was a backflip that he has had to curtail since his change of sport to the NFL.
Crossing the pond
On the other side of the ball, Clive Allen was a fine goal scorer for several soccer clubs in the 1980’s, but he turned his kicking talents to the American Football scene as placekicker for the London Monarchs in NFL Europe in 1997. Allen played for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea during a fine career that yielded over 200 goals in all competitions as a soccer star. The centre forward retired with an impressive 100% field goal record, but he kicked just six from six attempts. His point after touchdown record was less impressive though, with seven successful kicks from ten attempts.