On the new Planet Fútbol Podcast episode, we interview Tony Sanneh, who was a standout in the U.S.'s World Cup 2002 quarterfinal run. We talk about that '02 team, his years in MLS and the German Bundesliga, his current projects with his foundation and his thoughts on being snubbed so far by the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
You can listen to full discussion in the podcast console here and you can subscribe to and download the Planet Fútbol Podcast on iTunes. Recent guests include U.S. men's national team and Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, RB Leipzig assistant and former New York Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch and Roma sporting director Monchi.
Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
On whether his U.S. World Cup 2002 quarterfinalists would be better remembered if their achievement had taken place when there were more fans of the USMNT—and whether he thinks that 2002 team was ahead of its time:
“I don't think we were ahead of our time. I choose my words carefully, because I want the team to keep growing and doing well, and I believe in supporting the country. But we were the team that won games. One could say we underperformed. We had a really strong, complete team, and we had depth at every position. We had athletes that could run with any people in the world. And we had people that could play under composure and skill. So it was a complete unit that was built there, and it all kind of came together. It's been forgotten, but that's what the sport is. We're in the past, but I'd like to say that we helped lay the groundwork. The same way that they did in 1994 in the same way that they did earlier.”
On any advice he’d have for the young U.S. players going to play in Germany now:
“They say if you can play in Germany you can play anywhere. And it's more about fitting into the culture. I would say work your ass off, but respect yourself. Germany is a place where if you show your weaknesses they will beat up on you. And if you stand up for yourself, they will respect you. So you really need to respect yourself, and respect others, but you have to be confident … In Germany, if a guy yells at you for a pass and it wasn't wrong, you should reply to him that it wasn't wrong. Because they'll just keep coming.
"I have a funny story from my trial there. I had played here, and they sent the video. They were going to offer a contract. They said 'You've had these surgeries, how do we know you’re fit? So can you fly over, and we can see you for a day or two and then we're good?' So I fly over after the MLS final and I am training the first day. And then the second day I'm training I'm like, 'O.K. I'm still stronger and faster than all these guys, but I'm a big guy. I don't want to hurt anybody.' And this guy kicks me in practice. Just blades me. And I look at the coach, who just turns his lip up and shrugs his shoulders like it's nothing. I didn't know what to do.
"So at that point I was like 'Screw it. Not me.' So I just started manhandling everybody and throwing people around. And I was a forward, and I would grab two people and throw them together, and every time that guy got the ball I found him and laid his ass out. And I was just kind of angry through the whole practice and bullied people. And I walk inside, and my agent’s like, ‘How was practice?’ I was like, ‘Oh, it was s----y. This guy kicked me, so I just basically started beating people up for the next hour.’ And he goes, ‘You must have done something right, because the general manager came and he said the coach was really nervous about you being a timid player yesterday. But after seeing you fight today, he said you guys can leave and the contract will be in the mail.’”