Benny Feilhaber Q & A: “This is a chance for me to prove myself again.”
Benny Feilhaber finds himself in an exciting new role as a veteran with the National Team. Having played in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Feilhaber has seen limited opportunities in Jurgen Klinsmann’s side as he looked to bring consistency to his game that already includes wonderful technical ability. Coming off a championship season with Sporting Kansas City, he sees this camp as an opportunity to demonstrate he should be considered once again for a trip to the World Cup and a once in a lifetime chance to play in the country where he was born.
Jan. 16, 2014
© Howard C. Smith/isiphotos.com
The team is underway with the ‘dry run’ portion of camp in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What are your impressions of the camp up to this point?
Benny Feilhaber :“The first week of training has been really good. The group came in really fit. We all got a good message from Jurgen coming into camp that this wasn’t a preseason camp and that we wanted to get everyone up to speed as quickly as possible. All the players did a really good job of coming in with their homework done during the offseason, and we we’re able to get going pretty quickly. It was a good first week in California and now, being here in Brazil, we’re ready to get started out here.”
: You come into training as a veteran of this type of camp. What’s it like filling that role
BF : “Being a veteran is a lot different. Last World Cup I was one of the younger guys, not necessarily by age but by experience. You’re kind of taking everything in at that point. Now, it’s quite a bit different. Being on the opposite side is interesting, and I think you just fall into [the role] a little bit.
“It’s been good for me. I’ve been trying to use my experience here with the younger guys. Obviously, with this camp being in Brazil, I can help out with the language and what not with whoever needs help, so it’s interesting being on the opposite side of it. I like it so far.”
: What is it you have enjoyed about your newfound role?
BF : “Well, it’s about responsibilities. The more you have, it becomes a positive thing. At least that’s the way I look at it. I think as a player you want to help the team as much as you can on the field and play your best soccer. It’s important off the field as well to help your teammates. Whether it’s in the locker room or just personally, [it’s about] everybody being good with one another. So that aspect of it, me trying to better myself and help out my teammates, is a positive feeling.”
: What has head coach Jurgen Klinsamnn told you about your role both on and off the field?
BF : “He hasn’t talked to me as much about what he expects. I think that’s a good thing. You can read in between the lines about how he is as a person and what he expects from players. He’s just observing me a little more in that sense. It’s a good feeling and it’s good to have more responsibilities among your teammates and coaches. I’m sure when he wants something extra from me or he wants something that I haven’t been doing, he’s going to let me know. I look forward to that conversation, but I think he’s more observing from afar right now.”
: What are the expectations that you set for yourself for this camp?
BF : “My expectations are always pretty high. I’ve played with the National Team in a World Cup before and I’ve played a good number of games, but I haven’t been able to break into the lineup with Jurgen yet. Like I said, everything’s up for grabs. There are five months left until the World Cup, and it’s ultimately every player’s goal to arrive at that stage and be able to participate.
“Coming into this camp is about proving myself again. I think there are times when I’ve played to a certain level and there are times when I haven’t. This year for me, especially with Kansas City, has been about becoming more and more consistent. If I can continue being consistent and playing at a higher level more often than not, then I think I’ll show Jurgen something. At the end of the day, you can only make his decision tough. I’m sure he’s going to bring a great group of 23 to the World Cup, and you have to make it a difficult decision for him to not bring you. That’s my goal.”
: Any World Cup is a special opportunity, but for you being born in Brazil, when you imagine playing at a World Cup in that country, what goes through
BF : “Playing in a World Cup in Brazil would be incredible. Playing in a World Cup period is something extremely special. I was very lucky to get the opportunity to do that four years ago. Now, the World Cup being in Brazil, the country where I was born, where most of my family still lives, and if not the biggest, one of the biggest pro soccer countries in the world, it’s going to be quite an experience for anybody. For a Brazilian-born player like myself, it would be over the top. It’s a dream that I have and hopefully it comes true.”
: What are some of the things you look forward to doing while you’re back in Brazil?
BF : “You always look forward to the things you miss. I miss the food. They have good steak here - I’m sure everybody knows about Brazilian steak houses in America. Seeing family, most of whom are in Rio de Janerio, would be fantastic, and maybe they’ll come up and see me here in Sao Paulo. I look forward to playing against Brazilian competition, like when we scrimmage Sao Paulo. Plenty to look forward to these next 12 days or so, and I’m excited to be here.”
: As a native speaker, what are some of the Portuguese words and phrases you’re going to teach your teammates?
BF : “All the guys have been asking about Portuguese words and little phrases, so I have been teaching here and there. The easy ones are ‘thank you, obrigado.’ People are asking me about ‘water,’ that’s ‘agua.’ A lot of them are similar to Spanish. ‘More steak, mais carne.’ Slowly but surely, they’re getting the little phrases that they can ask people around the hotel and just people that they see. It’s exciting for everybody and obviously fun for me to be the teacher.”
: What is the most important word or phrase the players need to know?
BF : “That’s a tough one. ‘Thank you, obrigado,’ and ‘please, por favor,’ are the basic ones. I don’t know if they’re the most important for the entire trip, but they’re good starters for sure.”
: You came in with four other Sporting Kansas City players. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have been here before, but how would you say Chance Myers and
Seth Sinovic are acclimating and what advice have you given them?
BF : “Obviously, with Sporting Kansas City we had five guys come into camp. ‘Zus’ and ‘Bes’ are veterans already, have played a good number of games on the National Team, and Seth and Chance are both guys who are new to the National Team set-up. It’s fun to see it. I think it’s an important step for them, and I’m proud that they were able to get this opportunity.
“They’ve done a really god job the first week. Both came in fit like Jurgen asked. Seth’s a guy that’s fit throughout the year, so it’s not too tough for him. When everybody shows the kind of preparation like Seth and Chance have, they fit in. It’s good to see them acclimating with the guys not only on the field but off the field kind of being part of the group. There’s been a few times here or there when they’ve asked how things work or how we do things. I’ve done my best to answer their questions. Chance is my roommate, so we talk about things all the time and he’s getting what he needs out of it. It’s a slow process at first, and they’ve done a really good job in just a week of becoming part of the group.”
: When the team was on the way to Brazil, what did you tell the other players to expect?
BF : “To be honest, I said I’ve been to Sao Paulo twice in my entire life. Both times were when I was really young and for short periods of time, so I know very little about Sao Paulo. What I did know is the food, what to eat, what’s good here and what to try; the fruits, the meat, the rice and beans, that kind of stuff.
“The Brazilian culture, they’re very warm people. They like to converse, they want to get to know you, especially when you’re a soccer player. They definitely want to know about your life, your profession, who we’re going to be playing against. They’re very warm people when they get to know you, and they’re eager to become friends with you. It’s easy to accept the culture and become one with it. A lot of the guys are feeling that out right now, and with 12 days here, we are going to leave with a lot of friends.”