Thank you ladies and gents for joining me again. Working through technical difficulties – which was a laptop with a screen that didn’t work – I still managed to put out the second issue of "Special Report: Jules With the Big Boys." Hopefully you enjoyed my last interview with Mr. Ben Olsen, along with the comments of his good buddy Chris Albright.
Today’s interview is with a true big boy although he is long removed from boyhood. I sat down with the USA’s long time white-collar centerback Eddie Pope. I have to admit that I was pretty nervous going into this conversation considering I have watched and idolized Eddie since I started playing this game back in my days of yore. However, once I walked into his room I was welcomed with a smile by a genuinely nice man. I’m glad that Eddie took the time to speak with me:
Jules: Have you ever read any of my articles on ussoccer.com?
Eddie Pope: Yes, you’ve got a nice little edge to the articles and it’s pretty funny, so I think that’s cool.
J: How long have you been in the national team program?
EP: I think since the end of ’96 and that was with the full team. Then with the under-23s, probably ’95 or ’94.
J: With all of those years, what is your most memorable soccer moment? It can be national team, MLS, or anything.
EP: I think that the last World Cup was probably my most memorable. I think that beating Mexico was a big, big victory. So I’d say Mexico.
J: What do you enjoy doing off the field?
EP: Well I have a 2-year-old, which pretty much occupies all of my time. So him, my wife and I like to go to the playground or take him to eat ice cream. Just being a father.
J: What is your favorite food?
EP: Probably pasta.
J: What’s it like playing for coach Arena?
EP: It’s great. Bruce has always been a "player’s coach." He listens to what the players have to say. I think that he has something special that most coaches don’t have. I think that it involves the way he recognizes talent and the way he places it on the field and makes it all come together into a team. For some reason I think that Bruce is unbelievably talented at that.
J: What kind of music do you listen to?
EP: I listen to everything – jazz, hip-hop, Latin music, my wife is Argentinean. My son actually loves classical music. My son is like really hyper, but when he listens to classical music he kind of calms down so before he goes to bed we always play classical music.
J: I’m getting ready for college, going to Wake Forest. Having played at UNC, what can I expect from college soccer and school in the ACC? What can I look forward to or not look forward to?
EP: Are you really? I grew up in High Point, North Carolina. It’s about 20 or 25 minutes away from Wake Forest. I think that college is great. A lot of guys skip it and maybe it’s good for their careers, but I think that college is such a big part of your life. College soccer, I think, is still pretty competitive. I think you’ll have a good coach in Jay (Vidovich), so that’s important. Then I would say first semester go to all of your classes, until you figure out how to skip them. But finish school, even if it takes you four years, finish school.
J:What are your thoughts going into the Denmark game in a couple weeks?
EP: For us I think it’s important to play some good teams. Obviously that’s a good European team for us to play. It will be a difficult game for us and I guess in the past we haven’t been too successful against teams in that region (Scandinavia) and I think that it will be a good challenge for us.
J: New Jersey
EP: New home
J: Coach Bruce Arena
J: Amsterdam Arena
J: Ben Olsen
J: Home Depot Center
J: U.S. Soccer
EP: The future
EP: Talented, in a lot of areas actually.
J: Before we end here, I interviewed Ben Olsen and in the word association I said your name. First he said, "perfect" and then he said, "bathes in cabbage water." Is that an inside joke that I don’t want to know about?
EP: (After recovering from nearly a minute of intense laughter and finally able to respond) When you asked me about him I was going to say "a fool" but I didn’t want to be like that. He’s silly. He’s way out there. Cabbage water, who thinks of that?
Well ladies and gentleman there it is. That is the real Eddie Pope. On the outside, being so big and strong, he may seem a bit intimidating. But once you get to know him he is far from that.
One feeling that I got from speaking with him for that short time was that he is a true professional, a sincere person. He loves the game and is grateful for his opportunities, never taking anything for granted. Eddie, good luck in whatever may come in your path.
Thank you for joining me for the second installment of "Special Report: Jules With the Big Boys" and make sure to join me for the last piece in my series of three. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it!