Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from Bayer Leverkusen and U.S. MNT defender Frankie Hejduk.
The stereotypical "surfer dude," Hejduk brings just as much personality to the U.S. Men's National Team as he does speed on the flanks and tenacious D. But what would you expect from someone who grew up in San Diego, was a high school surfing champ, went on to play soccer at UCLA and started his professional career in Tampa Bay, Florida?
With three standout years with the Mutiny and a solid performance at the ‘98 World Cup, Frankie turned some heads overseas and has been at top German Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen ever since. San Diego to Berlin, huh? Only a free spirit like Frankie would be able to turn what might seem like a difficult living situation into a party, bro. His positive outlook and easy-going attitude, above and beyond what he adds on the field, were part of the reason this wanna-be rastafarian was called into the 2000 Olympic Team as an older "wild card" player, and has a good deal to do with why he'll be heading to Korea.
Center Circle: So when did you start listening to Bob Marley?
Frankie Hejduk: "Pretty much from creation. His music speaks of religion, peace, happiness and the struggles of society during his life. A lot of it was pretty much right in tune with the same beliefs I have. Listening to some of his songs before games gets me in a good mood. It helps me settle down a bit."
CC: I think I've heard a little hip-hop on your headphones every once in awhile. What other kind of music do you listen to? Got any favorite rappers or other bands?
FH: "I pretty much listen to every type of music. Right now we're listening to some Alice in Chains. I like to hear people's views on issues, and a lot of singers sing about their views, what they feel, things like that. Not everything is right or wrong, I just like to hear what they say. I like all kinds of hip-hop, but my favorite is Tupac (Shakur), for the same reasons that I love Marley. He sang about what he wanted to sing about."
CC: Is UCLA the best campus and college scene ever?
FH: "I don't remember too much, so that pretty much says it all."
CC:You used to have some pretty long locks back in the MLS days. Why did you go to the shaved look?
FH: "I'd had that for a good 4-5 years, and wanted to switch it up a little bit. At the time the grunge look was in, and I was definitely pretty grungy."
CC: Little Nesta (Frankie's son, who's named after Bob Nesta Marley) is four and half years old. Does he surf yet?
FH: "No, but he's been out on the water and he has a boogie board. He gets out in the surf and I push him into the waves. It's cool because normally kids are a little bit afraid of the water and the waves, but he seems to have no fear of it. It's like it's his second nature. Like father, like son, I guess."
CC: What's it like being over in Germany without any surf?
FH: "It's been tough, actually. I really miss it. It's something I've done my whole life. I also know that it's something I'll get back to eventually. That kind of motivates me to keep working to get the point where I can be a beach bum. I think everyone has to pay their dues at some point in life, and mine happens to be someplace I can't surf. Some people say I'm crazy because I'm so lucky to be playing in Germany. But when you really love something and you're away from it, you start to miss it."
CC:What's your favorite place to visit in Europe when you do have a chance to get out of Germany in the off-season?
FH: "I went to Cannes to cruise around, and it was beautiful. I had a great time. The beer was good, the wine was good, the topless beaches were good. It's right on the French Riviera, and it was just a beautiful place. Did I say there were topless women?"
CC: You're involved in a surfer/skate clothing line called "Expedition". How did that come about?
FH: "One of my best friends runs the company, and he asked me if I wanted to get into business with him a little bit. It's a thing that we had always talked about when we were younger, and it's something that I can fall back on. It's something I look forward to after soccer. The company's doing really well, and it's a good reason to get back to San Diego eventually."
CC: Why did you choose soccer over surfing back in high school?
FH: "That's a good question. I think mainly because I enjoyed both of them, and I had a chance to get a good education at UCLA. I talked about it with my family and we all thought it was the right decision. I loved both, and at the time going to university was something I wanted to do for my parents and myself. I always dreamed of going to a good school, and that was the perfect opportunity."
CC: What was it like jumping into the Olympic Team and competing with them as a "wild card" player in Australia after doing it as an Under-23 in '96?
FH: "Australia was just an incredible experience. The team atmosphere was one of the best I've ever been associated with, and that's weird because I had just come into the team late. All the young guys had been together and were really tight, particularly thanks to (former U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team head coach) Clive Charles, who is one of the best coaches I've ever played for. Just to think that we actually had a chance to be in the gold medal game was a great accomplishment. It was basically a group of young college players playing against some of the best players in the world. Six or seven guys from the Spanish team (to whom the U.S. lost 3-1 in the Olympic semi-finals) are playing in the Spanish First Division. It was a great achievement for U.S. Soccer. The whole team came together during that tournament, and I hope the same thing happens with this team."
CC: What's life like in Germany, now that you've been over there three years and signed a contract through 2003?
FH: "It's definitely gotten easier. The first two years were incredibly difficult in terms of language, meeting people, etc. Germans don't necessarily welcome you with open arms. I don't think it's a bad thing, they just take a while to get to know you. Now I know the places to go out, what to expect on the soccer field, et cetera. Looking back I didn't know what to expect. It's night and day from America, and going over there I didn't think of that. It's not tougher, just different."
CC: What's the best wave you've ever ridden, or do they all blend together?
FH: "They definitely don't blend together. I would say in Mexico. I took a couple trips down to Cabo San Lucas with my friends, and it was just a great vibe. We would bring our tents down there, camp out on the beach all day and have our 25 cent cervezas. After a tough day in the water, we'd chill out around the campfire telling stories, then wake up the next day at dawn and do it all over again."
CC: What's the coolest thing about San Diego?
FH: "San Diego's horrible. Don't come."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (The U.S. World Cup Roster)
2) Word Association (w/ WNT midfielder Kristine Lilly)
3) Desert Island Discs (w/ U-19 WNT midfielder Jessica Ballweg)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT defender Frankie Hejduk)
5) Big Man on Campus (w/ U-20 MNT goalkeeper Steve Cronin)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ MNT forward Clint Mathis)
7) Mark That Calendar ("Nike Road to Korea" -- May 12, 16 & 19)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (WUSA trivia)
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