On the evening of Friday Jun. 28, 2013, I had the pleasure to speak with soccer legend Alexi Lalas. He is a man that has been one of the most important to soccer in the United States for the past few decades. From years in Major League Soccer as one of the league’s first superstars to a long tenured career on the United States Men’s National Team and now as a pundit for avidly vocal analyst of the game, Lalas has left his mark on the world’s game.
However, despite all his success and his accolades, one thing that Lalas has never forgotten is that the best players and stewards of the game remember their fans. Not only do they remember their fans, but they also are just as big of a fan of the game as those that admire them for their performances.
I was lucky enough to have a few moments to catch up with Lalas this afternoon while he was participating in an event put together by AT&T and BlackBerry in the support of Major League Soccer, the USMNT and soccer fans in New York City.
Lalas was on hand to spend time with the fans, sign autographs, join in photo opportunities as well as promote the new BlackBerry Q10. Fans from all across the northeastern United States turned out for the event as one of this countries most recognizable faces in soccer spent some time letting all those that love the game know that without the fans, the sport would not be what it is today.
Thomas Atzenhoffer: Thanks for your time this afternoon Alexi. Please tell me about what you are involved with alongside of AT&T, MLS and the USMNT today?
Alexi Lalas: Oh, big things, big things. I have had a continued relationship, as you and I have discussed before, with AT&T, not just one personally with them but also with Major League Soccer and US Soccer. It just warms the cockles of my heart because they are just as into soccer as I am, so this is a match made in heaven and I here at an AT&T store in New York City [82 Wall ST] for the launch of the BlackBerry Q10 which I have just been fiddling around with.
I was able to successfully tweet and text with the phone as well as a million other things from the store and not get into any trouble so that has been fun and we continue the day talking about soccer, AT&T, BlackBerry and other stuff.
TR: Are they any events planned for the fans along with the autograph session and hands-on BlackBerry display?
AL: Well we have found that giving away stuff is always good, so we have been giving away everything from sunglasses to tickets and also actual phones. We have been signing autographs, taking pictures with the fans and really we have been just talking and getting to know the fans. It is great to be able to come hang out and talk about soccer.
We are in the middle of a summer with a lot of soccer going on in both the United States as well as around the world. New York has, like many cities, an incredibly rich and educated soccer community, and it was nice to meet a lot of those folks that came out just for the event and also those that played a little hooky from Friday afternoon work here in Manhattan.
TR: What is your fondest memory involving a group of fans and the sport?
AL: Well, I love watching games in bars and stuff with fans. Those are always wonderful experiences, and I feel that they are always very organic and people recognize that the communal type of experience, especially when it comes to soccer is something that is truly unique.
Yes it happens with other sports, but when you get a soccer crowd together to watch a game there is just something really special about it. And I don’t think it is a surprise that some of the big fan viral videos that you have seen other the last couple years involve the United States Men’s National Team, MLS teams or soccer just in general.
To see your team when or if you see something amazing when you are with a bunch of soccer folks and sharing those moments with them, that is always for me the best time. And I have done that whether it is a specific event organized by someone like AT&T or anyone else or just when I have found myself in a distant land walking into an establishment and finding myself watching a game with a group of fans of the game. Those truly are the best moments to me.
As always Lalas proved more than willing to give back to all those that have supported him throughout the years. He spent the rest of the afternoon meeting with fans in a final meet and greet autograph session before calling it a day. Thanks to AT&T, BlackBerry, MLS and Alexi Lalas for their time today.
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