Greeting: Welcome back to On The Hot Seat, Tonight I had the chance to interview MLS star Jalil Anibaba, Anibaba was introduced to the sport of Soccer back when he was growing up in California where his father introduced him to the sport. Going through his High School days Jalil played soccer his freshman year along side his 2 brothers who helped Jalil through out High School. From High School to college Jalil played his Freshman-Junior seasons at Santa Clara until his Senior year where he transfered over to North Carolina to play for the Tar Heels. Jalil now finds himself playing in the MLS and the Chicago Fire please read his story below and make sure to follow him on Twitter at @NigerianFuture.
Justin Godsey: Tell us how you stay connected with fellow Chicago Fire fans ?
Jalil Anibaba: Our fans do an amazing job of supporting us as players and as an organization so building a connection with them is easy. We interact with them at events and functions fairly often. Social media also offers a realm that allows us to get to know our fans better as well.
Justin Godsey: Who introduced you to the sport of Soccer ?
Jalil Anibaba: My father, Jammal introduced me to the sport.
Justin Godsey: Growing up in California what Soccer Team and Player did you grow up wanting to be on and be like?
Jalil Anibaba: As a young player I really admired a Nigerian international star named Kanu. I wanted to be like him on the pitch and dreamed of playing for Arsenal like he did at the height of his career.
Justin Godsey: Tell us about your High School Soccer Career at Davis Senior College ?
Jalil Anibaba: High School ball in Davis was a great experience for me. My freshman year was the last time that I was on the same team with my two older brothers who I attribute large amounts of my maturation to. With that said, I also learned a lot from our head coach, Ashley Yudin. He’s a great manager and he lead us to a title, so to say the least my time representing Davis Sr. High was a true honor.
Justin Godsey: In High School you were named California Gatorade player of the year how big of a honor was it to win the award ?
Jalil Anibaba: I was able to find myself in the running for the award because of my teammates and coaching staff. I had a tremendous team my senior year and a coach who believed in us so I just tried to play my part. Ultimately winning the award was a great honor because it showed that our Davis community is more than capable of preparing its kids to excel.
Justin Godsey: Why did you choose Santa Clara as your college of choosing ?
Jalil Anibaba: Santa Clara University is an amazing school that offers first class academics. During the time I was being recruited there was no better option over SCU. An opportunity to play for a top caliber program, close to home, while pursuing a high level education was a blessing that I wasn’t willing to pass on.
Justin Godsey: How does it feel being named capatain of the Santa Clara Soccer Team ?
Jalil Anibaba: It was humbling to be named the team captain, especially so early on in my college career. I felt that I was simply being given an opportunity to bring special qualities to the team in a way that allowed my passion for the game to be shared throughout the locker room.
Justin Godsey: Why did you transfer to North Carolina for your senior year of College ?
Jalil Anibaba: I clearly had aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player and I felt that transferring to UNC was best for my career. Often times difficult decisions stand in the way of obtaining a dream, but I feel that in the end, I would not have started nor finished my college career in any other way.
Justin Godsey: You won many awards at UNC like NSCAA Second Team All-America, NSCAA First Team All-Region, First Team All-ACC, ACC All-Tournament Team and 2007 WCC Freshman of the Year. What does winning all these award mean to you.
Jalil Anibaba: Those awards simply show that I was a part of amazing teams on both campuses. The awards that I obtained at UNC where the result of me being surround by spectacular teammates and the same goes for my time at SCU.
Justin Godsey: From College your dream became reality when you were drafted in the 1st round of the MLS Draft 9th overall by the Chicago Fire give us your reaction to making it to the MLS ?
Jalil Anibaba: The draft was a great day for me and my family. As soon as my name was called I felt an immense rush of happiness and excitement that will be hard to duplicate in life. It was the perfect time to be surrounded by family and friends and a great way to have started my career.
Justin Godsey: What was going through your mind when you were walking out of the tunnel in your 1st MLS game for the Fire ?
Jalil Anibaba: I was anxious of course, but ready to prove myself. Ready to prove that I belong at this level and that I was there to compete. Therefore, I was thinking about winning.
Justin Godsey: You socred your 1st MLS goal vs the Colorado Rapids how hard was it scoring the goal ?
Jalil Anibaba: It’s always great when you can help your team win with a goal. It was a hard-fought match and I’m glad I was able to help us advance in the tournament.
Justin Godsey: In your 1st season with the Fire you set records for most appearences by rookie how does it feel to break that record?
Jalil Anibaba: It feels good to now have that experience under my belt and I hope to build on that moving forward. I have to be honest in saying that in my rookie season I had a few veterans in Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, and Cory Gibbs who took me under and their consistent advice helped me tremendously. Therefore, they are the reason I was able to reach such an award my rookie season.
Justin Godsey: Tell us about your style of play ?
Jalil Anibaba: I am a hard working defender that likes to keep the ball and play good soccer. I consider myself a vocal player as well and I use my voice on the field to build bonds with the players around me.
Justin Godsey: How has the Fire coaching staff help you prepare for the upcoming season ?
Jalil Anibaba: This offseason was good for me because I was able to focus on individual aspects of my game such as speed, power, agility, and stamina thanks to our strength and conditioning coach, Tony. That allowed me to come into camp with a good fitness base and I was ready to start this season off right.
Justin Godsey: What are we to expect out of you in 2012 ?
Jalil Anibaba: I hold high standards for myself. This year one can expect me to seek improvement on a daily basis. Constantly raising my individual level within the realm of our team objectives will hopefully help us obtain our goals in 2012.
Justin Godsey: Welcome to the 1st ever interview here on, On The Hot Seat today we have Rodrigo Lopez who currently plays soccer in the MLS and plays midfielder. Over the past 6 years Rodrigo has played soccer in the MLS for Chivas USA and as well as the Portland Timbers, Rodrigo has also played soccer down in Mexico and California until being resigned by the Timbers this past year. Please enjoy the interview with Rodrigo Lopez and welcome to On The Hot Seat. Please read the personal questions to Rodrigo later on in the interview.
Justin Godsey: Tell us how you got into playing Soccer
Rodrigo Lopez: My Father played some pro soccer in Mexico, so since i could walk my father placed a ball on my feet. My first soccer team was at age 4 at a local Boys N Girls club.
Justin Godsey: Growing up did you watch Soccer at all? if you did what team and why?
Rodrigo Lopez: I grew up watching Mexican soccer and of course some european soccer. Chivas was my favorite team growing up so i wouldnt miss a game on TV. Eventually when i took trips down to Mexico i would go to stadiums and watch live.
Justin Godsey: At the age of 2 your parents moved to the USA and moved to Santa Barbara is Santa Barbara a big soccer city?
Rodrigo Lopez: Santa Barbara is a big soccer city. Proven with the UCSB Gauchos attendance.
Justin Godsey: Going through your High School days have you ever dreamed on becoming a professional Soccer Player?
Rodrigo Lopez: Not just through High School, i always dreamed of becoming a prof. soccer player. Many kids growing up didnt really care about soccer, it was more like Basketball, baseball, or football. For me it was Soccer. Never played any other sport at school.
Justin Godsey: In 2007 your chance of becoming a pro Soccer player came true when you signed a contract with Chivas USA what was your parents and your reaction to making it?
Rodrigo Lopez: My first Prof Contract was at Age 16 (2005) with Chivas Guadalajara. I had to leave school after just finishing up my sophomore year. I would be leaving my family. It was a tough decision for me but at the end of the day it was the best decision i ever made. I dont regret it one bit. Chivas Mexico is the biggest club team in all of North America! being part of the organization was a dream come true. Teamates with now the best players in Mexican soccer. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Marco Fabian de La mora, Carlos Vela, etc. To answer your question, Leaving Home at such a young age was hard for my parents but at the same time they were very proud of me.
Justin Godsey: When you appeared on Chivas USA field how nervous were you to play in your 1st MLS Game?
Rodrigo Lopez: Down 3-0 Vs DC United MLS cup champions. I was terrified! hahaha. Also, the best moment in my life. I thank the whole Chivas USA organization for giving me that opportunity and to coach Hans Westerholff. This was a good year for me i also became part of the USA youth national teams. Winning MILK CUP in Ireland and being called to most of camps. Representing your country at any age or sport is dream come true.
Justin Godsey: In 2008 you joined the Ventura County Fusion how excited were you to join the squad?
Rodrigo Lopez: To be honest i didnt know what to think of it, i had just been waived by Chivas USA and i needed to stay in shape so i contacted coach Graham Smith and he was delighted to take me on board. Ill tell you what though for a PDL club these people know what they are doing. THey are on top of everything run things the way a profesional team should be ran.
Justin Godsey: You scored your 1st Pro Goal with Ventura how did it feel getting your 1st goal?
Justin Godsey: How do you keep in contact with fellow fans?
Rodrigo Lopez: I try to stay contact via. Facebook or twitter. Try to keep people updated with what im doing what goes on in my life.
Justin Godsey: Do you play the Fifa Games? If so do you play as yourself ?
Rodrigo Lopez: Yes i play Fifa. I dont play it much but i am Good at it. I dont play with my own character. Usually when im home in the Off season is when i play the most against my brother. My record against him is legit.