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Q&A with Landon Donovan
Soccer Now (AYSO)

Landon Donovan joined the San Jose Earthquakes at the end of March 2001 and scored his first Major League Soccer goal on May 19, 2001 against the MetroStars for a 2-0 win. During the 2002 season, Landon scored seven goals and made three assists, making him third on the team in scoring.

After a great start as an AYSO player, Landon went on to play club and high school soccer and was named to the 1999 Parade Magazine High School All-American Team. He played on the United States U-17 National Team and then joined the U.S. Olympic squad that took home a fourth-place finish in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

At only 20 years old (Landon will be 21 on March 4, 2003), Landon holds the record for being the youngest player from the United States to sign a professional contract overseas. He started his professional career when he signed on with Germany’s Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen in February 1999. He was also the second youngest member of the 2002 U.S. World Cup Team and the youngest player to score a goal at the 2002 World Cup.

Landon’s fame on the soccer field has made him a popular subject for the media. He has been on many television shows including Craig Kilborn, Dave Letterman, Total Request Live, Last Call with Carson Daly, MTV’s Road Rules/Real World Challenge, and Live with Regis and Kelly.

Landon took a break from his busy schedule recently to answer some questions from Soccer Now. Read what he had to say.

Q: Landon, how did you first get interested in soccer?
A: My older brother, Joshua, played with me from the day I started walking, according to my mom. Also, my mom said she initially signed me up with AYSO because I was hyperactive and she wanted me to burn some energy.

Q: What was AYSO like when you were a child?
A: AYSO was fairly similar to the way it is today, and it was ideal for me because I couldn’t get enough soccer!

Q: What did you learn from playing AYSO that you still use today?
A: I learned many of my early soccer skills, such as the basic dribbling skills that I still use as a professional.

Q: How did it feel to represent the United States at the World Cup?
A: Representing your country at the highest level is a feeling like none other in life. To be able to say I helped our team achieve its best ever finish in a World Cup makes me extremely proud.

Q: What is it like when you step onto the field for a World Cup game?
A: I have never been more nervous in my life than when I stepped on the field against Portugal in our first World Cup game. There is a feeling of absolute joy, coupled with nervousness, anxiety and amazement. (The United States team played five games at the World Cup. Landon started and played in all of them.)

Q: Do you have any superstitions or “good luck” rituals that you follow before a game?
A: I always listen to music before a game and I always kiss the two rings that my mom and sister gave me before the kickoff. (Landon has a twin sister named Tristan.)

Q: What is your favorite pre-game meal?
A: I like to have pasta, a little salad and some chicken for my pre-game meal. And I sometimes eat a cookie afterwards, just to make sure I don’t get too serious before the game!

Q: What is your favorite TV show?
A: My favorite TV show is SportsCenter, because I’m just a total sports junkie. (Landon is also into sports video games.)

Q: Who is your favorite movie star?
A: I like Jim Carrey and Bianca Kajlich.

Q: What is your favorite band?
A: Boyz II Men have always been my favorite group.

Q: What does the word “champion” mean to you?
A: A champion is someone who overcomes any obstacle and lets nothing stand in the way of getting what they want.

Q: Many people see you as a celebrity. How does that make you feel?
A: I have enjoyed the fame I’ve received, but I also understand that it could all be gone tomorrow. So, I take it with a grain of salt.

Q: Who are some of your heroes?
A: Wayne Gretzky and Magic Johnson have always been my heroes.

Q: What do you expect from your coach as a professional athlete? And how does that differ from your expectations as a child playing AYSO?
A: I expect my coach to motivate the team, because at that level you don’t need to be taught much, you just need to get up for the games. In AYSO, I just wanted a nice coach who would play me a lot and let us have fun at practice!

Q: If you couldn’t be a professional soccer player, what would you be instead?
A: I would probably do something in the sports industry, maybe a sports agent or a physical therapist or something of that sort. (Landon’s dad, Tim, once played semi-professional hockey, so being an athlete runs in the family.)

Q: Do you have any advice for young kids who want to be a soccer star just like you?
A: I always tell kids that they should have fun first and foremost. If they’re not enjoying it, they shouldn’t be doing it. Also, I encourage kids to always take a soccer ball with them everywhere they go, make it their best friend.

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