Football notes: Inside Real Betis’ toy toss; Weah and Paredes on USMNT wave; Benfica against loan armies; more


Another busy week of soccer is almost at an end and CBS Sports has brought you several exclusive interviews this week with the likes of Timothy Weah, Kevin Paredes, Andres Guardado, Pedro Marques and Adel Taarabt. Here are a few more interesting tidbits that was left on the cutting room floor.

Weah enjoying American wave

Lille and USMNT’s Weah might not be having the best season and LOSC just lost to Chelsea in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie but that is not stopping the 22-year-old from admiring his fellow Americans across the continent.

“Watching all the guys in Europe doing their thing, like watching Brenden [Aaronson] and others, is inspiring,” he told CBS Sports. “It is such a good thing to watch and see our progression over the years. So many Americans are playing in Europe now and a lot of us at a high level. I watched Sergino [Dest] in the Europa League the other day and it was just refreshing to see us playing top soccer and I really take pleasure in playing these guys.

“We talk about it in-camp and have a little rivalry going on. It is fun but also keeps us competitive and hungry. Most importantly, though, we are happy for each other and happy when we see each other excelling in Europe.”

Weah also spoke about how many of his USMNT teammates have been able to fully acclimate to their European clubs and life in countries away from the U.S.

“Everyone, depending on where you come from, will have a different experience,” he said. “I feel that some guys who have come over from Major League Soccer have had the time of their life. Look at the guys in Germany, Weston [McKennie], and Chris [Richards], they are basically German now. They had no problems while there are some others who might come over and have a bit of a culture shock.

“Personally, I came here young, was in school, and I was living in the academy at 15. That really helped me a lot. I learned the language fast and was forced to learn within a year which was easy for me. I did not have a problem blending in, but it comes down to background and where you come from.”

Paredes on ‘intense’ Bundesliga

VfL Wolfsburg’s Kevin Paredes is yet to make his full senior debut for Florian Kohfeldt’s men but has already noted some differences between MLS and the Bundesliga after his first few weeks with Die Wolfe.

“In soccer terms, the intensity and hungry each day from these players is something you did not see as much in the U.S.,” the 18-year-old told CBS Sports. “The lifestyle and everyday life are different, as is the culture, but soccer-wise it is a whole different aspect. Everyone is here to win in training, win all the time and crush the opponent to get the three points. This is the environment I want to be in as I also have that mentality to win. I want to show my best qualities, so this is the perfect place for me.”

It also amused Paredes to discover that his teammate Aster Vranckx was guilty of a viral sensation horror miss while he was still plying his trade in Belgium with Mechelen.

“I have seen that video, but I had no clue that it was Aster at all,” he said. “Jerome (Roussillon) showed me and pointed out that it was Aster, and I was like: ‘Oh my God, I have seen this clips thousands of times and I cannot believe that I am right next to you.’ It was so funny!”

Paredes also rejected the idea that there was a weight of expectation and almost a duty to follow the well-trodden path between MLS and Bundesliga when it came to leaving D.C. United.

“I did not feel the pressure or any sense of duty when the offer came,” he added. “I knew it was going to come because of how much work I put in during the season. It could have happened at any moment, but I did not feel any pressure. I was very proud of what I have done and what my family has done for me.”

Betis’ admirable approach

Real Betis are winning friends and admirers on and off the pitch each time they play at present, and we caught up with Foundation director Rafael Muela who explained to us why Los Verdiblancos’ soft toy charity initiative is so popular.

“One of our directors had the idea when they saw it at another club, perhaps in Austria or something, so we did it,” Muela told CBS Sports. “The Foundation is focused on taking care of kids in the area and that is one of our main objectives whether it is health, poverty, basic needs, or education related. Since we saw that, our supporters are really involved in everything that we want to do for the kids, and we really believed it was feasible and would be enjoyable for fans at our matches.

“We met with security and decided to communicate that no toys with batteries could be thrown for safety reasons and since then it has been going very well. We have done three and it has been really satisfying and many organizations know that we do this — they link to us and contact us because of it.”

Muela also sees the Foundation and its work as a way of giving back to the community which has made Betis so popular despite a relative lack of silverware.

“For me, I would say that it is crucial along with the results in the competitions and everything,” he added. “We really believe that the club owes society all that it is, and we are all here because the fans supported us to keep the club growing and even stayed with us in the bad moment down the divisions. To thank more than 100 years of that we so these things which show real commitment.

“It is something in the DNA and although I try to always be humble, we truly believe that we are special. We do not know why so many people have Betis as their second team and why they love it when we win and smile when they think of us. I think we are achieving what we set out to do and want to keep growing and to help more people.”

Veteran Mexican international Andres Guardado agrees and is particularly proud of having been part of this initiative over the past few years.

“This is the third year I get to experience it with Betis,” said the 35-year-old exclusively. “We were supposed to do it every year but of course because we were dealing with the pandemic for a year and a half, so we were not able to do it. In my five seasons here, we have been able to do three. It is something that people may think is dumb, but it is something truly beautiful.

“It is a vibe that you feel in the stadium where everyone goes with their toys, where kids go with their toys, the people, the grandpa, because they know it is for a good cause. They know it is for kids in need, so they have a toy for Christmas for Three Kings Day and on dates that are important. The ambience that you take in on that day is beautiful.

“As a player that is inside the locker room, you come out at halftime because that is when they throw the toys, you come out and you see toys all over the pitch. It is something that even makes you want to take one of the toys for your kids. But I will say it again, the most special part of that day is the ambience you breathe is of unity, that we are all here together to support a good cause and of course when it is one, five, 10 it is neat but when it’s 40,000 toys together it becomes something special.

“It is done in different ways, and it depends on the year. Betis has a foundation which helps different causes. Through Betis’ foundation, these toys are designated to go to different places because it is thousands of toys and not all of them go to the same place. Sometimes they go to different parts of Spain or outside of Spain depending on which foundation they choose to give them to.

“If it turns out that it is something close by, players can go and hand them out and we have gone to hospitals to give them, to houses with kids that have no home and places like that. Normally, the foundation takes care of all of that.”

Marques slams loan armies

Benfica technical director Pedro Marques is less than impressed with the widespread “loan army” approach of many big clubs which sees talent stockpiled and often spoiled as opposed to the Portuguese giants’ more organic approach.

“Many clubs use that strategy of loans,” he told CBS Sports. “One important reason we prefer our approach is the transition from the academy to the first team. Sometimes the gap is too big because those clubs are loaning players who suddenly jump from youth levels and suddenly need to be integrated in the first team.

“If you look at the top five leagues, the first-team demands are always very high. We are fortunate that we have under-19s, under-23s and the B team in the second tier playing against grown men. That is a great space for them to compete and grow.”

Marques also revealed the challenges facing Portuguese clubs up against other youth development powerhouses such as France.

“It is very small,” he said. “If you look at the facilities and infrastructure, I think the processes are long term. We focus more on the people getting the best resources starting with players and our scouting network recruits the best players which then gives them the best talent training. After that is the methodology and how you manage competition when they are with us and first team opportunities.

“It takes time and is complex and can be affected by culture changes too. Those things always affect the different setups in Portugal, England and France, for example. We feel that Portugal is a hotbed for talent considering the population. More than looking at facilities, there are lots of other factors contributing towards establishing an academy and process.”

Taarabt talks talent

Senior star Adel Taarabt, who started in the 2-2 midweek draw with Ajax Amsterdam in the UEFA Champions League, revealed that he enjoys the responsibility he and his fellow veterans have been trusted with and is not thinking beyond the end of this season for his future.  

“Of course,” said the Morocco international of being a mentor for the club’s youngsters. “I try to do this every day with the academy players who come and train with us. Benfica has one of the best academies in Europe. I am happy to give advice and like doing that.”

“No, not yet,” Taarabt said on the possibility of finishing his career in France or his native Morocco. “We will see at the end of the season. I am happy here and just focused on finishing the season in the best possible way. After that, we will see.”





Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.