The Interview: Michael Bradley

Finn O'Hara/Sportsnet magazine

Let’s hear your favourite TFC cheer.
> It’s not a cheer, but when the fans sing the Canadian national anthem, it’s unbelievable. I didn’t know they did that. For the first home game, we walked out and the woman started to sing, “O Canada,” and that’s where she stopped—the crowd took over. It was special. I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences in stadiums, but to be in the middle of that was definitely up there.

And you know all the words, right?
> Um, no. Not yet.

Michael, you need to work on that.
> I’m still trying to learn the words. Don’t tell anybody.

OK, I won’t. How many times do you figure you’ve been asked why you chose to come play in MLS?
> A few, that’s for sure. It’s a natural question. But this idea that just ’cause I’m back in MLS, my career’s over, that I’m a worse player than I was before, that part is a little bit ridiculous.

What was the courting process like with TFC? That must have been fun.
> The courting process. [Laughs.] I knew that the way things had gone at my old club, Roma, I was going to need to start to look elsewhere. I needed a new challenge. [My agent] came back and said, “Listen, Toronto FC would kill to have you.” I spoke to everybody here. For me, anything you do in your life, you want to surround yourself with people who have the same ambition, the same drive as you do. Without that, you’re nothing. I got the sense from everybody here that the way things had been done up until now wasn’t good enough, and they were ready to do everything to change it.

This team has never been to the playoffs. You knew that when you signed up for this, right?
> Yeah.

OK, good. Is TFC ready to end the drought?
> Absolutely. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that.

You turned pro at 16. What would you be doing if you weren’t playing soccer?
> Probably coaching.

What if soccer didn’t exist?
> Good question. Soccer does exist. [Laughs.] I don’t know. When you’re lucky enough to love what you do every day, I don’t think I’d be able to do any old thing. It’d get old quickly.

Your dad is a well-known coach. Does he call you up and say, “Michael, you need to use your left foot more”? Does he give you tips?
> Yeah, we talk about the game all the time. My games, his games, games we watch on TV, different players, every team. It’s what we’ve done for as long as I can remember. When I was little, he’d come home with tapes and we’d sit down and watch and talk.

The TFC fans are pretty raucous, eh?
> Amazing. I knew that before—that was part of the reason I came. The potential here is incredible. It’s funny, I saw an interview that Tim Leiweke did where he said the same thing. Just after he got here, he spoke with people who had worked for the Leafs, or the Raptors or Toronto FC, trying to understand where things have gone wrong. You hear people talk about all the negatives, the weather, Canada…

> The fact that you’re in Canada, not the United States, you know. Taxes, all these kind of things. What [Leiweke] said nobody mentioned was the potential. And that’s why I’m here, because I see the same thing that he does. Everything is in place and now it’s just getting things right on the field.

Do your teammates have a nickname for you?
> They might call me something behind my back, but I don’t know. [Laughs.]

What about Il Generale. Wasn’t that your name with Roma?
> I don’t know where that started. I don’t have a good answer for you on that one.

I heard it’s because you’re a leader and you dominate the midfield. Accurate?
> Ah, I certainly hope it’s part of it. I try to be somebody who isn’t afraid of walking onto the field saying, “We’re gonna win today.”

How long could you play a game of keep-up, by yourself?
> Um, I don’t know, a few minutes, probably.

What? That’s it? I thought you were going to say an hour.
> An hour’s a long time.

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