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Home|Mike Ammann Interview

Mike Ammann Doesn't Mince Words

By Mark Lincir

Current cover image. Shortly after college, goalkeeper Mike Ammann left the sunny shores of southern California to give his game a shot in England. What followed, were two seasons in the English First Division with Charlton Athletic in the mid 90's; then a trip back across the Atlantic to the United States, where he played a half dozen seasons in Major League Soccer for Kansas City, the MetroStars and D.C. United.

The 33-year-old Cal State Fullerton product still has plenty of memories from a career that was cut short due to injuries, but they're not all pleasant. The Virginia resident has had surgery on both elbows, got reamed a new hole by an angry fan during a post-game dinner in England, and was on the wrong end of a challenge by a former MLS forward that had everyone crying foul except the referee and ended up putting him in the hospital for days.

On the brighter side of things, he was a big hit in England before exceptional American keepers started getting taken for granted, and he was also an MLS All-Star. Just because his playing days are over, doesn't mean the fire in his belly is gone. In fact, his passion for the game may be running hotter than ever.

90:00 Was it tough being forced into retirement?
AMMANN It was a killer for me. It's what I've done my entire life. To not go out on your own terms is tough. It's still tough to watch games, cuz you say… shit… I could still be out there. Part of the pain was that, and also of being castoff. I didn't get a call from anyone after I retired. But that basically sums up the League. They don't get it.

90:00 What don't they get?
AMMANN They don't know how to treat people - they don't treat the players well and they don't treat the fans well either; they just keep bumbling along. Until they get people who understand the game involved in it, it's always going to be that way. It doesn't have to be the former players who were stars; it just needs to be someone who understands what the desires of the fans are.

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90:00 You officially retired from Major League Soccer a little less than two years ago. Did the League throw you a retirement party?
AMMANN Oh yeah, right... I think they were glad to see me go!

90:00 Do you have a pension from the League?
AMMANN No. You're left to fend for yourself. Fortunately, I had a degree. But look at the Project 40 guys. What are they going to do? If I didn't have a degree, I couldn't have gotten the job I did.

90:00 What do you do now?
AMMANN I work as a Federal Channel Manager for Hitachi Data Systems. We sell computer hardware and software to the government.

90:00 Did playing in MLS leave you with a bad taste in your mouth?
AMMANN I have some unbelievable memories and it was a great experience. I played in these great cities - but the way I went out was kind of disappointing. You can't go and say anything while you're playing because they'll blackball you or something. There's no conversation between the League and the players; I speak to guys now and they say nothing has changed.

90:00 How did you end up playing in England?
AMMANN My last year at Fullerton we got to the Final Four. After that, I got a call from a guy who lived in Chicago and worked for Charlton Athletic and he told me that they would like me to come over and try out. What idiot wouldn't take an opportunity like that?

Mike Ammann.

90:00 Was it different playing overseas?
AMMANN I had always lived close to home - so it was somewhat of a shock. I walked around the first three months with my jaw wide open. You're fighting foryour job everyday in practice. It's pretty exciting. I wish I had gone over a little later in my career so I could have appreciated it a little more. I didn't like the weather; I just didn't know to stick it out. I regret it some and then I don't. I learned so much in my time there that carried into my play here.

90:00 You were supposedly a popular figure over there. How did it feel to be big-time?
AMMANN I loved it. They took a liking to me - I don't know why - but it was great. The pressure was intense. I remember sitting at dinner after a game in a restaurant and this guy came up to me and just reamed me for two minutes and I was thinking, do I beat this guy up? What do I do? Finally, the manager came over and took him away. So the lesson was, when you lose a game, you go straight home.

90:00 Did being a public figure ever get old over there?
AMMANN No, I actually enjoyed it. I didn't have people knocking on my door or following me around. The only thing that gets to you is that when you lose, people are going to give you a lot of shit.

90:00 Is the food in England really that bad?
AMMANN Hell yeah! The worst part is that the restaurants close at certain times of the day, so if you're hungry at two in the afternoon, you're screwed. The beers are good though.

90:00 Did you adapt an English accent when you were over there?
AMMANN I would say no, but friends of mine would say yes. Part of it was that you pick up the slang words, and if you don't say it correctly, they're ruthless. I'd pick up words and I would bring that back home with me. I don't think you really have a choice. I think it's a natural thing.

90:00 Do you daydream about the glory days at your real job? Does it screw up your head for the rest of the day?
AMMANN Yeah… when I get your damn magazine sent to me at work. (In fact, I'm looking at it right now.) But nothing that would cause me to say, I don't want to work today.

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90:00 Would you ever invest in an MLS team?
AMMANN Not the way that it is right now. I would if it were individual ownership.

90:00 Who do you despise the most from your playing days in MLS?
AMMANN Tampa Bay's Mamado Diallo. He came in on a thru ball, I got to the ball and he was still five yards away. He still came in on me and went cleats up, then dragged his other cleat across my face. I broke three ribs, punctured my lung and had a concussion. I was in the hospital for five days.

90:00 Did he get suspended or anything for it?
AMMANN He got nothing! When the Review Committee watched the tape, they said the referee didn't see anything - there was no foul called - so nothing happened. That's when Mike Petke came out the next game and after scoring pulled up his jersey to expose his t-shirt that read "Crime of the Century" on it. He got fined for that. Guys were a little pissed about that. A guy puts a player in the hospital for five days - and it's blatant - and he gets nothing. But another guy lifts his shirt up and he gets fined.

90:00 Have you run into Diallo since then?

90:00 Is that a good thing for him?
AMMANN I would say so.

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