Ammann Doesn't Mince Words
By Mark Lincir
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.
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
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
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.
Now at 90soccer.com
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
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?
90:00 Was it different playing
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
90:00 Is that a good thing
AMMANN I would say so.
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