For many of the current Vancouver Whitecaps players, last night’s Manchester City friendly was a dream come true.
Every footballer wants to play against the best players in the world. Some never get to, so that’s why the players want to make the most of any opportunities that they do get.
As a supporter, those that read this blog will know I’m not a big fan of friendlies in general, but especially mid-season ones. What fans like me tend to forget though, is how much these games mean to the players, especially the younger ones and those who may not get many of these opportunities in their careers.
AFTN caught up with Wes Knight, Jay Nolly and Mustapha Jarju after the City game and asked them what they thought of the experience.
Wes Knight played the second half of the game. As right back he had to contend with some big name players tearing down the wing at him, or in Mario Balotelli’s case, lumbering along crashing into anyone that got in his way.
We started by asking Wes how the experience was for him:
“It was a bit of a dream come true. Man, I’ve played with multiple players on that team on Fifa and to finally be on the same field with them, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
And I’m not going to lie, I was nervous till I touched that ball for the first time.
What a great experience and I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life.”
Wes was on the end of a pretty hefty challenge from Balotelli. How did he feel to become the latest member of the exclusive, but growing, club of players that Balotelli’s kicked?
“(laughs) Yeah. I don’t think he expected me to get to the ball as quickly as I did and he kinda just stuck his leg out. It looked a little bit worse than it really was. He’s just an intense player and sometimes he just comes in a little late intentionally but I got a lot of respect for him. He’s a world class player and I was fortunate enough to trade jerseys with him at the end of the game.”
Was that the jersey he wanted from the game?
“Well yeah, you know, despite some of his shenanigans he’s a world class player. When he turns it on, it’s sometimes a level above. He’s still young, so it can be something that could grow in value over the years and I’d like to continue to watch him.”
So will the jersey be framed and put up in his house?
“Absolutely. I’ve traded jerseys with a lot of players this year and in my career and I think that every one of those is just as important as the other. Everyone in their own mind is a great player and for sure this will be one of the ones at the top of the list.”
Jay Nolly was the only Whitecap to play the full ninety minutes and turned in a fantastic performance and some strong saves, that will surely see him challenging to regain his place in the starting line up.
When AFTN caught up with Jay at Sunday night’s pre-match press conference, we asked him how he felt lining up against some of the biggest names in the English Premiership:
“It’s exciting. You can’t really worry about results in these types of games, it’s more the experience. You’re matched against the FA Cup winners, who are going to be in the Champions League next year. It’s time to test yourself, see how you do. Hopefully we’ll get up for it pretty high and give them a tough test. You never know what can happen in these types of games”
Indeed you don’t, and the Caps certainly did give City a tough test, with Jay keeping out Man City’s multi-million pound players for 67 minutes before they were finally able to break down Vancouver’s defences.
When we caught up with Jay after last night’s game, we asked him if the whole match had lived up to his excitement and expectations:
“Yeah, definitely. Especially with the fans. The fans were excellent. They were excited the whole match. Even late in the game when we were losing, they were standing on their feet and cheering and that’s what you want. You want an atmosphere like that.”
“It’s one of those, you’re kind of sad when the game is over cos I was having a lot of fun.”
For one Cap, last night’s game was special on many levels.
New designated player Mustapha Jarju made his Whitecaps debut and looked pretty sharp in the half he had on the pitch.
Not only was this his debut and the chance to play against some of the best players in the world, last night was also Mustapha’s 25th birthday.
AFTN asked him if it was a nice birthday treat:
“Yeah, it was nice because it was difficult. They are a good team. We were steady. It was a very good test for us and now we can prepare for the Wednesday game, and that’s the most important thing for us.”
Great to hear and I’m sure the fans will agree.
Hopefully the performance against Man City will give the squad some of the self-belief back that must have been slipping after the current poor run of form.
They certainly showed they are a good squad, who can mix it with the best. What they need to do now is to get the season back on track and finish it as strongly as they can.
With displays like we saw last night, I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to do that.[*** You can see AFTN’s photos from last night’s game on our Flickr account and our general thoughts about the game and the experience HERE ***][*** You can read AFTN’s Match Report on the game on Prost Amerika ***]