Our Everton Man - Anton Peterlin
When Anton Peterlin was 16 years old he called himself "Alex" and played for the San Francisco Seals U17s. That must seem like ages ago to the 22 year old Anton Peterlin who just signed a contract with Everton. Yes, that's "Everton," of the better known team, of the English Premier league (EPL). Anton played for the Seals almost exclusively over the next 5 years during the Spring and Summer seasons until last Summer, 2008. That Summer he hooked up with the Ventura Fusion and Coach Graham Smith who introduced him to Everton FC, of the English Premier League.
One might ask: how does a local San Francisco kid, who is virtually unknown in the larger world of soccer, sign with a team like Everton, a near impossible achievement? The EPL has strong barriers to the entrance of Americans into their football leagues. Anton, though, is not just an American. He's also a Danish citizen and his European passport allowed him to circumvent the strongest barrier to Americans who are trying to break the "iron curtain" of EPL football. But Anton needed more than a passport. He also needed to break down another formidable barrier than seems as strong as the EPL formal restrictions that keep out almost all Americans except for a few members of the United States National Team. Anton needed to convince the Brits that he can play the game. That's a tough one. That means credibility. The handful of Americans currently in the EPL struggle (except for our goalkeepers who are among the world's best). Undeterred by all this, and rejected by the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes, Anton took off for England and tried out. To nearly everyone's amazement, except for those who are familiar with Anton's exceptional determination, not to mention his growing acumen in the sport, Everton signed him to a contract.
But this is not a simple story: Just about anyone who knows anything about soccer, or "football" as it's called nearly everywhere else in the world, wants to know how does an American make it to the Big Show in England. Make no mistake, it's a Big Show, considerably bigger in profile, fan fever, and cash spent than the American brand with the same name. Comparing the best of the EPL with the best of the NFL reveals the truth of the matter. For the price of Manchester United, $1.8 Billion Dollars, one could purchase both the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. Just ask Forbes who publishes this kind of information. And here's a less well known fact to muddle over that makes one scratch his and her head. Americans own the biggest and best of the EPL franchises. Let's put this crazy piece of information into historical perspective.
Many think Americans naive, even stupid, when it comes to the economics of the sport of soccer. After all, Americans have run so many soccer franchises into their graves, there are too many to reliably count. Americans have turned wasting money on this sport into an art form. I mean, come on, look at the NASL, the pre-historic monstrosity of an investment in a sport that fell so dramatically that some thought the species would never again resurface on American soil. Yet, like some Jurassic park experiment, some knuckleheads brought it all back and called it the MLS. For 14 years they've struggled to survive and for 14 years they've lost money. Again?!!!! What did Albert
Einstein say about insanity? Something about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Isn't it "enough already"! Isn't the MLS a genetically engineered species doomed to be herded into the bone yard of the NASL, the WSL, APSL, and all the other SLs bleaching their skeletons in the hot sun of humiliation, folly and waste?
Maybe not. Maybe the expectation of a different result wasn't quite as insane as it has appeared for so many years. Fact (check it out): the Seattle Sounders are averaging more fans in attendance than the Seattle Mariners. What!! Is it real? Can other clubs do this? Someone asked me the other day, "Did you see the MLS game at Real Salt Lake? What an atmosphere!" Can soccer make money in the United States after all? Some would say "no" if you have to pay David Beckham $5.5 million per year to play for a team that may not even bring that much in for ticket sales (yes, his total income is much, much greater, but than the published number). But others may note that the same team, the LA Galaxy, just played in front of 93,000 fans at the Rose Bowl, albeit the opponent was Barcelona, perhaps the greatest collection of footballers in the history of the game. Revenues to a game like that are serious. It's possible that with TV and sponsorships, total revenues reached $10 million dollars. I'm speculating. Okay. But anything near that and we're talking some serious cash. We're talking financial potential. The trick is still: how do we get enough to pay Beckham's salary?
And how does this relate to the "Cinderella" story of Anton Peterlin.
Well, my soccer friends, the world of this sport IS changing. Anton Peterlin's signing is somewhat of a bell-weather event. The sport is growing in the United States and the Europeans have taken notice. They want a part of the action, and that may be what the sudden growth spurt, including the signing of less well-known players like Anton Peterlin, is all about. Bridges across the Atlantic in the World's game are getting built. And yes, the possibility that this latest foray by well meaning investors may be more like genius than folly. And what is more, the attitude that Americans don't know what the hell they're doing in this sport may be coming to an end. Manchester United is owned by a guy named Glaser, and he lives in Tampa Florida. He's an American. Aston Villa (100%), Liverpool (100%), and Arsenal (25%) are owned by Americans. Maybe some Americans get it after all! Maybe more kids from the streets of San Francisco, St. Louis, Miami and Boston will be looking towards a career in the sport. Maybe Anton is just the beginning.
We, of the Seals, as you can imagine, are very proud of Anton, even though we tend to call him "Alex," his nom du jour of days gone past. We remember his grit, his determination, his level of commitment and his passion for the game. He has the "right stuff" to be a great footballer and we are very proud that his dream has come true in ways that he could only have imagined. We would also like to introduce you to him with a few snippets from Anton himself in response to questions posed to him by Paul Sheirich, the author and manager of www.oursfseals.com. Here are his responses to some questions:
Our Everton Man Anton Peterlin - Interview
Sheirich - A lot has to happen in an individuals career to get an opportunity like you've received. What are the top three things that you can look back on and say; those were key contributors to your achievements to date?
Peterlin - The top three things that I can look back and say are hard work, practice, practice and more practice, and finally a belief in myself. I would also say that people that I have met over the years have inspired and taught me what it takes to play at a professional level. For instance getting the opportunity to go and play in Osnabruck with the Seals when I was younger was a good eye opener and also re-established my desire to play football in Europe and at another level.
Sheirich - As you went through your trial period at Everton, you must have been nervous at first. How did you find yourself transitioning into the "grove" of the trial? How easily did you settle in? Was it dramatically different to previous experiences here in the States?
Peterlin - I was nervous the first day with Everton, but luckily I got to train with the reserves and got into the grove of things. The reserves are a very good side and it was a good way to get introduced to the speed of play over here in England. Then I got to train with the first team the next day and that was an even greater demand. It has been interesting settling into a new environment but luckily they all speak English, which makes the transition easier. It wasn’t too dramatic since I have lived in Europe a good deal of my life when I was younger in the summer in Denmark and Slovenia. So I was very welcoming to the change.
Sheirich - Looking back on the experience of the trials, what would you liked to have changed, and why, and what advise would you offer to anyone else who was to receive the same opportunity?
Peterlin - I wouldn’t have changed much actually, it was a really good week, watching Everton play in the FA cup 5th round and see them beat Stoke as well. There is a really good atmosphere around Everton and the organization. All I can say is that if you get opportunities, make the most of them. Sometimes they don’t go they way you thought they would, but don’t give up, go to another trial and keep believing. I went to the Quakes and Fire preseason camps and didn’t get an offer. I learned that failure is a part of learning. Always work hard. Luck is definitely needed, but you can create some for yourself.
Sheirich - Has Everton set expectations for you? Will you be playing reserves, or working with the first team?
Peterlin - There are no set expectations at this time. I have been here now for a month playing with both the reserves and first team. I have practiced a great deal with the first team and look to train more with them as the season progresses.
Sheirich - What are the top challenges you feel you will face living in England, and begin to settle in with the team?
Peterlin - I hope to break into the reserve game lineups. From there I hope to join the first team trainings and, then, make the sidelines in first team games. The top challenges are getting used to the physicality of football over here. It is more physical than in the US.
Sheirich - Did your experience with the Seals contribute to your growth as a player in any particular way?
Peterlin - The seals experience did contribute to my growth as a player. Playing with players like Shani and Kimtai and other top quality players taught me not to hide from the game and play with something to prove. I also have to say that the trainings were very good and Tom always had good teams with great players. I used to watch the Seals when I was younger so being able to play for them when I was older was a great experience. It’s an experience that can never be taught.
Sheirich - How did your experience as a college player prepare you for a professional career? Would you recommend a US College experience as a preparation to a professional career?
Peterlin - The college experience did help because we trained every day more than once, which is what kids do over here. So yes I would recommend the college experience but would recommend living in Europe. College taught me how to be more physical, think faster, learn to travel and experience the pressure of 11,000 fans.
Sheirich - Anything in particular you want to express about yourself, your expectations, or about others that you'd like to share with us and our readers?
Peterlin - I expect to play hard and get stuck in. I want to make a good mark on Everton and play with the first team, but for now to make a strong stand in the reserves. Football over here is completely different from the states, in the sense that the entire country is immersed in football, and it’s a vital part of the community. Everyone that loves football, should come to England and watch a EPL match and see for themselves, especially Everton’s games.