Our Game. Our Stories.
The essence of soccer is captured in the fact that it connects a wide variety of people in a dynamic way. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are profiling 20 individuals who have made a significant impact on the game of soccer or who have been impacted by soccer in a positive way. Here, we will show you the diversity of the beautiful game and how it connects everyone as one universal team...Together, We Are Soccer.
This is our game and these are our stories. Be sure to visit our site every week to see who we feature next!
Marcin Gortat is a professional basketball player who began his career in Europe, playing in Poland and Germany before making his debut in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2007. At 6-foot-11, Marcin plays as Center for the Washington Wizards. Born in Lodz, Poland, Marcin comes from a family of talented athletes. His father, Janusz, was a two-time Olympic boxer and his mother, Alicja, competed as a volleyball player for the Polish national team. From a young age Marcin was involved in athletics, and although he pursued a career in basketball, he played soccer in his youth and remains a big fan of the sport.
Did you grow up playing soccer? Which position did you play?
Of course. That’s the first thing you do in our country is play soccer. It’s the most popular sport. Not the most successful, definitely. I started soccer when I was 10 years old as a goalie.
At what point did you decide to focus solely on basketball?
When I was about 17 years old. It was just day-to-day; something hit me and all of the sudden I started feeling love for basketball. I come to soccer practice and shoot, you know with a soccer ball, shoot the basket and that was the time I decide to change.
Soccer is considered the world’s game. Why do you think this is the case?
Well, I think the Champions League; you know all the competitions in the world are so big. Obviously, soccer games have a lot of fans. The base of the fans is huge. Every game especially in England, Spain, you got at least 30, 40, 50,000 people watching every game. So it’s huge. The [fan] base is much bigger than basketball.
Soccer has the potential to change lives in ways both big and small. How have you seen the game make a positive impact on youth?
Every sport does. [Sports] put you in a situation where you can learn something, you can work on your body, you can work on your skills and you can develop mentally, physically, psychologically. You’re in a group. You learn how to cooperate with your teammates.
We hear there are many soccer fans in the NBA. If you could create a soccer dream team of fellow NBA players, who would you choose and why?
I got a few picks I would definitely take. I would definitely take Steve Nash. I mean, incredible soccer skills. I was fortunate to play with him on the court and on the field. I would take Nene - I heard he’s pretty good. I would take Mickael Pietrus - he’s a soccer player…Leanrdo Barbosa - he is also Brazilian - I would take him. I’ve seen him play. Probably Jan Vesely, he’s my man right here. He loves soccer too. I would have a pretty good squad.
Predictions for the 2014 World Cup?
That’s a tough question, but Brazil. Brazil looks very strong. Spain is really strong. I wouldn’t be surprised about Germany. They are always a big team. But I personally am going to go probably with Brazil. Brazil is probably going to win it. I’ll probably stick with Brazil.