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!
One of the world’s most prolific goal scorers, Altidore made his professional debut in 2006 at the age of 16 with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer. He currently plays for Sunderland of the English Premier League and holds 66 caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Off the field, Altidore is a passionate philanthropist. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Altidore joined the relief effort by advocating for humanitarian support and aid. In 2011, Altidore launched the Jozy Altidore Foundation - a non-profit organization that assists underprivileged children around the world.
How old were you when you first started playing soccer?
I was 3 years old.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
Thierry Henry and Ronaldo.
Were there a lot of opportunities for kids to play soccer where you grew up?
There weren't many places for me to play growing up. I was fortunate enough to find a trainer in Josef Schulz, who moved from Austria and was trying to create a club to develop young players.
Who encouraged you to play? Was there a particular coach or mentor who stands out?
My father encouraged me to play soccer when I was young. He was a huge fan growing up in the Caribbean in Haiti. I was also good at basketball growing up, but in the end my parents wanted me to play soccer, as did I. The biggest influence I had in my life as a youth player was Mr. Schulz. He was a huge mentor. He talked about what it took be a soccer player and striving to reach the goal of becoming a professional athlete.
Why do you think it is so important for young people to be involved in team sports like soccer?
It teaches kids about team work and being unselfish. It helps you learn a lot about discipline as well as an individual. I think that's the biggest thing. You learn the right way to treat yourself, your teammates and the way you should respect the game.
At the U.S. Soccer Foundation, we strive to use soccer to positively impact the lives of children in underserved communities. Why do you think soccer is a great sport to use as a vehicle of social change?
It's the world's game. Everyone plays it in every city, town, village, borough and community globally. Soccer brings the world together. When the World Cup is being played, soccer unites everyone in all the countries. Everyone shows their pride. I think that's something special and only soccer can bring to the world.
What is your favorite soccer memory?
I would say my best memory would be scoring my first professional goal. It was such a surreal moment. It was in slow motion ... the whole play, watching the ball hit the net. It was the most amazing, genuine feeling I've ever felt in my entire career.
Through our programs, we encourage children to eat healthy foods and teach them healthy habits using soccer. What is your favorite healthy snack?
I love yogurt. You can always have fun with it, adding things to it. I love grapes, strawberries and other fruits.
What advice would you give a child who is just starting to play the game?
Just have fun. That should be the biggest priority and I still try to do that as a professional. Enjoy what you're doing. If you're not having fun, you're not doing the right thing and what's best for you.