In the latest of our exclusive blogs, we corner a star of the New York Red Bulls soccer team and shoot them a few questions about life in New York and New Jersey and playing in the MLS. Today's player on the spot is defender Carlos Mendes.
Name: Carlos Mendes
Born: Mineola, New York – December 25, 1980
How and when did you start playing soccer?
I started when I was four or five years old, my dad put me in one of the local programmes in Long Island. New York – I grew up here, so that’s how I started playing soccer.
'As I became a defender I’ve liked Portuguese players like Carvalho'
And how comes the passion for soccer? Why didn’t you choose one of the ‘typical’ American sports like basketball, American football and so on?
Well, my family and my parents are from Portugal, so soccer is in my blood. They loved soccer very much and gave me the reason to play this sport… I really enjoyed it and, as you can understand, I couldn’t stop it now! [Laughs]
Which players did you most admire when you where younger?
Hmm, let me think… Diego Maradona, definitely… and more recently, I guess, as I became a defender I’ve liked Portuguese players like [Ricardo] Carvalho, who is a tough defender and very good for the national team too.
And are there clubs you really like besides the New York Red Bulls?
Yes, absolutely. I grew up as a fan of Benfica… because as you know my family is from Portugal, and this is a kind of tradition.
'I just love the atmosphere in New York'
What makes the area around New York and New Jersey special to you?
As I said, I grew up here… New York is home to me, my family and my friends are here. I just love the atmosphere in New York, the diversity of the people here… I just love it, it’s just my home. [Laughs]
So what is your favorite hotspot in New York?
Well, I lived in Manhattan, now I am living in Long Island, but when I lived in Manhattan I really loved SoHo and Greenwich Village. I just love music, and there are some good places for music there. Now, in Long Island I just spend a lot of the time at the beach. That’s also great.
What does it mean for you to play for the New York Red Bulls?
This means everything to me… this is my home, so I am happy that I have the opportunity to play here at the New York Red Bulls. I can play in front of my family and my best friends. You know, I’ve been here at this club since I was seven years old, and I hope that I can finish my career here if things go well. I love the people here and the atmosphere, and I think as a club the New York Red Bulls are just one of the best in the MLS or maybe the best club in the League.
'I think we have the best soccer stadium in the country'
What would you say to somebody who has never been to a game at the Red Bull Arena. Why should he or she come to see the New York Red Bulls?
I think we have one of the best… no, actually, we have the best soccer stadium in the country. It is a very special atmosphere there during a game. Our team are really developing and I also think that the MLS itself is getting better and better. So I think that people who are not fans of soccer or of our team yet should come to the arena and see if they enjoy the game as much as I do, or as we at the New York Red Bulls do. It is definitely worth coming to the stadium in Harrison to see us play… this sport is growing and growing in this country and that is great.
Who is your best friend in the team?
Er, actually I don’t know… I don’t really have best friends in the team. I am kind of an outcast, nobody likes me [breaks into laughter]. No, seriously, they are actually all good guys, the young guys are a good group of guys. I’ve known Dane Richards for years, but I get along with everybody quite well and that’s good.
How do you chill out away from team-mates and soccer?
I think that it is really important to get away from the game… you have to relax mentally. I mean, it is a really long season, so I also need some time for myself. You know I mentioned it before, but I love music, I play music myself, so when I try to relax, I play guitar or drums, and that’s the best way for me to think of something else and get the head free… that is really important for me. .
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