Guest Post: Rick Liebling talks Premier League from an American’s perspective…
Danny Karbassiyoon, along with Frank Simek, are the only two Americans to have played for English football powerhouse Arsenal FC. Danny’s Arsenal career as a player includes a memorable goal in his first senior match for the team, playing in a squad that also included international stars Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. Although Karbassiyoon’s career as a footballer was cut short by injuries at the incredibly young age of 22, he continues to have an impact on the game and on Arsenal. As a U.S.-based scout for the club, he’s uncovered talent for the Gunners and will soon be releasing a book, The Arsenal Yankee, about his experiences in world football. I caught up with Danny K to find out a little bit more.
Rick Liebling: First, tell us a bit about your time with Arsenal?
Danny Karbassiyoon: I joined Arsenal in 2003 as a striker at an incredibly special time. As an 18 year old, I thought I knew quite a bit about the world and football in general, but I realized quickly I had loads to learn. My first year at the club was difficult for me. Transitioning to life in England and at one of the world’s best teams wasn’t easy. On top of that, the first team set a standard so high that they went the entire season unbeaten, making it even more difficult to break in and make an impact. About 3/4 of the way through my first season, I was asked to play left back in the reserves and ended up making the position mine. I finished the year strong and returned the following season refreshed and far more confident. I managed to make three appearances for the first team in the Carling Cup, scoring the winner against Manchester City away from home on my debut. The second game I played in was against Everton at Highbury, so getting the chance to play at such an historic ground was remarkable. Finally, I also got to play at Old Trafford against United, the game that proved to be my final first team game for the club. Despite getting released at the end of my contract, I had learned an incredible amount and left with my head held high.
Why did you decide to write a book?
About four years after starting my professional career a recurring injury to my right knee forced me out of the game. I returned back to the States and began my scouting career shortly after. I noticed that while on the road, many people routinely asked me the same questions: How did I get scouted? What level was I playing in the States when it happened? What was the day-to-day like as a pro? What was getting to train with the ‘Invincibles’ [Ed. Arsenal’s unbeaten side of 2003-04] and guys like Thierry Henry like? I’ve always enjoyed writing and have consistently kept a journal. As a means to remember my time in England, I began writing and it soon turned into a bit more than just a bunch of notes. With the book I hope to educate soccer fans everywhere about life as a pro (for the non-superstars!) and also help people realize that anything is possible.
Tell us about your work for Arsenal as a scout?
Shortly after returning to the States, Steve Rowley (our Chief Scout and the scout that initially brought me over) called letting me know that he had spoken with Wenger and that they wanted to offer me a job as a scout in North America. I took them up on the offer and have spent nearly a decade scouting for the club in North America and now London.
What has been your experience with Arsenal fans in the States?
Arsenal fans never cease to amaze me in the States. I’ve been to various supporters clubs around the country and no matter where I go, the support is incredible. I’m lucky enough to know some pretty great fans here in London that were born and raised in North London, just minutes away from Highbury and now the Emirates. To know that there are fans equally as passionate thousands of miles away from the heart of it is fantastic. It was very obvious several years ago when the team came to New York for pre-season how much of an impact Arsenal makes globally. People from everywhere poured into the city for various events and it made for a wonderful, Arsenal-fueled weekend.
Naturally, after having found both Gedion [Zelalem, German-born U.S. national player] and Joel [Campbell, Costa Rican national player], the appreciation from fans for what I personally do for the club has grown even more, which I am very thankful for.
What’s something UK or European football fans don’t know or understand about the football scene here in America?
I think many don’t understand just how much the geography of our region and country has to be taken into account when it comes to both scouting as well as the style of play in the States. Many teams in England take buses to every game (even though sometimes they can be quite long journeys) whereas nearly every game for some teams in MLS is a flight. Playing through the summer also makes the style of soccer played a bit different than the super fast, very intense style of the Premier League.
What’s next for Danny Karbassiyoon?
A friend of mine and I started a company several years ago and we continue to push on with it. Our goal is to help bring fans even closer to their favorite players and clubs and with our mobile game, Fury 90, which is still in development, we are looking to do just that. We have raised money from some big time players including Jerome Boateng, Luiz Gustavo, Philippe Senderos, Ale Bedoya, Mo Edu, and several others so we are excited about where we headed. Ultimately, we want to provide value to the fans as well as the players that inspire them.
Danny’s book should be a great read, make sure you pick up a copy
Rick Liebling is an independent sports marketer with a focus on soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @Rick Liebling (https://twitter.com/RickLiebling)