For fans of other sports and other leagues they might be in for a surprise about the rather approachable and friendly nature of a Major League Soccer player, and particularly of Seattle Sounders FC.
This willingness to talk enabled me to catch-up over the phone with Steve Zakuani after a dinner with several of his teammates. We chatted about life as a youth in America, his transition to the city of Seattle and of course his game. What follows is my 10 minute conversation with a player who should be making an impact on the pitch quite soon for the Sounders.
Dave Clark: You've been in Seattle nearly a week so far, what have you been doing with your non-training time?
Steve Zakuani: Mostly apartment hunting so far looking at [various neighborhoods around the city], also seeing the sites, the Market and Space Needle. I have also spent quite a bit of time at SouthCenter Mall.
DC: You may have noticed that Seattle has a thing for coffee, do you have a favorite?
Steve: Being from England I'm mostly a tea drinker. Classic Lipton with cream and some sugar.
DC: Growing up in the Arsenal system I figure you still watch the league and the team?
Steve: Arsenal is my team, but following them has slowed down a bit. I still check their site a 2-3 times a week and try to find highlights online on match days, but I haven't followed as much since moving to the States. I'm a big soccer junkie really following Bundesliga, Italy, France, Spain and of course the Premier League. I haven't followed the American league as much until now.
DC: I had the opportunity to talk to another team's coach who was at the Combine and he talked about you being a guy who would play with the ball at his feet and running at guys in space, a winger rather than target forward. I immediately thought of Ljungberg with Arsenal. Is that how you would describe your game?
Steve: When I was with Arsenal we always played 4-4-2 with me on the left wing. It was only at college here that I moved to a forward role as that's where they needed me. I enjoyed playing on the left, and coach [Sigi Schmid] noticed that liked to drift to the left area even in the forward role. I like facing guys up and beat them with moves and through space. Coach has asked me to prove to them what I'm doing and where I should be. I would like to play on the wing, but if they need me up top that's where I will be.
DC: You said that with the Arsenal Youth system you always played the 4-4-2, do you have any idea where coach is headed concerning the formation?
Steve: Hard to tell as this roster isn't the final. There are still guys coming and going so we haven't talked tactics must as its a bit early to tell. Maybe in the preseason games we will have a better idea.
DC: Every player dreams of representing their country, on a youth team, Olympic squad or ideally with the Senior Men's team. You now have ties to three nations, do you think about where you would like to play?
Steve: London is my home town, but my strongest ties are to the Congo. That's where I was born and where my parents are from, where my family lives. If I had the opportunity that is probably what I would like to do is represent Congo at some point.
DC: With family in London, family and friends scattered around are you thinking about getting them out here for a match?
Steve: The Opener, it going to be huge for the city and the team. I'm trying to get as many of my friends and family here as possible. Its an important day.
DC: I've had to deal with having friends and family at long distances. You just had dinner with several of your team mates, is that helping deal with the distance?
Steve: Since Seattle is a new team most guys are not from here, so we just do regular stuff. Hang out, go to dinner, play video games. Maybe it will help us as a team, as when somebody says to us that we need to do something different it won't be seen as criticism, but just one of the guys.
DC: I'm a video gamer too, you have a favorite?
Steve: Fredy Montero brought his system and has Pro Evolution Soccer. That's the most popular one over in Europe where here you play more FIFA [from EA Sports]. We've already had a decent tournament and I did quite well beating Khano, Jarrod, Fredy and than James Riley. Khano already wants a rematch.
Steve Zakuani, #1 Draft pick and just one of the guys.
While Congo born, and London raised. Zakuani's future is as a Sounder at Heart.