Additional highlights from my conversations with Gino Padula, who grew up in Argentina, played professional soccer across Europe and in the U.S. and now runs a soccer academy for kids on the northeast side of town.
My whole family is in Argentina still … I have my mom, dad, brother, sister, cousins … everyone is there. When I played I visited them every year. Now I visit as much as I can, but the last time I visited Argentina was July 2012. I miss them a lot. But it's hard to find time now. Going for a week … for me, that's nothing. I have a daughter who's 6 and a little new member, Noah … he's only less than two months. Traveling with kids … it's a little more complicated! But I expect to go for Christmas 2014.Transitioning to the U.S.
I always have one point of view. Some players move to different counties and leagues and they expect the league and the people to adapt to them. In my opinion, they are wrong. You have to adapt to the league, you have to adapt to the country, you have to speak the language. So for me [having played for eight years in England] that was easy.American soccer
Of course the English league is very strong, very physical. The French league is not as tough but very competitive. When I moved here to Columbus, soccer had started to grow, but only a few players moved from Europe to here, like Beckham. I think this league is very competitive. People around the world can't imagine how soccer grows in this country. I love this league. I think here in this country you have so many sports. But in the last eight years soccer has grown so fast.The MLS Cup
I arrived here in Columbus in April, and the season had started in March. By July we felt like we could do something important for this city. We had a great coach … Sigi Schmid was one of the best coaches I've ever had. He knew what he wanted. And he knew how to get the potential from each player.
In the beginning people didn't expect us to make the playoffs. But during playoffs we knew we won the MLS cup. I remember the game we played here against Chicago-we beat them 2-1-that night on the field we felt like we won the MLS cup. We knew we could win it. And when we did, we made too many people happy here. Still today I have fans come up and thank me. I think we made some history here in Columbus. I love Columbus Crew. I love the club, I love the fans.Starting the SP Soccer Academy
When you are 32 or 33 years old, you know you only have a few more years to play soccer. So I was thinking about opening a soccer academy here to bring something fresh and different. After I decided not to play soccer anymore, in February 2011, I decided to move here to Columbus with my family and open this academy.
I didn't have too much information about youth soccer when I came here. This is a new world. You can't imagine how much I've learned in the last two years. Talking with the kids, talking with the parents … it's an entirely different world.
I had a lot of help starting the academy. Willie Crawford and Alan McKnight [with the Columbus Recreation and Parks department] helped us a lot. Also, Tony Collins, who's the director of Gahanna's Parks & Recreation Department.Coaching young players
We want the kids to do their best and win. A winning mentality is different than a pressure to win, though. Too much pressure isn't good. "Become Better" is on our motto. I feel very happy when I see the kids improve.
There's too much drama sometimes around youth soccer. And I think we all need to relax sometimes because kids, they just want to play. I remember when I was 10 years old … I just wanted to play.
My daughter has played with the academy for two years … she started playing [in the] U4 [age group]. She loves playing soccer. In my house we always watch games. I'm sorry, but I don't have any idea of football or baseball … I don't know the rules. That's new to me.