The former Liverpool Football Club star and current club ambassador is in town this week with the Liverpool FC Foundation holding soccer clinics at schools and youth groups around the city while the team plays a series of exhibition games. We asked Rush to explain some of the lessons he’s sharing with the kids, and to talk about soccer in America and at home.
‘I had a good chat with [John Henry]. . . . He aims to make Liverpool and the Red Sox great again. I think he’ll do whatever is in his power to do that.’
Q. What’s the purpose of the visit?
A. Well, we’ve got the Liverpool Football Club Foundation here, and speaking to Linda [Pizzuti Henry], she’s very big into the [John W. Henry Family Foundation] in Boston, and it’s like working with local people and trying to get them interested in playing soccer and teaching them the right way. It’s an education, but not just about soccer, about everything.
Q. We keep hearing that one of these days soccer in America is finally going to catch up to other sports. Where do you see it now?
A. Well it’s catching on. From the national side, they recently qualified for the World Cup, and the stronger the national side, the better the professional league will become. Even all the top players going to Europe to play helps soccer in America, as do all the MLS players like Beckham and all that, they’re trying to promote it. At the end of the day it’s about getting the younger generation interested at an early age so most of them will move on and play. Eventually that will only be better for the national side.
Q. How would you compare Boston to Liverpool?
A. Well it’s my first time to Boston. I’ve been very impressed. I would definitely come back again. The people are nice. It’s different from Liverpool. Boston seems to be a friendly place.
Q. What’s something about Liverpool that most Americans probably don’t know.
A. Liverpool today is really different than Liverpool 10 years ago, especially since [2008 when Liverpool was designated that year’s European Capital of Culture]. There are more people coming to visit, there’s a great shopping center, there’s the docks in Liverpool. There are a lot of famous comedians from Liverpool, then obviously the Beatles, and the football club. That’s what people in Liverpool are passionate about.
Q. Do you have a sense that the sporting cultures are similar?
A. Yeah, very much. I think from a soccer point of view Liverpool is very passionate, and we went to the Red Sox game the other day and I noticed how passionate the Boston supporters are. For me it’s been interesting getting to see things from behind the scenes. Obviously, both Liverpool and Boston would like to be in better positions than they are, but you still find a lot of supporters. The time will come and they’re both going to be great again. Now is the time to get behind the two teams.
Q. John Henry is the owner of both teams. What’s your impression of him?
A. I had a good chat with him the other day talking about how to improve Liverpool. He’s a very successful businessman and he aims to make Liverpool and the Red Sox great again. I think he’ll do whatever is in his power to do that; we’ve just got to be a little bit patient and you will get there. It’s a great thing that he’s come and taken over Liverpool.
Q. Has the game changed much since your time with Liverpool?
A. Yeah, I think it has changed. It’s obviously quicker, the pitch is like carpet now, the balls are lighter, the boots are lighter. Add all that together and the game is quicker. But there’s still 11 people on each side, the pitch is still the same size. But I think it has changed. People say to me, “Could you play in today’s game?” I think great players can play in any year, that’s why they’re great. A lot of it is down to the mental approach.
Q. Will you be back home in time for the Olympics? Do you like England’s chances?
A. Yeah, I’m going to see them. It’s a great stage for Great Britain, something that might never happen again in my lifetime. . . . I think Brazil is very strong, and Spain, they’re probably the favorites to win. I think if Britain can get a medal they’ve done well. It’s very hard to get past Brazil and Spain in football.