Whether it’s the high proportion of Internationals or athletes at Stanford, football (soccer) seems to be far more popular on campus than most places in the US. Apart from the hundreds that play pick-up or organized football weekly, many more are intense followers of the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, or UEFA Champions League. The especially dedicated supporters of Stanford Soccer, DC United, or Blackburn Rovers might know of an athlete who captains New Zealand’s national team, Ryan Nelsen.
Nelsen, Political Science ’01, transfered to Stanford for his Junior year, but was still MVP and All-American in his two years playing for the Cardinal. After playing in the MLS at DC United, he made his way to arguably the best football league in the world, the English Premier League. His experience at the club level with Blackburn Rovers was enough to earn him captaincy of New Zealand’s squad as they qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The thought of a Stanford graduate playing in the World Cup is thrilling. Many Stanford athletes have made their mark on the Olympics in the past, but creating world-class footballers is especially impressive simply because America tends to struggle on the international stage.
Unfortunately, in this past weekend’s round of matched in the EPL, Nelsen picked up an injury which could keep him out of the World Cup. Although still unsure of the severity, with the World Cup a mouthwatering four months away, any serious injury might force Nelsen to watch his team from the stands.
Let’s hope Nelsen returns to full fitness as soon as possible so we can see him represent, although not our country, at least our school at the most popular sporting event in the world.
The World Cup starts June 11th. New Zealand plays Slovakia first on the 15th, while the US begins the tournament taking on rivals England on June 12th.