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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 10:06 GMT
Friedel builds for the future
By Chris Bevan

Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel
Football in America is a mid to upper-class sport and I want to change that

Brad Friedel

A career in management or the media is the preferred option for most footballers when they end their playing days - but Brad Friedel has bigger ideas.

While the veteran Blackburn goalkeeper has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet, he is already building a 4.2m football academy that will carry his name and promises to revolutionise the sport back home in America.

The 35-year-old is keen to give under-privileged youngsters there the opportunities in the game that they would otherwise miss out on.

The plan is to provide the USA's first free year-round residential football school which will also be a base to young players recruited from around the world - and will fund their development with scholarships.

Some familiar names from the Premiership in the shape of Barry Venison and Scott Sellars are on board as directors of the project.

And following five years of planning the state-of-the-art facility in Cleveland, Ohio - where Friedel grew up - will be ready in August 2007.

Friedel told BBC Sport: "Anyone who generally goes over to America to do this sort of thing goes to take money off people.

"We have done it in a different way and gone for Federal State local grants and gained sponsorship so we can go out to get the top young athletes and train them as academies do around the world.

"It will be predominantly for Americans but we have scouting networks all over the world and the mix will be about 60-40.

FRIEDEL FACTS
Born: Bay Village, Ohio
Age: 35
Clubs: Brondby (94), Galatasaray (95), Columbus Crew (95-97), Liverpool (97-00), Blackburn (00-06)
Liverpool games: 36
Blackburn games: 273

"Football in America is a mid to upper-class sport and I want to change that."

Friedel has been running summer soccer schools in America since 2003 but a year-round academy was always his ultimate aim.

He has taken a hands-on approach in the camps he has run before but is still completing his coaching badges - as well as turning out for Rovers - and does not feel qualified to do the same when the academy opens its doors.

"This isn't just a run of the mill camp set-up where you pay your money and you get in," he explained. "These are elite players we are talking about and they need to be coached in the correct manner.

"I think one of the most difficult areas of coaching is in youth development.

"I have hired three coaches that are going to be there on a full-time basis that have between eight and 25 years experience of coaching and development.

"I do not have the expertise to do that at the moment. Maybe in the future I will, but now it would be unjust for me to say that I will be coaching the kids because I'm not a coach."

Friedel came through the college system in the USA himself before moving to Danish side Brondby in 1994.

Work permit problems stopped him joining Newcastle or Sunderland and he eventually moved to Turkey with Galatasaray - where he met Venison - before returning to America's Major League with Columbus Crew.

Premier Soccer Academies will provide the highest quality soccer education, experience, training and enjoyment to talented soccer players without regard to economic or social condition

Premier Soccer Academies' mission statement

He eventually got the chance to move to England with Liverpool in 1997 but it took his move to Blackburn in 2000 for him to establish himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Premiership.

Now Friedel is keen to see young talent get the same chances he had to make it in the game.

"When I do get a good player to come out, if they are good enough to go to Europe we'll try to do that, or Mexico or South America," he said.

"But the great thing is that we have a lot of options to try to help the kids out.

"If they are not ready or possibly not good enough to go into the professional game then we have a fantastic university system over in the states that they can go into and get an education."

Friedel has an unmistakable passion for his project but - luckily for Blackburn fans - it is matched by his desire to extend his playing career here as long as he can.

"I've got this season and next season left on my contract - and it all comes down to what the club's needs are and what my personal needs are at the time when my contract's up," he said.

"All I can say is that if I feel the way I do now in 18 months time then by all means I'd want to stay.

"I try to look after myself and I anticipate myself feeling good for at least an extra season."

SEE ALSO
Brown is ready for Friedel battle
28 Jun 06 |  Blackburn Rovers
Friedel signs new Blackburn deal
15 Sep 05 |  Blackburn Rovers
Friedel quits international scene
07 Feb 05 |  Internationals


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