With the MLS season reaching its finale this weekend, we caught up with a man who has helped lead the charge on football across the United States. An ambassador for the G-Form brand, Robbie Keane took to LA to meet fans in support of the protection product he puts his name too.
Another season comes to an end, what does the close season look like in LA for you in comparison to your Premier League days?
“It’s kind of different really, I usually will go back to Ireland to spend time with the family. It’s obviously different compared to when I was in England because the season there finishes in June so it’s not the same weather but for the last four or five years I’ve been able to really enjoy spending Christmas at home. In England, your busiest schedule is over that Christmas period so in the time I’ve been over here, I’ve been able to enjoy Christmas in a new way for me. I definitely prefer the way I have it now.”
Obviously the season didn't conclude with the silverware you might have liked but it was another strong one personally. Can you still feel that power and desire in the legs?
“Oh yeah, of course. I always say it but when you have that hunger and desire like I do and the passion to still play the game and you enjoy and love what you do, it’s something that makes you different to everybody else and certainly for me, I know I’m at an age where in football people would usually think you’re finished but I’ve definitely got a good few more years left in me. A lot more goals.”
You've been instrumental in elevating the league, how does it feel to be a significant part of MLS history?
“It’s definitely something I’m proud of, of course. I’d like to think that in football, you’re judged on what you do and certainly as a striker it’s always going to be based on scoring goals but then as a team it’s about how many trophies you win. I’ve been very fortunate in the last five years I’ve been here to have won three championships which I’m very proud of. If I can leave this league and the Galaxy with a legacy, which I think I will have done, that’s something I will certainly look back at in years to come and be very proud of.”
The fans are on another level out there. Have you seen support of that nature anywhere else in the world?
“The fans have always been great to me in LA. I think it goes both ways in terms of how you’re doing on the pitch and how well the team does. Like any fans, they’re obviously very important to the club and how the club is structured going forward. I think for LA Galaxy fans, they’ve always been great for me.”
The lifestyle is obviously pretty unique in LA. Is that something you and your family took to well?
“Yeah of course. The thing you’ve got to understand is that I’ve played football for nineteen years now. Since I was 17 I was thrown into the limelight and obviously with that, you’re well known - certainly in England and Ireland. So to come to LA and experience a different side of it has been special. Over my time here, the league has certainly grown and the LA Galaxy name just keeps getting bigger, but that level under the spotlight personally is not the same as what it is like in England. Every two seconds in LA, there are big names and celebrities everywhere. You can go down a road and go to the shops and restaurants and ultimately relax a little bit without having to worry about people trying to video you and stuff like that so it’s different but in a good way and we’ve all enjoyed it.”
Obviously it's a big mental challenge as well as physical move to up sticks and settle out there. Was it straightforward for you in adapting to the new surroundings?
“I think I mentioned when I first came out to LA that I wasn’t coming here for a holiday, I’m coming here to do something big, and I did that. Winning three championships in that time kind of speaks for itself but yeah, it’s LA after all. There wasn’t too much to adapt to, it’s a great place to be, perfect for the family and a great place to live. Sunglasses in December was something I welcomed.”
We can't help but mention Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who have both now left the MLS. What do you think it is that you possess in your game that has helped you stand out on such a strong stage?
“It’s a big loss for the MLS to lose two absolutely massive players. Steven is a good friend of mine so to lose him as a friend as well as a player in him retiring - it’s a big loss for the game on the pitch of course. For me though, like I said, as a striker, you’re ultimately measured on how many you score. Scoring goals is what I do. If I wasn’t then people would be questioning me. In my time here, I’ve been lucky to have scored over 100 goals and I’ll continue to do that. If that makes me stand out then great, but I see it as just doing my job.”
In your time over there have you noticed changes on and off the pitch with the MLS?
“Oh yeah definitely. When I first came to the team, if you look at the attendances going to games, most teams had probably about half of their stadium full. In the past five years, most stadiums are full for every match now. I think that goes to show the growth of the MLS and with that, it helps with the big players who have come over too. The influx big European players coming over to this league, to be able to play in front of full houses has been able to help them.”
The European game is naturally very physical, how would you describe the style of play that you come up against in the US?
“It’s very hard to compare because if you take the Premier League, that’s the greatest league in the world. There’s no question about that. The MLS is very physical. The lads are very very fit. There’s a lot of energy certainly and it’s a tough league. It’s maybe not as technical as the Premier League but in the desire and the work rate along with the heart they players show, they have that in abundance.”
You're a forerunner where G-form are involved but the product is a no brainer in combining revolutionary function under the sock. What appealed to you about the product initially?
“Growing up, every player as a youngster in my time didn’t know anything different than the typical hard-shell shin pad. If you look at what G-Form have produced, it’s basically putting a sock on that is comfortable and most importantly, protects you. So I think for people to look at and they can squash it, it’s weird to see but I’ve been very fortunate to wear them for the last two years and in that time I’ve had zero injuries anywhere near the shin. It’s something I’m very proud to wear but for young kids and something I think is very, very important, the last thing you want to see as a parent is for a kid to get injured. My son wears this product so for him to wear it, I have to be 100% behind the product which of course I am and I’m very proud to be an ambassador for them.”
Having used them for a good few years on club and international level, you've experienced the benefits first hand, what do you like about them most?
“Overall, the comfort. If you asked most players, most players don’t really like wearing shin-pads. They can be uncomfortable and this is basically like another sock underneath your sock so this is very comfortable and you don’t really notice it. I definitely don’t notice it at all but it’s there and it gives you the protection you need and any professional player needs.”
Talking an international game, what were those final minutes of your last game for the Republic of Ireland like?
“It was emotional. I think it was probably more emotional for the family. They had a box at the stadium and all my brothers, sisters, mum, aunties and uncles were there. My wife and two kids were there. So for them it was probably more emotional. When you’re out there playing the game, it’s hard to get emotional because you’re in the moment. It’s something that I’ll look back in the future. It was strange because when I think back to being thrown into the national team and then before you know it, you’re retiring. It’s something every kid dreams of - playing for the national team. I’ve been fortunate enough to do it many, many times. It was emotional but certainly more for the family. I just enjoyed playing the game.”
Do you think about that decision to retire from the international game at all? You had such a strong innings.
“No, it was the right time for me. I’ve got no regrets about it. I can’t have regrets about something where I feel I’ve achieved a lot with the national team. I think if I had stayed on, I would have been prolonging my international career for the sake of it and that’s the last thing I wanted to do.”
Looking to the future, are there any milestones you're determined to achieve before you call it a day?
“No I don’t think so. I think I’ve achieved everything I could have ever wanted. I play the game because I love the game. It’s not to beat more records or anything like that, I just love what I do. You get paid for something I love to do. After I finish playing, it’s of course probably a natural progression, given the opportunity that I go into coaching. I’ve done my coaching badges already but for the next couple of years, I’ll just keep enjoying playing the game myself.”
Does stepping away from the international game keep some power in the tank for the club level?
“It’s only been a couple of months and the season has only just finished so I don’t really know just yet because it’s still so fresh. Maybe next year I’ll be able to answer that.”
When the European season carries on while you're now on post season, do you get those pangs or thoughts about going on loan back in the U.K. or abroad?
“Nah. I’ve done that. I’ve been there. Having now officially left the Galaxy, it’s about me finding the best, next move for me and my family. In January I’ll be with a new team and I’m looking forward to it.”
How much is that fire still burning in the belly when you think about the game? Is it still your number one passion?
“Oh yeah, of course. There’s no question about that. As I mentioned before, I love doing it. I wake up every morning and I’m looking forward to going to training. As soon as that leaves me, I think it’s probably time to call it a day but right now, I’m not even close to it. I’ve got a new adventure that will be out there in the next few weeks so that will definitely keep me more motivated to do something I love doing.”
Where does your mind go after football, are there some things personally you have your mind on when your playing days come to a close?
“Not so much. Most of all it’s about keeping the family healthy. I’ve been brought up in the game. I was thrown into it at fifteen and I left Ireland when I was fifteen to go to England. So I’m always going to be involved in the game somewhere along the line. Whether it’s coaching or playing, I couldn’t leave the game. I wake up every morning, excited to go and play. I think when I finish, I’ll wake up excited about the feeling of being able to get out there and help other players progress and develop in their careers.”
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