Courtesy of DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund
Soccer fever has been rampant in New York City — and not just because the World Cup is going on. Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash hosted his third annual, free-to-the-public Showdown in Chinatown charity soccer game last week at Roosevelt Park in the Big Apple. Nash gathered some of his best friends in professional soccer and basketball — including Brandon Jennings, Nate Robinson, Tony Parker and Claudio Reyna — for the eight-on-eight futbol game to benefit The Steve Nash Foundation. SIKIDS.com spoke with Nash before the game to get his thoughts on everything from the World Cup to the upcoming NBA free agency period.
SIKIDS.com: Why did you start this charity soccer event?
SN: It’s for my foundation. My foundation is centered around children, and we have a lot of different programs and platforms around the world. This an event for the fans in New York City to get a free opportunity to come out and see some of the players they watch on TV playing basketball and soccer, and for them to get a chance to interact with them up close. That makes it a great atmosphere here in the city, and at the same time we raise money for kids.
SIKIDS.com: You were born in Johannesburg and just returned from South Africa to watch some early round World Cup matches. Tell me about your experience there.
SN: It was amazing. For those who haven’t been to a World Cup, it’s a wonderful experience. You have fans coming from all over the world supporting their teams, wearing their colors. And to see them all interact and descend on the same country — that’s what you take away more from a World Cup even more than the fantastic games and players. Just the fans and the excitement and passion they share.
SIKIDS.com: What’s your position on the vuvuzela [the horn that fans blow during games]?
SN: [Laughing] Oh, I’m for it. Let ‘em go nuts!
SIKIDS.com: How did soccer help you become a better basketball player?
SN: I’m really just a converted soccer player. I played soccer my whole life and I didn’t play basketball until I was 13. So, if I hadn’t played soccer, I don’t think I would have been an NBA player. [Soccer] afforded me so much as an athlete that I wouldn’t have been the same.
SIKIDS.com: In February you became the first NBA player in Olympic history to light the Olympic cauldron. How emotional was that moment for you as you represented your native Canada?
SN: It was great. The Olympics is an unbelievable event. Similar to the World Cup, it brings fans from all over the world. It’s a special atmosphere and to be able to experience both of those [events] in the same year was a lot of fun.
SIKIDS.com: Were you surprised that Suns general manager Steve Kerr resigned last week?
SN: It was very surprising. You know, I didn’t foresee that. So, we’re all disappointed, but now that it’s happened we wish him the best and we’ve got to move on. There’s no reason to hang our heads. We’ve got to just keep working.
SIKIDS.com: Your coach Alvin Gentry ranks among the lowest paid coaches in the NBA. Suns owner Robert Sarver picked up the option on his contract. You have been outspoken in your support for Gentry, do you think he deserves a raise?
SN: You know, that’s not my job. Alvin’s done a great job and I would put him up there with any coach in the league, so if he’s up for a raise then I think he deserves one. But it’s not for me to get into that.
SIKIDS.com: Your teammate Amar’e Stoudemire is one of the most coveted free agents heading into this offseason. What do you think is going to happen with him?
SN: Well I have no idea, but I hope Amar’e’s back. We all want him desperately to be a part of our team moving forward. He’s a huge part of our team, but we also want the best for him. So we want him to weigh his options, and hopefully coming back [to Phoenix] will be the best option.