Story of a… Professional ‘Footballer’
For Englishman Anthony Pulis, 27, Orlando is a land of opportunity and cheerful people.
“The crowds in England are very passionate, because in England their favorite sport is football, though here you call it soccer. But here you’ve got your NFL and your basketball, your baseball, your ice hockey, and then probably soccer.… So it’s a bit different here.”
The son of a soccer club manager, Pulis grew up in England and began playing professionally at age 19. He played midfielder for 11 British teams, including some coached by his father. Pulis signed with the nascent Orlando City Soccer Club this year with hopes that the team, which plays in a developmental league, will join Major League Soccer as an expansion franchise.
“It’s a big wide world, isn’t it? I’ve never lived in a different country, and I fancied a challenge and the experience of living in Orlando. I just thought, ‘Well, I may never get this chance again abroad.’ So here I am.”
“What I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is that soccer is getting bigger. We’ve been training a couple of times late in the evening and when we’ve been leaving [the field] the amount of kids that have been there has been ridiculous. And there were girls as well. I didn’t realize how big girls soccer is over here. So there’s a market for soccer and hopefully, fingers crossed, we can get to the MLS.”
Naturally, he doesn’t share a common American view that soccer is boring. “Soccer is a really quick game with a lot of action and a lot of goal-scoring opportunities. It’s really fast, intense.… A really great game.”
Orlando City plays home games at the Citrus Bowl, with its regular season running from April through August. Pulis isn’t accustomed to playing in front of sparse crowds and in intense heat, as he did during preseason matches in February.
“Because of the heat, after 30 minutes of our first match I was tired. Everyone’s saying wait until we get to the summer with the humidity. It’s going be tough.”
During the season, Pulis lives and eats on the club’s dime. However, when the season ends, he’ll have to fend for himself. He expects to find a job as a coach with Orlando City’s youth soccer program.
Pulis can’t get over the difference between the locals and folks back home: “Everyone seems to be so happy. I just went into a Publix last night to get some food and the woman at the checkout and the lady with the bags, everyone was just so happy. Back home, you go into a supermarket and there’s just frowns on all of the faces. It must have to do with the sun.”