• FIFA Legends Lindsay Tarpley and Ryan Nelsen have spoken to FIFA.com.
  • They will be assisting the draw for the Olympic Football Tournaments this Wednesday.
  • On the program: memories and anecdotes of the Olympics, players to follow

During their respective careers, Lindsay Tarpley and Ryan Nelsen have often shown that they are capable of handling high pressure situations. This Wednesday, they will be subjected to another form of pressure as they will proceed to the draw which will determine the composition of the groups for the Olympic Football Tournaments for men and women.

The two former players are ideally placed to take part in this key stage on the road to Tokyo 2020. Tarpley won two gold medals with the American selection, in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. In Greece, it had also opened the score in the final.

As for Nelsen, he was the captain of New Zealand for his first Olympic campaign, in Beijing 2008, where the Pacific Islands had drawn with the PR China in opening. Two years later, he was still wearing the armband when his country grabbed the first point in its history in the FIFA World Cup ™, thanks to a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in South Africa 2010. In London 2012, he was still captain of Oly-Whites, who had taken a point in favor of their draw with Egypt.

Today, the two former champions train and raise their offspring. Nelsen talks about the joys of experiencing these events as a supporter, while joking about the realities that await athletes at the end of their careers.

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“Real life is slightly different from what I knew when I was a professional footballer,” he admits. “It feels weird having to pay to go to the gym or that sort of thing, it’s a scandal!” He laughs.

When she’s not trying to capture the attention of her son and daughter on the pitch, Tarpley is a business owner. With a few former players, she started a company: “It’s funny to see how football shapes our lives. I realize that these experiences have defined who I have become.”

Regarding drawing experience, it is Tarpley who will give tips to Nelsen since she participated in the Concacaf Qualifying draw for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in the fall of 2019. “For suddenly, I’m going to rely fully on Lindsay, “announces the New Zealander. “I’m in a panic! I’m known for tripping over the rug and letting things go (laughs) !”

Olympic memories

Lindsay and Ryan had always dreamed of playing the Olympics. “Kid, when I watched the Olympics, it felt like a long way away, like an event taking place on another planet,” says Ryan. “It was unimaginable that this would become a reality. Indescribable. I never thought it would happen to me. When you become an Olympian, it is for life. No one will take it away from me.”

Tarpley grew up admiring Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and other Tisha Venturini, whom she says led the way. Later, she was lucky enough to have them as teammates: “Even today, I use the things I learned from them on and off the pitch”.

Olympics Day -1 - Football
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Little Lindsay who watched the Olympics on television grew up and ended up passing her gold medal through the metal detector at the airport alongside the athletes she admired as a kid.

Nelsen says: “Compared to the United States, we were much further down the medal table! (laughs). For any New Zealander, it is already a great accomplishment to participate. When you saw them against the best in the world, they usually boxed above their category. They were showing what they had learned in school, they were making their dreams come true, so it’s really something special. “

Nelsen insists on “the purity of the Olympic Games, which are not polluted by commercial considerations”. For him, “everything is in the mind, like during the FIFA World Cups”. As for Tarpley, it emphasizes the “feeling of unity” they convey.

Taped by Federer

Any Olympian will tell you that the opening and closing ceremonies are unforgettable moments. Well Named. But what makes the Games unique is their ability to bring together athletes from different sports in one place. Tarpley speaks of the sense of unity that she has inspired to represent her country with athletes of all sports.

Nelsen, meanwhile, will never forget his meeting with a tennis star.

“I remember seeing Roger Federer in Beijing. I was staring at him like I was an unbalanced fan or something! It was really embarrassing. He could tell I was staring at him way too hard. It was. a pretty awkward and very tense moment. He must have thought he was going to be murdered and I was in complete ecstasy. I’m catastrophic at tennis, but this guy is a living legend. “

The Best FIFA Football Awards - Portraits
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To be continued

Nelsen and Tarpley will of course pay even more attention to their respective countries during the draw. The New Zealand men’s selection is preparing to play its third Olympic Games. As for the women’s team of the United States, quadruple gold medalist at the Olympics, it will seek to do better than in Rio 2016, where it was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

“New Zealand has some very good youngsters,” said Nelsen. “When I was playing half the squad were amateurs and now they’re all pros so New Zealand are starting off on a better footing. The great thing about New Zealanders is that nobody waits nothing from them. It works in our favor. “

“If I look at the teams in the men’s draw, I think it’s going to be interesting and very tight. There are a few big teams, but I see a few underdogs creating surprises. Keep an eye out for Liberato Cacace. I believe in a few years he will surely become one of the best left-backs in Europe. He is an extremely talented youngster. “

Liberato Cacace of New Zealand celebrates after Elijah Just of New Zealand (not pictured) scores his team's first goal
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Contrary to Oly-Whites, the Americans will not be outsiders. Rather, we expect them to run for a fifth gold medal at Tokyo 2020.

“I think they need to focus on what lies ahead,” Tarpley said. “I love the way they play. Tactically and technically they are extremely talented. It’s going to be interesting to see who Vlatko (Andonovski, the manager) gets in his list of 18 and how the mayonnaise takes.”

“I can’t wait to see them play again. Women’s football has come a long way around the world. The Olympic Games are going to be a great showcase for all players to shine.”

“The Americans have a lot of experience in their management, but they also have a lot of young players who are talking about them. If I had to name two, it would be center-back Abby Dahlkemper and forward Sophia Smith.”

USA v Paraguay: Group C - FIFA U-20 Women's  World Cup France 2018 - Sophia Smith of USA looks on in the tunnel
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Fans around the world and delegations from all 28 teams will be able to follow the draws remotely on the FIFA YouTube channel, Twitter (@ FIFA.com), Facebook, Weibo and WeChat (FIFAOfficial).

Broadcast live, the event will be presented by British journalist Samantha Johnson, presenter and correspondent for TRT World in Istanbul. She will be joined by FIFA Legends and draw assistants Lindsay Tarpley and Ryan Nelsen, as well as Jaime Yarza, director of the FIFA Competitions sub-division, and Sarai Bareman, director of FIFA Women’s Football, who will lead the male and female prints respectively.

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