Following New York’s final preparations for its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round clash against the New England Revolution Tuesday morning, we caught up with Red Bulls forward Andre Akpan.
With the Red Bulls and Revolution playing at Harvard University Wednesday night at 7:30 PM (match to be streamed live on www.newyorkredbulls.com), Akpan, the Crimson’s all-time leading scorer, is certainly no stranger to the area.
We spoke to the former Harvard standout about returning to his old stomping grounds, Wednesday’s Open Cup match against New England, a recent article he wrote on racism in soccer, and MLS Cup.
How does it feel going back to Harvard and potentially play where you had a great college career?
AA: It’s great. Anytime I go back to Boston its nice, you get to see some friends, get to play in front of some friends, and old coaching staff so it’s great. Obviously, this time, first time playing on campus so it’ll be interesting.
What does the club have to do to beat the New England Revolution?
AA: We faced them twice already and have done fairly well against them. I think it’ll be tough, they’ve gone on a good run, they’ve scored a lot of goals recently, they’ve added a couple of good players. So, I think it’ll be a tough match, but if we continue with the way we’ve been performing, I think we’ll come out on top.
You wrote an extensive article a few days ago stating your opinion on racism in soccer. Why do you think it has been difficult for FIFA and UEFA to stop racism in soccer?
AA: I think it’s tough because the only sure fire way to really shut it out is to make inconveniences for teams and players and then you start talking about profits; you want to close down stadiums from letting fans come in and so you’re talking about things that really effect a club and a business. It’s hard to put past measures that are going to really hurt teams, but I think it’s necessary. It’s an evil that (we) need to get rid of.
We’re very lucky, a MLS team, to be able to come and play and not have to worry about that kind of stuff. It’s just something that I think there should be a little bit more awareness about and a little bit more effort to try to clamp down on.
What else has to be done to stop racism in soccer?
AA: It’s tough. I think its kind of a cultural thing that is going to take obviously years to sort of weed out, you know? Obviously we are (becoming) a much more global society, and (more) acceptance. We have gay players coming out, we’ve got different cultures moving across different countries. And I think it will take a lot of initiatives outside of football … we have a platform to talk about it and I think a lot of discussions and a lot of initiatives.
You and Kosuke Kimura won the 2010 MLS Cup together while with the Colorado Rapids. Could this be the year that the Red Bulls bring home the MLS Cup?
AA: Hey, I hope so. You know if we could bring over a little bit of championship quality that would definitively be great so I think that’s what we’re shooting for this year.