Gus Johnson will make his FOX Soccer debut this coming Wednesday on our broadcast of Real Madrid vs. Manchester United (LIVE from 2:30 ET). We caught up with Johnson as he was headed out to Madrid from New York City, en route to what is sure to be one of the games of the season.
FOX Soccer: Gus, you’ve made a great name for yourself as a multifaceted commentator on college sports, basketball and football – what attracted you to take the leap to the world’s game?
Gus Johnson: I just think it’s a great opportunity. Soccer is a true world sport, a game that is loved by millions on our planet. I love the passion of it, and it’s a chance for me to stretch and grow. I’m still really trying to understand the soul of this game – it’s an intriguing sport to me, and I’m so drawn to the emotions it gets out of people. When I was in England last year, I was at games and I have to say, I had never seen such passion out of sports fans anywhere. I’ve called basketball and football games in almost every major stadium in America, and I had never seen anything like this – it’s almost more important than religion for them. So, one of my goals is to understand that, and to discover the meaning that this sport has for so many people.
FOX Soccer: You’re diving right in with one of the biggest games of the season, a true Champions League classic. What do you expect to see on Wednesday?
Gus Johnson: Well, I just cannot wait to see Cristiano Ronaldo take on his former team. He’s one of the greatest players in the game, and I think it’s going to be fascinating because he has such strong feelings for his old club. From what I understand, he and Sir Alex Ferguson have almost a father-son relationship. I’m also interested to see Jose Mourinho, who I think may one day succeed Sir Alex. There’s a lot of talk about where Mourinho will go – will it be Chelsea, will it be City – but these two great coaches are very cordial and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Mourinho takes over at United. His tenure at Real Madrid is up in the air, and I think that’s a major storyline coming into this game. And the players: Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil – these are some of the best, most skilled, and most entertaining players in sports. I just think this is going to be a great match with some terrific action.
FOX Soccer: Some say that soccer hasn’t caught on yet in America – do you agree and do you see that changing?
Gus Johnson: Well, we do have a lot of sports here in America for people to watch. There’s college, there’s NFL, there’s basketball, there’s baseball – just so many things for us to enjoy. In Europe, soccer is it. It’s the pastime. Maybe because of that, it hasn’t caught on in America as it will, but I do think it’s changing. I know I am really looking forward to the World Cup.
FOX Soccer: Since you mention that, what are your expectations for 2014?
Gus Johnson: Well, I just hope the Americans can put together a great, competitive squad. With Jurgen Klinsmann coming in, I think things are being shaken up and I hope that with the new members on the team, and the games ahead, that Americans will get a chance to see a good run in World Cup and some great games from the team.
FOX Soccer: One final question that every soccer fan is sure to ask: do you have a team?
Gus Johnson: I don’t have a favorite team, but when I went over to England, I watched Chelsea and I fell in love with Didier Drogba. I followed him and the Blues all through that magical run to the Champions League trophy, and just loved every moment of it. I bought a Chelsea sweatsuit, and I wear it around as much as I can – it’s comfortable! So, yeah, I do like the Blues.