Feb. 10, 2012
BERKELEY - Steve Birnbaum headed south for the winter - all the way to Brazil - and won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. team at the Pan Am Maccabi Games in Sao Paulo. CalBears.com spoke to California's junior defender about his experience in South America and touched on some non-soccer topics.
CalBears.com: What was the atmosphere like when you played Brazil in Sao Paulo in the Jan. 2 Maccabi Games final?
Steve Birnbaum: There was a pretty good amount of people there. The fans were all for Brazil, other than maybe a couple fans rooting for the USA. It was a good atmosphere.
CalBears.com: What was the most memorable moment of that game?
SB: It was a rough game, because they packed it in. They knew how to play us. They packed it in and counterattacked when we were trying to score most of the goals. They were a good side. It was just a rough game for us, I thought.
CalBears.com: Had you ever been to Brazil before?
SB: It was my first time.
CalBears.com: You scored a goal in the 4-1 semifinal win over Venezuela at the Maccabi Games. Can you describe your goal?
SB: It was raining and was an intense game. There were a lot of Venezuelan fans there. It was cool. I scored a header off a corner kick to put us up 1-0. The second half we took off and scored three more goals and kind of blew them out. It was a good game.
CalBears.com: You don't score goals that often as a defender, but do you have a scoring dance?
SB: I usually don't, but when we were in Brazil, a lot of the guys like to dance. One of the older players convinced me to. People on the team call me "Birny," so there's this Birny Dance I did in front of all the Venezuelan fans. It's pretty funny.
CalBears.com: Have you heard former teammate Demitrius Omphroy's new single, "Speak It"?
CalBears.com: Speaking of alumni, did your former teammates give you any words of advice during a challenging 2011 season?
SB: Basically they told me to lead the team as much as possible, just do my role and not overdo my role. I can only control so much. Just try and make the team better.
CalBears.com: After your soccer career is over - way in the future - what kind of career do you want to pursue?
SB: I've just started looking around, because you never know what's going to happen. Maybe I'd go into advertising. I want to do something with sports or soccer, so something like working in advertising for MLS would be great.
CalBears.com: Who won the team's most recent FIFA video-game tournament?
SB: We've had one FIFA tournament; there might be another one coming up this weekend. I'm not a big FIFA player, so I was out in the first round. Connor Hallisey, one of the freshmen, took it all. He killed it.
CalBears.com: What team did you play?
SB: Chelsea. But I'm not a good FIFA player, so it wasn't a good showing.
CalBears.com: Your mother was also a college athlete. What did she play?
SB: She played volleyball and softball at Mizzou. My sister also went to Missouri.
CalBears.com: You played lacrosse in high school. How good were you?
SB: I was alright. I was a middie. I played a little bit in middle school with my buddies, too. It's a good sport, with a lot of running.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite movie?
SB: Growing up I loved Will Farrell. "The Other Guys" right now is one of my favorite movies.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite TV show?
SB: I use Netflix a lot, and I've watched every season and all episodes of "Prison Break." I've watched it through twice. I love that show.
CalBears.com: What's the most-played song on your iPod?
SB: It's probably got to be an Eminem song, "The Way I Am." It's an old song, but I love Eminem. He's one of my favorite artists.
CalBears.com: Who tweets the most on the team?
SB: It's probably me or Ted Jones. But we don't really tweet that much anymore. We follow people and see what's going on in the world. That's how I get my information.