Harjeet Johal meets Jay DeMerit ahead of World Cup
Harjeet Johal, a Canadian football journalist, spoke to former United States Men’s captain Jay DeMerit on his experience of playing for his nation at a World Cup and his thoughts on Kick It Out reaching 25 years of campaigning.
The fame and prestige that the World Cup brings is just around the corner as thirty-two countries will compete in Russia to win the ultimate prize. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that very few footballers will have the joy of experiencing.
Erstwhile U.S. Soccer centre-back, Jay DeMerit started all four matches for the ‘Stars and Stripes’ at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. A win and a pair of draws helped the U.S. top a highly competitive Group C on goal differential.
There’s a lot that sticks out for DeMerit, but there’s one moment he will never forget.
“There’s not a much better memory than walking out against England in our first game at the World Cup.” DeMerit told Kick It Out, in Vancouver. “That’s one of my greatest memories. Standing in the tunnel, ready for the world to watch. That’s truly what we play for. The spirit was energetic. The vuvuzela’s with the big horns, it was a little bit to get use to… to play with horns in your ears.”
The 38 year-old and now retired DeMerit earned 25 caps for the U.S. – He played every minute of football for the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup. A round of 16 clash sent the United States home after Asamoah Gyan scored in extra time to help Ghana win 2-1.
While DeMerit was representing his country, there wasn’t a lot of time to actually relish in the World Cup with his family and enjoy everything South Africa had to offer.
“It’s a little bit different,” DeMerit recalled. “The player to family ratio is small. As a player, you’re very well protected. You basically stay in your own hotel. You don’t really get to get out much and enjoy the experience as much as you would like. You’re also there to work. It was an interesting time to not only see the sights, and sounds, but to be a part of something that’s much bigger than yourself. Which is what the World Cup is all about.”
As a Green Bay, Wisconsin native, that earned the love and admiration from Watford F.C. supporters during his 183 appearances, DeMerit has never felt the racism that some do. He’s always brought people together, and gave his best for club and country.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia has an opportunity to do that as well. It’s a time for the beautiful game to take centre stage. The best of the best will bring the corners of the world together. That’s what football is about and that’s what DeMerit expects to see.
“I think the World Cup breathes togetherness, community.” DeMerit said. “I think Russia will do a great job in allowing those things to happen and unearth themselves, I think it’s important. That’s the true value of the World Cup, bringing people from all around the world in one place, to see who’s the best in the world at kicking the ball.
“It’s interesting to be a part of those kinds of conversations, but it’s also interesting to think how truly lucky you are to represent what that means.”
Since the United States crashed out and did not qualify for the World Cup, DeMerit is going to have to lend his support elsewhere. He’s got a sentimental favourite, but when it all comes down to it. There’s clearly a favourite that always blitzes ahead of the pack.
“It’s a tough one,” DeMerit said, as he pondered who he might support. “It’s not something that were used to from the U.S. side. I think Germany is always a strong candidate. You look at the release of their players. There’s so many guys they have that are in the machine that always seem to play well. Always do the right things, at the right time. I think Germany is always going to be the favourite.
“But I’d like to see Argentina coming through. I’d love to see Messi win a World Cup. I think the time for him is now to do that.”
Jay DeMerit is true example of a footballer that came from the seventh-tier of English football and made it to the pinnacle by representing his country at the World Cup. He knows first-hand how many hours of work need to be put in. DeMerit was never handed anything. He laced up his boots every day and made it to the biggest stage in football.
And Jay believes the whole of the football needs to get behind Kick It Out’s messages ahead of its 25th anniversary.
“Kick It Out is a great initiative and certainly something that’s always necessary in the game. It’s something that players don’t ever want to feel, but it’s also something that players want to be a part of. When you bring players in from one country to one place now is your time to shine.”