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Tandem Interviews Paul Stalteri

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The Tandem is a free weekly newspaper printed by the Corriere Canadese that covers Italian-Canadian issues in English. It's good to see that they've taken notice of a Canadian playing in Germany that actually represents his country.


Paul Stalteri Goes Big League

Italian-Canadian soccer player makes it to the prestigious Champions tournament

By Nicola Sparano

He's a bit disappointed but not upset by his first game ever in the Champions League, his first played at San Siro, his first against an important Italian team (Inter). Paul Stalteri, 27, born in Toronto to a Calabrese father and a Guyanese mother, has reached his second big achievement as a soccer player: playing in a Champions League game. The first achievement was, last year, winning the German Championship while playing for Werder Bremen. We interviewed the midfielder, who first showed his talent in Peter Pinizzotto's Toronto Lynx, over the phone from his home in Bremen. He gladly traced his career, mentioning his close encounter with Adriano "the phenomenon" at San Siro, the victory in the Bundesliga championship, the failure of Canada's national team and the state of soccer in general.

Paul, are you still upset about how things went in your debut in the Champions League, at San Siro against Inter?

"Not upset, but certainly disappointed. We were unable to play on a level field."

Do you think that the referee was partial, favouring the bigger team?

"Very likely, he felt the pressure of the 70,000 spectators. In any case, he penalized us twice after a few minutes with a penalty kick and a red card. Both of those decisions could be acceptable, but in games of this importance referees are seldom so strict. But after that, Mr. Michel did something worse. The second penalty simply wasn't there. The foul was on the line, actually just out of the area. I tried to reason with him, but he didn't listen. And Adriano punished us, which tilted the game in their favour."

Do you think that your team can still pass the turn?

"Of course, we have to contend with an initial misstep and a terrible competition. But the Werder is growing from game to game, and I think we might pass."

How did you feel about playing at San Siro?

"An imposing, beautiful arena. I had dreamed of playing there ever since I was a kid in Toronto. I did not feel intimidated by San Siro, but maybe the referee did."

Which Inter player did you like more?

"Adriano; he's a real force of nature. He can do anything, has power, elevation, when he's carrying the ball he's hard to tackle, and when he shoots he seldom shoots wild."

What about Vieri, or Veron?

"I saw Vieri rather unfocused, and he even spared us when he kicked his penalty out. He and Adriano hampered one another, and in so doing they made our defenders' task easier. Veron knows where the ball must go. Emre was operating in my area, and got busy, but I think I neutralized him quite well."

Did you speak in Italian with Inter players?

"We exchanged a few words in English, but nothing of note. With the referee, I protested in three languages: German, English, and Italian. However, I forgot to try Calabrese..."

Will your team be able to win a second German championship?

"We've lost a great forward like Adailton and an important backfielder. The team had a difficult start, but we're making a comeback. We're trailing the leading team by just three points, so..."

What's your favourite position, defender or midfielder?

"I began as a midfielder and I would like to stay there. Last year, however, the team needed a defender, and that's where I play today, on the right side."

What has been your best game, your best goal?

"Last year we made a masterpiece in Münich, against the Bayern. We won 3-0, and that result was our first step in winning the championship. As far as the best goal is concerned, the one I remember best is my very first in a championship game."

How is your contract with the Werder?

"It will expire at the end of this season."

What next?

"We'll see, I hope to stay. Bremen and this team make me feel at ease."

Did you ever wonder about an Italian team?

"No, the Italian teams mostly go hunting for forwards. I got a proposal from England. The Crystal Palace wanted me, and offered a nice contract, economically speaking. But I refused. In England I would play for a team that struggles to stay in the first league, here I'm playing for the Championship and in the Champions League."

What's the average salary for a Bundesliga player?

"As far as I know, the minimum is 10,000 euros per month. I have no idea about the maximum, which is high but not as high as in Italy or Spain. I'm not one of those at the top of the salary band, but I cannot complain. Actually, for someone coming from Canadian soccer, my salary is pretty good."

Now that you mention Canada, you missed the World Cup objective.

"A miracle, a big one, was needed. For sure, we didn't expect to have one point after three games."

Radzinski said that the blame goes to the CSA for not having you guys flying first class.

"Well, playing shortly after flying tourist class for 20 hours can be a big handicap. The CSA should indeed do something to let us arrive at important games fresher and more rested."

You grew up in Canadian soccer; what's your take on the reasons why soccer hasn't grown here?

"In Canada, people have been playing soccer for the past century, but no real progress has been made. There are fields, but we lack structures, coaches, a mindset. There are many players, we've got quantity but not quality. We have several local championships, but no national championship. Distances are a problem, but elsewhere it has been solved. We tried a foreign coach, the German Holger Osiek, and now we have a homegrown one, Frank Yallop, but results are always the same, disappointing."

Anyway, one Mr. Stalteri has managed to carve a niche for himself in world soccer. How did you do it?

"I was lucky and worked hard. I was lucky because I got some exposure with the Toronto Lynx, and someone from Werder Bremen believed in my potential. Then I climbed all the steps in that club, always working hard. In the end, it all paid."

You're 27 years old, and many more years will pass before you hang up your boots. But when that moment will eventually come, what will you do, where will you live?

"In six to seven years I would like to remain in the world of soccer, possibly as a coach in Toronto, the city of my wife Christina who followed me to Germany [Ed. Note: They have no children yet] and the place where my parents Tony and Rosanna live."

Paul Stalteri has a website (www.paulstalteri.com) that he updates personally and that allows surfers to contact him. He promises that he will reply to everybody, time permitting.

Publication Date: 2004-11-14


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