CARSON, Calif. — Green-and-orange balloons, Irish flags and free-flowing Guinness beer are not often part of the landscape at the Home Depot Center.
On Friday, though, they were the norm.
Barely 24 hours after stepping foot in Los Angeles for the first time, Robbie Keane received an Irish welcome at his new home — literally.
“Céad míle fáilte,” Finbar Hill, consul general of Ireland, told Keane during an introductory event Friday afternoon.
“Go raibh maith agat,” Keane replied.
The two Irishmen swapped Gaelic pleasantries — Hill said, “100,000 welcomes” to which Keane replied, “Thank you.” The exchange punctuated Keane’s arrival with the LA Galaxy. In fact, the only things that may have given him more of an Irish welcome would have been leprechauns and a Riverdance performance.
Amidst all the hype and hoopla and blown-out meet-and-greet between Keane and the media and a portion of his new supporters, the Irishman said he had arrived for one thing.
“I’m not here for holidays,” Keane said. “I’m here to play football. For me, first and foremost that’s the most important thing. Everything else is irrelevant for me. It’s about football, always has been.”
Keane showed as much on Friday. After waking up for the first time in his new environment, Keane went to Galaxy training, participated in it and was already focused on playing against San Jose on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“If you told me Robbie got off a plane yesterday, judging by his training today, I’d say you’re crazy,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “He looked good, he looked sharp, he looked normal.”
Being thrust into the fire is perhaps a fitting end to what has been a whirlwind week for the Ireland international. Keane was with Tottenham Hotspur and his name had been linked with moves to clubs in the English Championship when interest from the Galaxy surfaced about one week prior to his arrival.
When he got wind of it and the chance to join the Galaxy seemed like a real possibility, Keane said his decision was all but a no-brainer.
“You always get a good feeling about something," he said. "I certainly have a good feeling about this. I’ve played in the Premiership for a long, long time. I did what I had to do there, scored a lot of goals. It’s time for a new challenge and this opportunity came up. It’s an opportunity you can’t take too lightly. As soon as the opportunity came, I knew straight away. … For me, it was an easy decision.”
Getting Keane to be in a position to play Saturday took some assistance. First, the Galaxy and Tottenham had to come to an agreement, which they did in part of the clubs’ positive relationship between AEG president Tim Leiweke and Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, Leiweke said.
Then, the Galaxy and Keane agreed to a deal. But in order to get him on the roster, the Galaxy had to clear room on the roster, which meant Juan Pablo Ángel moved across the hall to Chivas USA in a midweek trade.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle was in the form of paperwork and securing Keane’s visa. No worries, though, as the Galaxy called on some favors from Hill and, soon enough, Keane was on his way to LAX.
“It’s been a hectic six, seven days for me," Keane said. "Got a phone call early Friday morning from their reps saying their interested, straight away I told them to make the deal happen. That’s how interested I was in coming here. It’s a very, very exciting opportunity for me, one I’m going to relish. Hopefully I can bring something different to the team and score a lot of goals.”