Alex Ring was in the prime of his career, he was playing regularly at Kaiserslautern in the 2.Bundesliga and had worked his way up to the Finland senior national team.
Life was good, but he felt it good be better.
And then came a phone call that changed everything.
On the other end of the line was New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira, someone he idolized as an Arsenal supporter growing up. There were several subsequent calls, but Ring said Vieira practically had him at hello.
“I spoke to him several times, but he didn’t have to call after the first time because I said after that I pretty much made up my mind about coming here because of the chance to play under his tutelage and a chance to maybe become a better player under him,” Ring told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s a decision I made for myself, even though I was playing in Germany and getting into the prime of my career.”
A chance to learn under Vieira, a legendary No. 6 during his playing days, was too good to pass up. So Ring, his wife and young daughter picked up their life and made the radical move — to New York City and to Major League Soccer.
“For me, him playing my position, I think it was a good time and now looking back it was the best option,” Ring said. “To learn from him, how to play that position, I’ve already learned so much from him now in the short time I’ve been able to play under him and I don’t regret it at all. I feel very happy with my decision.”
Like any other move he’s made, like the one from HJK Helsinki to Borussia Monchengladbach in Jan. 2012, Ring consults his wife and family. That was also true when Ring felt he needed a “change of scenery” after nearly four years at Kaiserslautern.
“New York was appealing to me and my family for what it has to offer outside of soccer,” he said. “We made the decision based on how I felt about the soccer side, but of course its a big upside when you can live in New York.”
And the Rings take full advantage of living in Manhattan, especially the plethora of diverse dining options.
“We like the restaurant culture New York has to offer,” he said. “It’s unique compared to any other place I’ve been to.”
“Of course,” he said. “But I won’t tell you.”
Although he’s lived here for two years and the youngest or two daughters was born here, don’t expect Ring’s accent to change anytime soon.
“I don’t think it will ever come,” he said. “If I stay true to myself, I know I won’t have a New York accent and I’m ok with that.”
Ring is also at peace with the decision he made to never pursue a German passport even though he’s lived most of his life in that country. He’s proud to be Finnish. He moved there when he was a teenager after living in Germany and Belgium and it’s where he and his wife met in high school.
“I’m always back home whenever I have the chance,” Ring said. “My wife, her family, we’re all from Helsinki, my older daughter is born there. It’s not so much about pride of being Finnish and not German or not American, but maybe its everything its given in terms of education and everything you get there in the country. In Finland, things are really well.”
The same can be said for Ring and his family in New York City. When not taking ownership of the NYCFC locker room, along with David Villa’s son, from time to time, Ring’s three-year-old daughter and his wife are tourists in their new city.
“I don’t do as much because I’m tired when I come from practice,” Ring said. “I may take them to the park, but they take full advantage of the city. They’ve seen everything, my daughter and my wife love it here. They have like their own life, own friends, relationships that they built outside of football, which is nice for them.”