If you’ve spent any time on the soccer corner of the internet in the past month, you know that FIFA 11 has hit shelves worldwide. To help the spread the word, EA Sports hired NBA all-star and Vancouver Whitecaps part-owner Steve Nash to direct a series of promos starring American soccer poster boy Landon Donovan. MLSsoccer.com caught up with the Phoenix Suns’ point guard/soccer fanatic/budding film auteur to get his take on videos games, supporters' culture and the Whitecaps upcoming MLS campaign.
MLSsoccer.com: So, tell me about directing. You’ve directed this series of promos for FIFA 11 and recently did the documentary Into The Wind for ESPN. What made you decide to get into film?
Nash: You know, I just developed a love of film and, at some point, I just felt like I had something to say and just started creating things. And now it’s starting to take off. It’s something that I enjoy and I’m really passionate about. I’m learning a lot and growing as a person because of it. My cousin and I are partners, so it’s been a lot of fun.
MLSsoccer.com: Was it fun directing Landon Donovan?
Nash: It was great, especially since I hadn’t met Landon before and I’d been such a fan and had such respect for his abilities. To get a chance to meet him in person and work with him and to see that he’s a funny guy, a talented guy, was fun. He’s somebody who has a sense of humor but is really easy to talk to and get along with. When you see someone like him who represents his country at the highest level, you have automatic respect for him, but then you meet him and he’s an easy guy to get along with, which is nice.
[inline_node:318943]MLSsoccer.com: Did you get to play him at FIFA 11 at all? I don’t know if you know, but he likes to talk up his game on Twitter; he’s always trash-talking to the other MLS & USMNT players so I’m wondering if he really is that good.
Nash: I didn’t get a chance to, really. For the sake of the shoot, we were playing at one point in the back of a vehicle, but we really didn’t get to play a real, full game. So there is no winner yet. But he definitely has a lot of ability.
We should actually get all those guys from the US team in the FIFA Pro Player Challenge and see who really is the best. And let them put some money where their mouth is.
MLSsoccer.com: What about you? Are you a big gamer?
Nash: I’m not a huge gamer, but I like to play. It’s becoming more of a passion for me now with all of the incredible graphics. The CGI on FIFA 11 is incredible and makes it really fun to play. I’m dying to play it a little more just because it’s so lifelike.
MLSsoccer.com: Aside from the FIFA 11 promos do you have anything else coming in the way of film work?
Nash: We’re actually producing a documentary on Pele with Bill Guttentag, who’s an Academy Award-winning director. I’m super excited about that because obviously Pele’s such an iconic person and a wonderful story to tell at this stage, where a lot of young kids may not know a lot about him and older people may have forgotten about him. So we can dig back and find out what made him such a special, charismatic star, his place in the history of the game, and also lead us into getting excited for the World Cup in Brazil.
MLSsoccer.com: That sounds great. I have to say you’ve got a lot on your plate outside of basketball. Next year you’re going to be part of the Vancouver Whitecaps ownership group. Do you plan on being pretty hands on?
[inline_node:312372]Nash: You know what, I’d like to be connected in different ways. I’d like to have my hand in the structure of the athletic side of the club, the development of players, their fitness and training, the culture of the club -- I think those are the areas of the club where I could lend my professional expertise, I would say, having been a professional athlete for 14 years now. I want to add value there and wherever else I can but, for the most part, I’m just going to be a superfan. I want to cheer for my local team and be there to support our club with our local community.
MLSsoccer.com: Most people in the soccer community know you are a big fan. What’s your take on supporters' culture in North America? Do you have much experience with it or any opinions on it?
Nash: I think that supporters' culture is generally based on tradition. If you look around the world, the clubs that have great fan support, whether it’s a 100 year-old club in Europe or a college team in the United Sates or an NFL team, the teams that have great fan culture and support base it all on tradition. We’re skipping that in many ways in MLS because the league is a baby. I think we should be proud of the fan culture we have. I think, obviously, Toronto and Seattle are leading the way as far as fan culture goes, but other clubs are stepping up quickly. Both LA teams, New York, DC -- they all have great fan culture and I’m sure that Vancouver, Portland and Montréal will have great fan culture, so it’s quickly catching on.
Some of that is due to the traditions that the clubs or the city’s had with the NASL and some of it is just taking a liking to the game and riding the wave of soccer’s growing popularity. It takes a while to develop a true fan culture but, for MLS at this stage, with it’s lack of longevity, it’s pretty phenomenal where it’s come in such a short amount of time.
MLSsoccer.com: You just touched on something I was going to ask you about by mentioning Toronto and Seattle. Which do you think will be a bigger rival for the Whitecaps: Seattle or Toronto?
[inline_node:306366]Nash: I think they are going to be different. Obviously, there is a major Canadian rivalry with Toronto, but we’ll have that rivalry with Montreal as well. I think we’re going to have a big border war with Seattle, but we’ll also have a big I-5 rivalry with Portland. It’s fantastic for Vancouver because we’re going to have four rivals, and derbies and rivalries are what make soccer special. I can’t wait to see all the travelling support, the passionate fans and sellout crowds; it’s going to be a great chapter of our franchises history.
MLSsoccer.com: This is a question that comes from the guys at Sounder at Heart. In the Pacific Northwest, you’ve got three MLS teams coming in and two NBA teams going out in the last 10 years. As someone who knows both sports and is from the area, do you see a connection?
Nash: I think the NBA left Vancouver and Seattle unnecessarily. They had great support in Vancouver, regardless of reports. It was difficult at times with sponsorship because the Canadian dollar wasn’t that strong back then, but we had an owner come in and realize he could make a lot of money by buying the team and moving it to Memphis. So the league can pin that on the city.
And Seattle -- it was the arena. Their lease agreement was not good and they couldn’t get a new one built. They’re an unbelievable sports town with great fan support but it was just another deal where another owner came in and decided that it could be more profitable in another city. That’s just what happens.
MLSsoccer.com: So really it’s more of a business thing than a cultural thing?
Nash: For sure. Vancouver’s dying to have another NBA team. It’s a shame, but it’s a business.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you think you guys [Vancouver Whitecaps] will delve into the world of Designated Players? Do you think there is any real value in that for you guys?
[inline_node:312370]Nash: We’re definitely hoping to because there is value in that. We’re going to to be very critical of any decision we may make to make sure that it’s about the long term, not the short term. We want to build the right foundation to develop the right culture and chemistry within our team. What we don’t want to do is do it as a novelty and sign any player just for the press. We want to sign a player that we feel makes a lot of sense for us on the field, so it’s got to be a very well-scouted, well-thought out decision so that we are adding value to our club on and off the field, but most importantly on the field and in the locker room.
MLSsoccer.com: So you’re not going to sign yourself is what you’re saying?
Nash (chuckling): Yeah, that would be called a novelty.
MLSsoccer.com: Hey, I’ve seen you play in Chinatown here in New York a few times. I know you can ball.