I should really have called this post “Catching up with Danny Califf.”
For some reason I don’t think I had talked to Califf at length since he left the Galaxy after the 2004 season (outside of grabbing a few comments at a packed mixed zone after a national team game).
He was positively giddy on the opening day of the U.S. National Team camp Monday, having just seen his third child, Jude, enter the world at 2:23 p.m. Dec. 31 at 8 pounds 2 ounces (and 19 inches), which meant he needed to add another tattoo to his burgeoning collection.
Sporting long sideburns (note to self, remember camera next time), Califf reflected on his career since leaving the Galaxy.
Question: How are you enjoying playing in Denmark? You’re on your second club in three years with FC Midtjylland and captained previous club Aalborg to a national championship so you must be having fun.
Answer: I played my contract out in Aalborg and we had fantastic success and we won the championship, did well in Europe. But the coach left, a couple of other guys were leaving and so it felt like it was time to move on and another club came in and they had big aspirations and they had finished second (in the league) two years in a row. We’re putting the money in to really try and push for a championship. It was an opportunity for me to step in to a club that had big ambitions and I was going to be a big part of the team. We got to move to a bigger city, it made sense (for my family), it gave me (financial) security.
Q: It seems like Scandinavia is increasingly the destination of choice for Americans.
A: It’s weird. When I first got out there there was almost nobody. It was just Robbie Russell who had been in Norway for a bunch of years and had just come to Denmark and there was me. And now there’s a ton of guys. There’s guys in Sweden, a bunch of guys in Norway and now more in Denmark. It’s a good jumping off point for Americans in many respects. … Culture-wise, everyone speaks English which is a huge thing. It’s an easy step – as easy a step you can get if you’re moving to Europe and moving to another country as opposed to England.
It’s fantastic, we really enjoy it. It’s different and we still love Southern California and that’s where we’re going to end up, but it’s a great stop. It’s a great opportunity for the kids and it’s a great opportunity to play. It’s really cool.
Soccer is the number one thing out there so there’s a lot of passion from the fans. With the single (12-team) table every game means something.
Q: How was it to captain a team to the Danish championship? Did that exceed your expectations?
A: Beyond it. We won the championship here in L.A. and it was amazing – I got to do it in front of my family. But (this one) felt different because it was the culmination of everything that had started in July, all the way until the end of May (the Danish season starts in July, takes a long break for winter and cranks back up in March; the summer break is about 10 days long, Califf said). So much had gone into it – it was more of a longer process to get to that championship. I was a foreigner – I don’t speak the language – and to be able to be a captain and to lead the team – it was beyond anything I could describe. I think that’s what kept me in Denmark. It was the opportunity to do that again with this team. … I had such an amazing experience I want that again and I want that every year. So I think that was the big driving force of why I wanted to stay in Denmark as opposed to waiting it out and see if I could get a club in Germany or something like that.
Q: I assume you still follow the Galaxy’s fortunes. What did you think of their season?
A: It was a tough situation – it was pretty top-heavy and you had to fill it in with guys that don’t have a lot of experience. … It’s tough when you’re thrown into the fire like that and you’re expected to perform week in and week out and you’re not really ready for that. It was a bit unfair I think to look at the young guys and say you need to pull everybody up.You’ve got a couple of superstars, but it seemed from the outside looking in it was tough to get the team to gel and really come together. In order to win consistently you need a whole bunch of Indians and a few chiefs and not a bunch of chiefs and a few Indians.
Q: How has playing in Europe affected your national team career?
A: It’s been good. I can only point to the fact that I’ve grown a lot since I’ve moved and I’ve grown as a person and I’ve grown as a player and I’ve come into my own as far as professionalism and I think in turn that’s helped with my career with the national team. Being out of your comfort zone makes you grow up I think. … I think that’s one of the reasons Bob likes to have me around. I hope to continue that.
Q: What are your goals for the next two or three years. Do you see yourself back in MLS or…?
A: I have three and a half years left on my contract in Denmark and so far as the foreseeable future I’ll be there playing club soccer, but you never know.