Excerpted from I Am Iron Man, Sports Illustrated, April 23, 2012
He’s spent 15 years at the top of the game and is set to play in his record 300th straight Premier League match. Yes, Brad Friedel is the Cal Ripken of English football, and he’s 100% American—except for that accent
By GRANT WAHL
The English media will hail Friedel’s play as the save of the week—Spurs go on to a 3–1 win—and one of the best of the season. Yet even more remarkable than the save itself is that it was pulled off by such an, um … experienced …
“You can say it,” Friedel interrupts with a laugh. “An old bastard!”
How old is Brad Friedel? Old enough to have competed in the 1992 Olympics. Old enough to have turned pro before U.S. star Juan Agudelo was born. Old enough to have tried out in England before the formation of the Premier League. Old enough to have represented the U.S. in three World Cups and to have retired from the national team seven years ago.
And old enough to have played in 299 straight games in England’s Premier League, more than any other player in league history. While Spurs, who are in fourth place in the Premiership with five matches remaining, jockey for a Champions League spot for next season, the 40-year-old Friedel has turned into soccer’s version, in looks and actions, of Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies.
For years Friedel’s goal was to play with a top European team until he was 34 or 35, then return to the States for a swan song in MLS. But the longer he excelled, the more his expectations shifted. Friedel attributes his iron-man streak to the usual suspects—eating and sleeping right, not overtraining, drinking in moderation—but says the key has been yoga. After tearing his right quadriceps at the end of the 2003–04 season (the cause of his last missed games), Friedel took up the practice on the suggestion of former teammate Barry Venison. “When you get older, it’s easier to get tightness in your groin and quads and hips,” he says. “If you can keep those parts strong and flexible, it helps your knees.” Friedel does his downward-facing dog twice a day year-round and has recruited Spurs teammates and staff to a weekly session with his longtime instructor. “We never did yoga when I played,” marvels Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. “We didn’t even used to stretch before training!” For Friedel the results are plain to see. One month before he turns 41, and at 6’3″ and 202 pounds, he can nearly do splits.
Brad Friedel, ladies and germs! Still making it work across the pond with yoga. By the way, we know 40 isn’t old in the real world (right?), but it’s pretty ancient for an elite athlete. What do you guys think? Know of any other old jocks working it with yoga? Take a penny leave a penny for your thoughts if you’ve got any, below.