Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore said that his game against Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong yesterday was one of the hardest of his life.
Altidore told the Sunderland Echo:
“For me, it was always going to be a difficult game. It was probably the hardest game of my life because on Tuesday, I had some bad news.
“The guy who got me into football lost his fight with cancer. Everything I’ve known has come from him.
“So it was a really difficult game, but I was happy that I could play and show the guys that I’m committed.
“That was the biggest thing for me, to show I care and that I’m committed.
“I’m a private guy, I haven’t really talked about it. I didn’t care if anyone knew about it.
“But these guys have been working so hard that I owed it to them to go out on the pitch and give something to them.”
The US international and former AZ Alkmaar striker was despondent after his mentor and first coach Josef Schulz, 61, died after he lost his battle with cancer. Schulz is best known as the coach who discovered Altidore as an eight-year-old.
When he first saw Altidore, Schulz told Jozy’s father that “You might laugh at what I am about to say, but one day your son is going to be on the U.S. national team. Bring him to our practice and see if you like it.”
The rest is history. Schulz helped to develop Altidore into one of the most promising US strikers in this country. The Austrian-born soccer coach launched The Schulz Academy in Boca Raton, Florida — and helped turn youth players into better soccer players, landing them contracts throughout Europe and elsewhere.