By Kristan Heneage
There were just certain reminders of home. The way he spoke, the words he used and his accent, it all gave subtle indications that the man across the field was not just the same nationality, but from the same part of town.
“You don’t expect to see someone from England never mind your local town being so close to you and playing against you,” David Foley said. The ‘someone’ he’s referring to is Mark Anderson. Now in his second season with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Anderson hails from the same north eastern part of England as Foley.
Yet despite the close knit nature of their home patch and having both attended the Sunderland academy, the pair had never met. That’s in part due to the differing paths they chose to undertake.
“I didn’t know Mark too well beforehand but I knew he was a good player and what he brings to the team,” Foley explains, before adding. “I knew he was a good lad too. I was speaking to Mark in the off-season and he was convincing me to come here, so he definitely had an impact in my decision.”
Foley had spent years toiling in England’s lower leagues with nearby Hartlepool United, while Anderson, released by Sunderland at 16, decided a college scholarship was his preference.
After studying criminal law at Barry University he joined the PDL. Sufficiently impressing those at Fort Lauderdale during the combine, he joined the club and recently committed his long term future to the Strikers. Meanwhile Foley was moving from one island to another. England to Puerto Rico can be quite a change, but one he undoubtedly enjoyed.
When Anderson traveled to face Tropa Naranja, Foley played host. “We spoke as much as we could, through text messages and such,” Anderson says. “When I went to Puerto Rico I hung out with Foley after the game.”
From there a friendship was birthed. It’s one that has carried on to this day. When Foley’s career hit a fork in the road, his fellow Englishman was there to sway him towards the sunshine state. “I was speaking to Mark in the off-season and he was convincing me to come here,” he explains. “He definitely had an impact in my decision. I had a couple of options, the other main one being Minnesota [Stars] but this is actually my favorite place in the states so that had a lot to play in it. Coming from Puerto Rico, all the sunshine, it was difficult to turn that down again.”
As is the opportunity to live with someone so similar: “We just have a lot more in common,” Foley explains. “We both had the same sort of upbringing, simple things like that really.” Even language, while both countries speak English, sometimes it can be the little nuances of a dialect that can make being understood somewhat difficult.
Despite spending two years on the Spanish-speaking island of Puerto Rico, Foley professes to knowing little of the language. “My second language is Swedish,” Anderson chimes in. “My girlfriend is Swedish, so I speak a little bit of Swedish now and then, but Spanish I know a few words.”
Foley retorts: “Get him to speak some Swedish now!”
“I need to be speaking it to a fellow Swede,” Anderson replies with a laugh, which does little to aid the credibility of his claims.
Jokes aside, the pair are aware of just how beneficial Spanish as a tool can be, especially given how many of their teammates speak it. “I’m actually going to learn it this year, I’m determined to learn it,” Foley adds.
Yet like so many teams before them, language is not an issue. Soccer is an easy sport to communicate in, be it with words, phrases or gestures: "We’ve got a lot of hispanic players on the team that struggle to speak English,” Anderson tells me. “But everyone gets along well, we can communicate well and translate. They pick up now and then so its not really a problem,”
Of more pressing concern to both men is the revised NASL format for this season, one they both are relishing. “Obviously this season has changed a lot,” Anderson admits. “You win the season you make the final. You win the spring or the fall season. It’s a lot tougher this season, there’s more on the line, I think it’s going to be better.”
“You’ve got to start off winning and win one of the seasons,” Foley adds. “So the aim is to win the first half of the season and get it over with early doors.”
The pair will aim to begin that winning run against FC Edmonton early next month, but still one question remains, will their kindred upbringing give them an on-field advantage? “Maybe a little bit,” Foley explains. “We both sort of grew up in England playing the English style so I suppose that might come into it a little bit.”
Either way one thing is for sure, both men are enjoying the companionship of a fellow Englishman on the roster, even if they can’t agree who’s the hardest worker: “Me all day.” Anderson says. “No way!” Foley replies before Anderson interjects: “He’s been here four weeks, he’s only practiced for a week.”
Yet still Foley can’t let him get the last word in: “I disagree with that one to be fair like.”
Kristan Heneage is Freelance football writer whose work regularly is featured by ESPN, FourFourTwo and The Guardian.
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