Star soccer player Marcus Hahnemann wins fans in Europe, represents America
in the World Cup
It’s a brisk midwinter evening in Reading,
England. After a fan watches the hometown
soccer team win, his car fails to start.
Stranded, he flags down a passing vehicle.
The man quickly recognizes the driver. It’s
Marcus Hahnemann ’93, star goalkeeper for
Reading Football Club. The man asks to borrow
the driver’s cell phone to call for a tow.
But Hahnemann gets out of his vehicle, looks
under the stalled car’s hood, and fiddles with
the engine. The vehicle starts, and soon both
men are on their way.
Meet one of America’s best sporting
ambassadors of goodwill.
In an age where the United States’ popularity
has taken a beating overseas and professional
athletes are distancing themselves from
their followers, Hahnemann has Britons
draping the Stars and Stripes over the rails of
Reading’s stadium on game days. When he
dives at the feet of foes to make a save, fans
chant, “U-S-A, U-S-A!”
“Marcus is always the last guy out of the
stadium, and that’s probably why he was able
to help the guy with the car,” says Amanda
Day Hahnemann ’96, his
wife. “He’s just as comfortable
talking with the team
owner as he is with the janitor.
People notice that. He’s
Perhaps one of the sports
world’s most visible Seattle
Pacific University alumni,
Hahnemann is a prominent
figure in the English Premier League, regarded
as the strongest in the soccer world.
He has come a long way in the 12 years
since he graduated from SPU. As a student,
Hahnemann was a three-time All-American
and member of the Falcons’ 1993 NCAA
championship team. From there, he worked
his way up. It took six years to reach Europe,
and he finally got his chance to shine four years
ago with Reading, then a second-tier team.
The starting goalkeeper,
Hahnemann has played a
prominent role for Reading.
Last season, he held 22
teams scoreless, helped the
club advance from the second
tier to the Premiership,
and earned himself a place
on the U.S. World Cup
team. “It’s been pretty crazy
for over a year,” says Hahnemann. “When we
clinched our promotion to the Premiership
and then I got named to the World Cup team,
that was like every dream I’ve ever had, rolled
into just a week and a half.”
At the World Cup in Germany, the U.S.
team was based in Hamburg, the childhood
home of Hahnemann’s parents. The Americans
were eliminated from the competition
early, something Hahnemann hopes is not a
harbinger of what happens to Reading
amongst giants such as Manchester United
and Chelsea in the Premiership.
“We’re playing with the big boys now, the
best players in the world,” he says. To remain
in the Premiership, Reading has to avoid the
bottom three places. “It’s going to be tough,”
he says, “but we’re all up for the challenge.”
With money and pressure exerting more
influence, professional sports around the
world are becoming fraught with gamesmanship,
foul play, and cheating — which threatens
to drive a wedge between players and fans.
Given such a climate, fans say it’s refreshing to
see Hahnemann building bridges in his game.
He and Amanda invite American players
from opposing teams to their home to celebrate
Thanksgiving. He signs autographs long
after the other players have gone to the locker
room. And at his own expense, he sends his
jersey sailing into the stands.
“I really appreciate the fans and don’t take
them for granted,” says Hahnemann. “I grew
up in the States, where soccer players would
die for any publicity. Over here, the fans are
begging for any sort of interaction. We kind
of feed off each other.”
Hahnemann tries not to take himself too
seriously. He wears cowboy boots to each
game and bears the tattoo of the American
flag on his left arm. Still, he knows that some
of his fans have found fault with U.S. politics.
“A lady told me she may disagree with our
country, but she chants ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’
because she knows I like it,” he said. “That
supersedes everything else.”
On the evening that Reading clinched promotion
to the Premiership, Amanda Hahnemann
says the family walked into a local Chinese
restaurant. “One man stood up and said, ‘Well
done!’ and soon everyone was applauding.”
Marcus Hahnemann was probably more
embarrassed than flattered, says his wife. “He
has stayed grounded, and I think having two
little boys has helped. When he walks in the
door, they’re all over him.”
Another thing is certain: Fame has not
fazed the former Falcon. He still owns his
orange “Volkswagen Thing,” and savors his
memories of road trips with SPU teammates,
intramural basketball games, and the comical
stories of his coach, Cliff McCrath.
His wife sums it up best: “Marcus is the
same guy he’s always been,” she says.
— By Frank MacDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org)
— Photo courtesy of Reading Football Club
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