TAMPA — In some ways it’s a normal father-and-son story.
Son Julian Green excels at soccer. Proud dad Jerry Green roots from the stands wearing a jersey with his son’s name on the back.
Only today, the rest of the world will be watching, too.
The United States team kicks off its World Cup campaign today against Ghana with Julian Green, who was born at MacDill Air Force Base, among the team’s 23-man roster. His father plans to join more than 700 raucous fans expected to cram into MacDinton’s pub and restaurant in South Tampa to watch the game.
“Watching that, knowing what he’s been through and that he’s on the team, there are no words that can describe that,” Jerry Green said. “It’s a feeling of humbleness, but also ecstatic that he’s in the red, white and blue. That’s just huge.”
A non-commissioned officer with the U.S. Army, Jerry Green was stationed at MacDill when his son was born. After his parents divorced when he was 2 years old, Julian Green moved to Germany with his German mother. Father and son have maintained a strong relationship despite the almost 5,000-mile chasm separating them, visiting each other at least once a year.
As Julian, 19, pursued a career with the famed Bayern Munich team, his father worked this side of the ocean to help his son’s career. When he saw Julian’s name missing from a list of overseas U.S. players in a soccer magazine, he badgered the editors into doing a story about his son. He called college soccer coaches to raise Julian’s profile and give him alternatives.
“As a father, I felt it was my job to make sure he was prepared,” Jerry Green said. “If a professional soccer team didn’t work out, I felt there needed to be something else for him.”
With a German mother and U.S. father, Julian Green was eligible to play for either country, a scenario that tugged at his loyalties. “At the end of the day you have to do what is in your heart,” Green advised his son. “It has to be someplace where you feel, ‘This is the place for me.’ You’ll know where that is.”
That turned out to be with the United States team, a decision he made after attending a March team training camp held in Frankfurt. He was invited by the team’s German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, a World Cup winner as a striker for West Germany in 1990.
Having played only a handful of minutes for Bayern’s first team, it’s not clear how much playing time Julian Green will get, although he could be called upon from the bench if the team is trailing.
Ironically for both coach and player, the World Cup draw pitted the United States against Germany. Jerry Green is hoping to be in Brazil for the game that will have special significance for his son.
“That feeling when you play Germany and hear both national anthems played ... That’s going to be something for Julian and that’s going to be something for Jurgen,” he said. “That will be a very emotional game for both sides.”