NFL star Ochocinco is trying out with Sporting Kansas City next week. The NFL locked out the players so he has some time on his hands. Despite the immediate speculation of publicity stunt, Ochocinco, Coach Vermes and Sporting Kansas City all say that it is real. Ochocinco (do I have the name correct?) played soccer at a high level when he was young and actually preferred soccer but leaned towards American Football because there was more opportunity at that time.
He is 33 years old and in great shape for an NFL player but that is not the same as being in good shape for soccer, especially in Sporting KC's 90 minutes of 4-3-3 high pressure hell. A few seconds of all out sprints and running patterns is quite different than the constant motion in soccer.
It has been reported that he uses a soccer ball to warm up before his NFL games, he has practiced with some great teams and players around the world and was a good player when he was young. That does not compare to the thousands of hours that rookies have been practicing, working on ball skills, playing games and developing soccer sense.
Some people are going to assume that this is a stunt. Ochocinco says it is not. While he was with Kansas City, Indian star Sunil Chhetri was considered by some to be a 'publicity stunt' as well. He had great finishing skill though. He lacked defense and some other refinements that would have come playing at a high level but he had ability. Everyone says this is not a stunt. They say this a real trial because he wants to play soccer. Even if Ochocinco and the team wanted to do a publicity stunt like this, my experience with Vermes makes me think he would not approve. He is a serious manager and not prone to stunts that would distract from focusing on making a better team.
While it will create a media stir (already has), I say give him a shot. Let him trial like any strange guy from some unpronounceable eastern bloc country. Let him run drills and see if he has some skill. Let him scrimmage with the reserves. If he has skill and the right attitude, see what happens. Maybe the team falls into a bench depth/super sub kind of star. Worst that happens is everyone on the team gets autographs and Ochocinco gets a new jersey to hang on the wall.
What does everyone think? Good move? Stupid stunt? Fun distraction?