CHARLOTTE – Cornerback James Bradberry, kicker Graham Gano and safety Tre Boston are three of the biggest soccer fans on the Panthers roster, and they are among the many excited about Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain facing off in the International Champions Cup on July 25 at Bank of America Stadium.
The three players recently answered a series of questions about their soccer fandom.
How did you first become interested in soccer?
Norman: Playing my little brother on the video game was the biggest thing. We've played FIFA throughout the years. I got accustomed to it and started watching the World Cups. I got to know some of the players.
Gano: Growing up in Scotland, that was the main game over there. I used to kick around with my brothers in the yard. In Germany I started playing some club ball, and my brother was a semi-pro soccer player over there.
Boston: Probably like five years ago. A couple friends got me playing FIFA, the video game, and from there my love blossomed. I just love soccer and when I go to play video games soccer is my first thing. When there's a premier game like La Liga, Premier League, I'm always trying to catch those top-notch teams. When the World Cup comes around I'm always on it.
What about the sport appeals to you?
Norman: The scoring and the celebrations after they score. It's like a free for all. It gets me excited, man, it's electric. The build up to the goal is just as cool as the goal. As soon as it happens, everything goes crazy.
Who is your favorite player on Chelsea or PSG?
Norman: Zlatan Ibrahimović. He's my favorite player right now. We need to do a jersey swap. That's my guy. Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi, David Luiz – all those guys are great. I like Didier Drogba. And Eden Hazard is really good.
Boston: I'm going for PSG because Zlatan, he's just one of the best in the world right now at what he does.
Do you think soccer is becoming more popular in Charlotte and America in general?
Norman: I think it is. People are getting more into it. I play a lot of teammates on FIFA. The game makes it more fun to watch. You learn the players and the teams, and it's just like real life.
Gano: I think it's getting more popular. The U.S. women's team has always been really successful, and the men's team keeps getting better and better. That's important, and I definitely think the sport is growing. There's more of an emphasis on it, and there is more talent coming from the United States.
What are your plans for the game?
Norman: I'll be there for sure.
Gano: I'm going to try to check it out.
Boston: I'm trying to go to it. Somebody needs to find a way for me to get on the sideline. I need to cheer for Ibrahimović and talk to him a little bit about his game and what I think can help him. But there's not much, just tell him to rip one from about 40-feet out. I'm trying to be there, know that.
For ticket information, visit www.internationalchampionscup.com.