By Steve Virgen
9:54 PM PDT, October 4, 2012
COSTA MESA — It was an exciting day for Landon Donovan and Los Angeles Galaxy fans who packed the second floor at Macy's South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa Thursday.
Luis Santiago and his family were definitely anxious for the Galaxy captain who made an appearance to sign little soccer balls to raise money for the L.A. Galaxy Foundation, which provides help to various charities.
Santiago, 37, his wife Irma, 32, and daughter Leslie, 6, came from Orange and arrived at 2 p.m., four hours before Donovan was scheduled to appear. They were the first in line and happy to see one of their favorite soccer players.
Why does Santiago enjoy Donovan so much?
"He doesn't give up," Santiago said. "He just keeps going and going."
Before Donovan showed his energy by providing his autograph for fans, he took time out to answer questions from the Daily Pilot.
Question: Will soccer ever become popular in the U.S. and what do you think it will take to make it popular?
Answer: I do think it will become popular. I think it's going to take time. I think like other sports, you don't become perfect overnight. When I first started in the league 11 years ago it was pretty grim and we weren't quite sure. But now we have a base and we are starting to thrive.
I think it's only a matter of time. How much time? Who knows.
Question: What's your take on L.A. possibly getting an NFL team? Does that hurt the Galaxy in any way?
Answer: I don't think so. I think it will probably be a little bit different fans. But I'm excited. I'm a big sports fan and a big football fan so I would hope it happens. We're owned by AEG, which is pushing hard to get an NFL team up near Staples Center, near L.A. Live and if that could happen that would be an absolute dream. And I would be the first one in line for season tickets.
Question: What is your greatest achievement in your soccer career?
Answer: On the field, it's playing in a World Cup. I have had the opportunity to play in three. It's one of those things that, I can vividly remember being on the street growing up and saying I'm in the World Cup final and about to take a shot, like a lot of kids dream of. I remember the first time I walked out of the tunnel to play in my first game in the World Cup against Portugal in 2002. I had a moment where I paused and I probably could've started crying if I wasn't careful. I just got real emotional and nostalgic about it. It's been pretty cool.
Question: What is the L.A. Galaxy Foundation?
Answer: That is our charitable arm that does a lot of work in and around L.A. We get out to a lot places. We do a lot of different things in the community. Our guys do a real good job with it and it's something we're passionate about.
Question: Jack McBean is a player from Newport Beach who is on the Galaxy. What is your take on him and his potential?
Answer: He's been great. He's still 17 and we forget that sometimes. Physically he looks and acts like an older, veteran player, but we have to remember that he's still young and he's still developing. But he has gotten a lot better. He needs a chance now. We have a very good team with good forwards on the team so it's hard for him to break in and get a chance. But my guess is when he gets that chance he's going to do very well.
Question: What is your advice to young soccer players who aspire to become a pro?
Answer: I have a unique vision. When I was younger I didn't have anybody telling me this is the way to make it or that's the way to make it or you have to do this. My only thing was I just love playing.
There's a lot of stuff you can learn later if and when you get to the professional level. But what you can't learn is having tons of fun with the ball and playing every day and practicing every day. That stuff I just wanted to do. No one was forcing me to do it. My mom always told me and I believed it: only play if it's fun and if it's not fun don't play. It was very simple. I wanted to play all the time and it was fun. And I think that made me a better player.
Question: You never had that feeling of getting burned out?
Answer: I do now (laughs). It's taken me a long time. I think the reason for that is because I've always wanted to play. There hasn't been pressure and because I wanted to play.