Many club partnerships around the world have a sister-cities sort of feel: an exchange of flowery press releases with two organizations professing their love and admiration for one another.
Less than two years after the San Jose Earthquakes and Tottenham Hotspur signed a club-to-club agreement in October 2008, Spurs will bring some of their best and brightest into a sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday.
The names include Robbie Keane, Roman Pavlyuchenko and the Croatian trio of Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric, to name a few.
No offense to the 2008 Honduran Olympic team – who were the Quakes’ international friendly opponent two years ago – but this is a significant step up on the scale of importance.
“Any time you get a chance to play [against a team with] the quality of Tottenham, it’s fantastic for our players and our fans to see a very, very proficient team that made the Champions League,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com.
The Quakes visited Spurs early this spring for a 10-day training camp in London. At the time, Tottenham were in the midst of a record run that would eventually land them fourth place in the EPL standings, cracking the hegemony of the “Big Four” (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United).
“They were fantastic hosts for us when we were there in February,” Yallop said. “We’re trying to give them a really good time while they’re here. It’s a good start of something that’s hopefully going to grow and get bigger. They were so accommodating to us, and we’re going to do the same for them.”
So far, the partnership hasn’t generated any player loans or transfers – wouldn’t Keane look good to a San Jose attack that has been stuck in the middle of the pack? How about Quakes defender Ike Opara playing in the EPL? But even without that element, the Quakes have benefited from seeing how an EPL club goes about its business, both on and off the field.
For San Jose’s younger players, the London training camp proved an illuminating experience, one that they are keen on repeating in the future.
“I hope we can do this every year, even with more teams, because it’s a great experience on both ends,” Quakes rookie Steven Beitashour said. “We go there, see their lifestyle, see how they get treated and they come over here, see how we get treated. They definitely treated us well over there, and our organization is great, so I’m sure we’ll return the favor.”
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or followed on Twitter: @sjquakes.