If you follow his Twitter account, you know that Joel Embiid is a huge soccer fan.
On April 23rd, the Real Madrid supporter shared some thoughts about rival Barcelona.
Hahahahhahajajajajajajaja Barcelona sucks #HalaMadrid
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) April 23, 2017
The next step in Embiid’s futbol fandom is a trip to Cardiff for a friendly match ahead of this Saturday’s Champion’s League final between his Madrid side and Italian champions Juventus. Most of the participants are former Real or Juve players.
Sixers public relations tells PhillyViews that Embiid will attend the match, but will NOT play. God knows we can’t afford another injury setback in Philadelphia sports.
Anyway, Joel is listed as a member of Ruud Gullit’s side, the former Dutch star who also had a short and ill-fated stint in the United States as head coach of David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy. Embiid’s team also features Houston Rockets center Clint Capela, along with soccer legends like Ryan Giggs, Robert Pires, and Cafu.
The other team is coached by Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno and features the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Luis Figo, and Roberto Carlos. I don’t know if Carmelo is playing, but he’s likely to hog the ball and take bad shots.
For the sake of the Sixers, and all of Philadelphia, let’s be happy that Joel won’t be on the pitch.
But wouldn’t it be great to see him out there?
There are no seven-footers in soccer, but Embiid moves extremely well. Maybe you play him as a lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 system, something like this:
I could see Giggs and Pires serving up assists to Joel with ease. I could also see Embiid playing as a towering center back or defensive midfielder, crushing those aerial duels and using his long legs to easily win slide tackles.
For what it’s worth, there are no seven footers in world futbol. The Union’s tallest player is 6’5″ Jack Elliott, a London-born rookie defender. C.J. Sapong, a target forward, is 6’4″. The biggest guy in MLS is 6’7″ center half Axel Sjoberg. New York City FC also has a backup goalkeeper who matches Sjoberg’s height.
In Europe, there’s a Belgian goalkeeper, Kristof Van Hout, who stands 6’10”. He’s the tallest footballer in the world. I found a highlight video from a few years back set to some crappy heavy metal instrumental –
You might also remember 6’7″ Czech striker Jan Koller, who scored two goals against the United States in what turned out to be one of our worst World Cup performances of all time. Also standing 6’7″ is Stoke City striker Peter Crouch, who played against the Union in a friendly match a few years back.
There aren’t a lot of midfielders or wingers who are built like Embiid. Maybe you’ve seen Steven N’Zonzi play for Sevilla. He’s a 6’5″ d-mid who moves pretty well for a big guy.
For what it’s worth, Embiid does appear to be a “5 for 5” guy, if that phrase exists. He’s been down to Talen Energy Stadium on a couple of occasions and once served as an honorary captain.
Joel embiid spotting at the union game pic.twitter.com/shwyLspcjn
— Justin Paluszek (@SandyMelon19) August 24, 2014
In truth, the coolest part about the exhibition game is that it’s actually taking part on a floating field.
Cardiff, the Welsh capital, is split by the River Taff and sits along the Cardiff Bay, a smaller part of the Bristol Channel.
I’d love to play on this pitch, which is probably better quality than anything I’ve ever played on in Philly. At least you know that there won’t be leftover Natty Ice beer cans on the field, which sometimes happens after a Friday night rager at Lincoln High School off of Cottman Avenue.
— CHAMPION PIRLO WAN☝ (@Gh_PirloWan) June 1, 2017