Towering Palestinian from Peachtree - The Province

Marc Weber

Whitecaps' 6-foot-5 centre back Omar Jarun talks about all things concrete
 
The Province's Marc Weber sat down with the Vancouver Whitecaps' towering centre back Omar Jarun and asked him, among other things, why the heck he's not playing American football and how he got so darn big. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound defender from Peachtree, Ga., is in his first year with the Whitecaps after going to the USL-1 final with the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2006-07.

Q: Your whole career you were a forward. You were picked as a forward for the MLS Combine in 2006 and then switched to centre back in Atlanta. How tough has that transition been?

A: There's a lot more responsibility. Up front I'd like to take some chances and at the back you can't do that. It's frustrating sometimes when you've got to kick long balls a lot, but it's my third year and I like the transition. I just kind of use my athletic ability. Keep learning every day and cut down the mistakes.

Q: You're a pretty big guy for a soccer player. Did you play football in high school?

A: I was pretty good at football. I was a kicker. Some colleges wanted me to do trials, but I passed on it. [Kicking] was boring and my team sucked in high school. They wanted me to walk on at Georgia, Alabama and Auburn, but I just said no. I didn't want to put much thought into it.

Q: Do you follow college football or the NFL closely?

A: Oh yeah, I watch a lot of football. Dallas [Cowboys], the Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs. I'm a huge Cowboys fan. I've got a T.O. and Romo jersey.

Q: Back to the pitch. Do you miss the thrill of scoring goals?

A: Big time. That's what really kept me playing soccer rather than kicking a football. That glory of scoring a goal, winning a game.

Q: I guess you're hoping to get a few off corners?

A: Yeah, we haven't got anything off those. Me and Nashy and Justin [cornerkick takers Martin Nash and Justin Moose], we can work on those a little more. We should be getting four or five of those a year.

Q: Last year you suited up for Palestine in 2010 World Cup qualifying -- you were born in Kuwait, but your dad is Palestinian. Describe that experience.

A: I was definitely proud to be playing for an Arabic team and obviously playing at an international level. I just wish it was set up better and there wasn't so much nonsense going on politically and with wars. They play with a lot of heart. The local kids have nothing. You see a different meaning behind the game because they don't play for fun or for money. You see a lot of character and it feels great to play with that stuff. It makes you love the game even more.

Q: Any future plans with them?

A: They've got a tournament (the West Asian Football Federation Championship) Aug. 7-15, but me being there is still on standby (the Whitecaps have games). But any time they call I'll play hard for them.

Q: Your dad, B.J., owns a big concrete company in Georgia that you work at in the offseason. Are you doing the heavy lifting or working behind a desk?

A: I started out with the hard labour when I was 16 and I've worked my way up to an office job. He gets me involved in all the aspects because he wants me to take over the company. That's why I want to play the highest level possible now because I've got to start working soon. My dad wants to retire when he's 55. It's a big gift having a job sorted for you.

Q: Is that how you got so big? Hauling bags of cement around?

A: No. My family is really small as well, it's funny. I get a lot of grief about that -- my mom with the milkman and all that stuff. It's just one of those things.

© The Vancouver Province 2008