There was no hiding the excitement for Obafemi Martins when he arrived in Seattle on Friday.
The 28-year-old forward and the newest addition to the Sounders FC roster talked about his eagerness to meet his new teammates, to see a packed CenturyLink Field and to play with his new club. Most obvious in indicating the sincerity of that enthusiasm was the megawatt smile that never left his face while he met with media at SeaTac Airport just minutes after he landed on a flight from London.
“I’m happy I’m here,” he beamed. “Chris Henderson came over to Valencia in Spain and tried as hard as possible to bring me here. Now I’m glad I’m here and I can’t wait to see my teammates.”
He won’t have to wait long to see them in action, as head coach Sigi Schmid said it is possible that Martins will be included in the 18 when the Sounders take on the Portland Timbers as part of MLS Rivalry Week on Saturday at 5 pm at CenturyLink Field in a nationally televised match on NBC Sports.
Over the course of the six-month courtship of Martins, he has seen several Sounders matches while he was playing with Levante in Spain’s La Liga, but seeing them in person with a crowd of over 40,000 on hand drew Martins to fly to Seattle for the match knowing that he would be flying to Nigeria after the match to join the Nigerian National Team for a World Cup qualifying match next week against Kenya.
Such is his conviction to bring excitement to the fans and help Seattle to the top of Major League Soccer.
“I’ve been watching the games and they’re crazy about football. They love the game. I want to really see how it’s going to be tomorrow,” said Martins, who said he expects to play against Portland. “I’m ready to play. That’s why I’m here.”
After playing at the top levels in Italy with Inter Milan, England with Newcastle United, Germany with Wolfsburg, Russia with Rubin Kazan and Spain with Levante, he is now ready to conquer another challenge in the US. It wasn’t a decision that came without some soul-searching, though.
“I wasn’t sure yet if I was going to come,” he said. “All of a sudden I just decided to myself, ‘Why not? Let me try and come a different league.’ So that’s why I’m here.”
He will have plenty of opportunity to put his stamp on the club as the Sounders have played just one match on the MLS schedule and next month will play in the semifinals of CONCACAF Champions League against Santos Laguna.
When he returns from the World Cup qualifying match, the Sounders will have just one match against Real Salt Lake on March 30 before the first leg of that semifinal series, so it will be a crash course in the club. But after the slow developments to get him to Seattle, he’s just thrilled to get that process started with his new teammates.
“They have great players. They have a great team right now, because I’ve seen them play,” he said. “I’m going to say I’m happy to be here and I really want to play with them.”