A visit to Arsenal
Destiny. At the last minute a player dropped out of the Adidas ESP camp. It was
summer 2002 and in stepped Roanoke Star striker Danny Karbassiyoon to take his
place. You might say that the rising high school senior made the most of his
opportunity. The golden boot from the camp was no small achievement but the
biggest prize of all was being spotted by the Arsenal Chief Scout Steve Rowley.
A flight to London and a two-week tryout followed and a two-year contract was
in the mail shortly afterwards. The 2003-04 season was a tough period of
adjustment for Danny. He was use to playing in games but not anymore. He saw
limited time in the Reserves and missed his family and life thousands of miles
away. He was no longer a striker and was quickly thrown into an unfamiliar left
back position. However, his attitude never wavered and his second season has
been hugely successful. Now a regular in the Reserves he has also played in 3
Carling Cup games. A dream debut saw him score a last minute winner away at
Manchester City after coming on as a late substitute. He then played 90 minutes
in his home debut v Everton and then made an appearance at Old Trafford against
In November I visited Danny and had the opportunity to visit the prestige and
usually secretive Arsenal training grounds. After getting through huge well
protected metal gates I was promptly met by facilities manager Sean O'Connor.
Before entering the pristine facility I was required to place hospital booties
over my shoes! My first view was of the 4 lockers rooms, each with heated
floors. I entered the 1st team locker room that has open cubicles in numerical
order. Towards the front of the building was the fitness area full of updated
machinery including a machine called 'Batak'. It is a light reaction machine
with 20 different programs to aid players with mobility and agility. Working on
the sponge like floor were two full time fitness coaches. One, nicknamed the
'Animal Warrior', designs special workout program tailored for the needs of
each individual player.
Around the corner were two medical rooms that contained a staff of a full time
athletic doctor, a foot doctor and 3 full time masseurs. All medications must
be approved by the doctor down to taking an aspirin. A walk to the pool area
followed. The pools adjustable floor, from 1.7 meters to totally flat is used
in the rehabilitation process. The pools underwater windows ($3000 each) enable
the physios and doctors to watch the players and make corrections in movement.
The rehab pool, Jacuzzi and high pressure water jet tubs ($28000 each) face big
open windows over looking the playing fields as an attempt to help motivate
players to get back out there.
The disrobing room followed. This is where the players enter after training.
Training gear and boots are stripped off in this room and taken into an
adjoining boot room where two kitmen clean, stretch and store the footwear.
This is where we viewed the latest in Nike technology with boots not even on
the market yet. Many soccer company's design and fit boots for individuals in
mind. There are 5 full time laundry workers in this department who take care of
cleaning clothing and towels.
Manager Arsene Wenger was totally involved with the designing of the facility
down to the chairs and the colors of the floors and walls. There were many
blues and greens as they are considered soothing colors with windows
everywhere. Arsene tried out 5 different types of chairs before deciding upon
the most comfortable. The 5-year-old 143-acre site was purchased for 4 million
pounds and cost a further 16 million to develop. It was funded by the sale of
Nicholas Anelka to Real Madrid. With the same funds generated from the Anelka
sale Arsenal also funded the transfer to attract Thierry Henry. Decent business
you'll agree. The site has 24 acres of 10 playing fields, which are the best
anywhere and have been utilized by the German, Brazilian and Argentinean
National teams. The English National teams also use the facility on a regular
The fields are 70% soil and 30% sand and cost $200000 each. The recovery area
and goalkeeping area is 50/50 soil and sand. Two of the first team fields are
heated by a car size broiler ($50000) so the players can train during snow and
icy weather. All fields have a massive draining system that fills two ponds on
the site, one of which contains over 100 carp that are fed by Sean daily. The
club has also planted over 25000 trees to seclude the site and help the
environment. There are 12 full time groundskeepers to keep the site in
Training was intense to say the least and lasted for 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Once again the attention to detail and vision was apparent with the use of
mannequins and portable walls. The full-time chef then prepared lunch with the
part time assistance of Freddie Ljungberg who terrorized the kitchen staff like
he does most Premiership defenses. I ate a tasty lunch that contained a variety
of dishes including salads, lamb, chicken, steak and vegetables next to some of
the world's best players. Needless to say it was a great experience and it is
easy to see how a soccer club can attract and retain the best in order to stay
on top of the world.
Danny L. Beamer
Executive Director-Roanoke Star Soccer Club
NSCAA Regional Technical Director
P.O. Box 8987
Roanoke, VA 24014