Hawaiian-born, Florida-raised Raptors midfielder who still dreams of football in Japan
Updated: Apr 3
We talk to much-travelled American Joshua Schirmer about how he thinks the Raptors are looking this season and his experiences playing and coaching football around the world.
First up, tell us about where you are from...
Well I am from Hawaii but grew up in Florida. My Dad was in the military so I was there for 5 years. I went back to visit a few years ago but don't have family or anything there.
In Florida it was quite similar to Hawaii, we lived next to the beach and it's hot all year round...so I am used to warm weather. I grew up in the largest city, Jacksonville.
How was the football in the states?
Well there is NFL, the Jaguars...but soccer, not in Jacksonville. In Florida there is a new MLS team in Miami and another in Orlando, plus there is Tampa Bay Rowdies, a second division team.
So how did you end up playing soccer out there?
Actually I was a baseball player, and basketball. I moved high schools and my new friends were playing soccer...I just picked it up at 14, I'd never played before that.
How did you travel around between there and Prague?
I played first at some local clubs in Florida, and at University, after that I went to Japan. I played in team called Tokyo Hibernian for a couple of years, and then went to play professional in Hong Kong, for a team called Hong Kong Football Club, I played 1 season there.
I went to Australia after that and I was going to play there but I couldn't get a work visa, so I went back to Japan and joined Urawa Red Diamonds, playing for their second team.
Where did you like playing the most?
Probably Japan, it's so different there. I was the first foreigner to ever play in that league. I speak Japanese so it was cool, I really enjoyed it. I was working for the first team for Urawa at the same time, running English courses for the players and staff, plus I was doing some coaching in their academy.
And where did you go after Japan?
I went back to the States, and started coaching at University from 2013-18.
Then I came to Prague to coach the Sparta Women's team. We won the league and the cup that year. I think it was the first time in 5 years we had won the league, so we stopped Slavia's streak.
After that season I took a new job coaching at a University near Boston. It was whilst I was there I got the offer to come back to Prague and work for the Sparta Men's first team, as Performance Analyst.
So what's it like working for the Sparta Men's team?
It's completely different...we were in the Europa league this year so totally different. Getting to meet Ibrahimovic, chatting with Scott Brown before the Celtic match, and with Milan / Brazil legend Dida at the game in Italy...thinking to myself 'how did I get here?'.
I don't speak much Czech but most of the Sparta players know enough English, for those that don't we make it work somehow.
Right now with the covid regulations means the set-up has changed but before that I was on the bench during games. When we go back to normal I will be back there with my iPad.
I report to Ben Ashworth, formally of Arsenal, he is the Head of the Performance team and he reports into Tomáš Rosický.
How are Sparta looking this season?
We are second in the league, of course we want to be first but realistically qualifying for the Champions League is a big aim right now. We would need to win a few games in qualifying to get to the group stage. Slavia did well, I respect the way they play, but it has gone far enough now (laughs).
It's the first time we got to the group stage in Europe for a while so it was great experience for our players, against teams like Milan, Celtic and a very good Lille team.
How about you as a player, how do you like to play?
I was actually always a left back, I had played central midfielder before but mainly left back...now I am at the Raptors though I am back in the center of the park.
I've always liked to play in the middle. I am pretty aggressive, definitely not a flair player, more the opposite, not flashy, I like to get stuck-in, keep possession, battle.
I am not an attacking player, I've scored several free-kicks in my day but not too many goals from open play.
How do you think the Raptors are doing this season?
No complaints, obviously we have a big game coming up (against Satalice in second), if it ever happens. The Vinoř game was very good, the club had not beaten them before so it was exciting to go to their place and have such a strong game. As long as we keep getting the core group of players out I think we are in a good place.
Are there certain players in the team you really enjoy playing with?
Oh, all of them. I feel very comfortable with Jan & GP behind me. It's always fun to play with Lubos, he is a really top player. Hans too, he is really good and dangerous...and I have a good connection with Antuan, must be a North-American connection. You could say something about all of them...there is obvious quality throughout the team.
How do you think we will do if we get promotion?
I think we can push on, I think the 7th and the 6th we would have a chance to keep going. It seems from the 5th division is when it gets super tough.
Do you have a favourite player or coach?
My favourite ever player is Dennis Bergkamp, mainly because he could do things I could never do. I think the player I tried to play most like was Patrick Vieira. I definitely grew up an Arsenal supporter.
Most people don't like how he plays but I would say Diego Simeone from a coaching perspective - I am a more defense-minded player and coach.
What do you do away from football?
Because I work and play football I don't really watch much football now, because I am always around it.
Before covid I really liked traveling, I think I visited 75 countries so far, that was always my thing.
Brazil was one of my favourite places. I was living in the US and working in Brazil so I used to visit a lot.
Do you think you will live in another country?
I am doing my PhD so for sure I plan to stay in Europe for now but eventually I'd like to go back to Japan. My old club is about 30 minutes north of Tokyo...that is where I would like to go at some point.
Quick fire questions:
Prague, Florida or Tokyo?
Tokyo - It is just a great place, the people, the feeling. It is so busy but at the same time calm. It is unbelievable and safe. I really enjoyed my time there.
Ski or Beach holiday?
Beach for sure, I did not grow up with mountains...the first time I saw snow I was at Uni and was 19.
Messi or Ronaldo?
Hmmm, I never understood this debate. I am in the group that thinks we should just sit back and enjoy them.
Follower or Leader?
I think I am a leader, but by example...I am not the ra-ra type. If people watch me they tend to follow.