WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – The Honduran national soccer team just gained a new member.
Andy Najar, the 18-year-old star midfielder who plays for D.C. United of Major League Soccer (MLS), said he will play on the international level for his native Honduras.
“It was a decision that my heart told me,” he said in a statement. “It came strictly from my heart.”
Najar was born in Choluteca, Honduras, but he moved to the United States at the age of 13. He attended high school in Virginia and starred for the D.C. United Youth Academy.
“From the beginning,” he said, “I was leaning toward Honduras.”
Last season, Najar had five goals and an assist in 26 MLS games en route to being named the MLS Rookie of the Year. He was the league’s youngest to earn the award and the first to come directly from a team’s youth academy.
Najar thought about announcing his decision to play for Honduras last season. But he decided against it because he wanted to improve his fitness, earn a spot in D.C. United’s starting lineup and finish high school. He’s expected to finish school in the next few weeks.
“We’re very happy with Najar’s decision,” Alfredo Hawit, Honduras soccer federation secretary, said in a statement. “Each player has a duty to defend his country’s colors, and by playing with our national team, we expect Najar to give his life on the field, along with his teammates.”
And he could meet his teammates in June.
“Obviously, if they call me, I’m ready to represent Honduras in the Gold Cup,” Najar said.
Honduras’ appearance in World Cup 2010 marked the country’s second-ever in the sport’s premier event. Honduras went 0-3 in South Africa and was eliminated in pool play.
Brazil, Great Britain ink Olympic deal
Brazil won’t be alone in its planning to host the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee signed a deal this week with the British Olympic Association for the two nations to share information about how to prepare facilities, training conditions and other logistics as both prepare to host the Summer Olympics. London will host the Olympics in 2012.
The deal was signed by British Olympic Association Chairman Colin Moynihan and Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman at the SportAccord Convention in London earlier this week.
“The next six years will undoubtedly be the most exciting and ambitious period in both our organizations’ histories,” Moynihan said in a statement.
Brazil’s Ramalho finds news home
Muricy Ramalho has a new home in Brazil.
The Brazilian coaching legend signed a deal this week with Santos just weeks after leaving 2010 Brazilian champion Fluminense due to a lack of facilities. Santos, located in Vila Belmiro, touts some of the top facilities in the country.
“I liked the attitude of the board, which showed transparency, seriousness and good planning. That’s why we reached an agreement,” Ramalho said during a media conference.
The Brazilian championship begins play in May with a bevy of new faces. Ramalho’s move is the 11th coaching change among the 20 teams in the first division since January.
But Ramalho’s move may have the biggest impact.
Ramalho led Fluminense to the title last season after guiding São Paulo to three titles from 2006-2008.
Polanco shining for Phillies
Plácido Polanco isn’t wasting any time picking up where he left off last season.
The second baseman from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is swinging a hot bat for the Philadelphia Phillies. The National League favorites are 5-1 to start the season thanks to the timely hitting of their star infielder.
Polanco is among Major League Baseball’s leaders in hits, picking up 11 in his first 25 at-bats. Through six games, he’s hitting .440, with four doubles and three walks to go along with eight runs batted-in. He has yet to strike out.
Polanco also has achieved his success despite wearing a pad to protect his injured elbow, which began bothering him during spring training.
Polanco hit .298 with 52 runs batted-in and 27 doubles in 132 games last season.
So what has been the secret for the 35-year-old who has battled injuries the past few seasons?
An improved diet.
“I train more and eat better,” Polanco told reporters. “You have to stay on top of it.”