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It’s a humid Thursday in midtown Manhattan and people are wrapped around the block at Adidas’ Fifth Avenue store to purchase Juventus’ third kit for the 2018-2019 Serie A season. They’re also there to get a glimpse of Miralem Pjanic, the Bosnian midfielder who’s been with the club since 2016, as well as his teammates Mattia De Sciglio, Giorgio Chiellini, and Mattia Perin. They’re in town not only to sell a few jerseys, but they’re competing in the International Champions Cup, a tournament where European clubs play against each other in front of American, and international, crowds, and to play against the MLS All-Star team on Wednesday, August 1.
Adidas is the kit sponsor of Juventus until 2022 and the brand has a close connection to Pjanic, who grew up idolizing players who wore the brand’s football boots. “My first memory of Adidas was my idol, Zinedine Zidane. He always played in the Predator, and that’s why I started to play in it,” he says. “I’m still with them. It’s now been 13 years or more that I’ve played with Adidas. It’s a real story.”
Juventus has also been the talk of the football world lately, due to the club signing Cristiano Ronaldo. “Ronaldo is a great player. Everybody knows what he did in the past, what he won,” says Pjanic. “Everywhere he plays, Manchester United, Real Madrid, he did big things. Signing for Juve is something that’s special for Juve, the supporters, the groups. Everybody is excited to start the season and try to do good things like he did before.”
For those who don’t pay much attention to football, Juventus might be familiar for another reason: Drake wore the club’s pink kit in 2016 and garnered a lot of attention for it. Try getting your hands on one of the shirts right now, it won’t be easy. “Drake is someone that we listen to. It was something special. I wasn’t playing for Juve yet at the moment, but I remember that he had the shirt on,” says Pjanic about the moment. “The rappers and players, they have something together, so of course it’s something special.”
The MLS All-Star Game, which takes place in Atlanta, is going to be a big deal. Even though Atlanta United is only in its second season, the club broke the league’s attendance record in its first reason when it packed almost 70,000 people into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The same atmosphere is expected by Pjanic and his Juventus teammates. “It will be a good game. MLS is still growing up. Every year is better and better,” he says. “They have a lot of great players here, so we’re excited to play this game. I think the stadium will be full and there will be a nice atmosphere inside. We’re trying to get in good form, no injuries, and play a good game against good players.”
Americans watching the game should pay attention to Juve, but also to the talent that’s playing here in the States right now. Players such as New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips, who recently became the fastest MLS player to score 100 goals, will be on the pitch and give fans a reason to fall in love with football in America, too. If the fanfare over Pjanic and Juve in New York City is a sign, the support will be split in the States.