Courtesy of an animation posted on his Instagram account in March, Maurice Edu officially announced his retirement from playing soccer, but less officially, he had swapped one career in the sport for another. In recent months, the former midfielder has reintroduced himself to the American soccer audience as a broadcaster, covering the UEFA Champions League for Turner and Major League Soccer for Fox Sports.
“I get to stay within a space that I’ve spent my whole career, and that’s talking about and that’s being involved in soccer, but I’m in a different role,” Edu told Pro Soccer USA last week. “I have different responsibilities to the audience, but I’ve been enjoying it.”
As commentator and studio analyst, Edu gets to not only watch matches he probably would have regardless, but sometimes works with former USMNT teammates, smoothing the transition. However, his relationship to the audience, and to the sport itself, has changed.
“There’s that level of comfort that I think helps, but I think initially, no matter how you prepare, no matter your personality, I think [those] first couple shows, you’re still trying to feel yourself out,” Edu said. “You’re still trying to find your voice. Off camera, it’s so easy. You have your voice, you know who you are and whatnot, but when you’re on camera, your allegiance has to change.
“When you’re a player, you’re one of the guys, so you’re always going to be speaking from that,” Edu added. “When you’re in front of the camera, your loyalty is now to the audience. You have to be critical in the moments when you need to be critical. You’ve got to be honest, and so I think in the beginning, that was a little bit tricky navigating that.”
Though Edu is still in the early stages of his broadcasting career, he was not totally unfamiliar to the format before beginning his work at Turner and Fox. At a few points during his playing career, he had the opportunity to be a guest analyst, notably using his experience as a former Rangers player during American broadcasts of the Old Firm derby against Celtic.
“I got my feet wet that way, but it wasn’t something that I was necessarily thinking about when I was playing because my focus was just playing,” Edu said. “I wanted to play for as long as I could.”
From first pick to Old Firm
Edu recently called an end to his career, which spanned 10 years and saw him play in five different countries. The end was marked by injury, but the start of it saw Edu as one of America’s brightest prospects. He was the first pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC and ended that season as the MLS Rookie of the Year. A year and a half into his professional career, he left Toronto for Scotland, where he raked in many of his accomplishments.
“My first experience in Europe was playing at Rangers, which is this massive club,” Edu said. “I got the chance to fulfill childhood dreams playing in [the] Champions League, winning trophies, winning titles, all these things that as a kid, you make a list of what your goals are. At that time, it seems far-fetched, but now when it comes full circle, it’s kind of cool that I’m checking these things off my list.”
His four-year spell at the club, which was followed by a short stint at then Premier League side Stoke City, a loan to Turkey’s Bursaspor, and a return to MLS with the Philadelphia Union, also saw one of Edu’s career highlights. He came off the bench in an Old Firm match in the 2009-10 season to score the game’s lone goal in stoppage time, and continues to receive messages from supporters around the world about how special the moment was for them.
“I’m like what? You’re talking to me about a goal that happened how long ago?,” Edu said. “It just goes to show you how impactful sport [is].”
Another memorable moment came when he was selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, checking another item off his childhood list. There, Edu also scored a late goal in the U.S.’ second group stage match against Slovenia, though it was controversially ruled off in a decision that still leaves Edu with questions.
“It’s always going to be a moment I’ll remember and it’s going to be one I’ll remember kind of for the wrong reasons because it was taken away, but it was still special,” Edu said. “I’m at a place where I can laugh about it now. I still want to know what the call was, [but] I don’t think we will ever get that answer.”
A voice for social change
Edu also went through his own lows while playing soccer, including being racially abused by the Rangers’ fans after a 4-1 loss to Romanian side Unirea Urziceni. Edu said he felt “helpless” while discussing that incident during a Turner broadcast in December. As racism continues to dominate headlines and forces the sport’s governing bodies to punish fans and players around the world, Edu has been forced into pairing tactical breakdowns with conversations about topics larger than the sport. He has not shied away from the task.
“You can’t avoid your social responsibility,” Edu said. “We can pretend and say things have changed and it’s getting better, but the reality is that it isn’t. Maybe it’s just not being spoken about the way it should be.
“Maybe [there are] not enough sanctions in place to really help eradicate this from not only sport, but from society in general,” Edu added. “I know that society, in general, is going to take a huge cause, a huge effort from the powers that be and I think just from the common man as well to really speak up and take action and do their part. I think it starts [with] the people who have a platform using that platform, using that platform in the right way and sometimes it’s having those conversations that are difficult.”
"How do you change a situation if you're constantly trying to hide from it?"@kate_abdo @TimHowardGK @MauriceEdu discuss racism in the sport and the reaction to reported racist abuse directed toward Raheem Sterling over the weekend:https://t.co/uuLl75NycA
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) December 12, 2018
For that reason among others, Edu has accepted his rising status as one of American soccer media’s most prevalent voices.
“Even if you don’t want to think about it, it’s the reality,” Edu said. “With that comes a responsibility, and for me, I think I embrace it. … I think I embrace the fact that I offer a different voice. Maybe I appeal to a different demographic. I think that’s important within soccer, because it’s such a multicultural sport.”