Philly’s Own Jeremiah White: At Home in Aarhus

June 23rd and Jeremiah White is back to work. The Haverford School graduate and Philadelphia native has been a professional soccer player for five years now and it has been one hell of a ride. He developed his skills with the premier local club, FC Delco and took part in the renaissance of soccer at Wake Forest University, under Jay Vidovich. Through all that, White nurtured a dream to play abroad. After college, amidst all the uncertainty of establishing a career in a foreign land, White secured a contract in Serbia with OFK Beograd and the rollercoaster was off. At times seemingly without brakes. Within several years, he had hopped from Beograd to Panserraikos in Greece and then France with Ligue 2 side Gueugnon. Along the way, there were broken promises and a little bit of deception but, in the end, a whole wealth of experience. After White became disenchanted with the Gueugnon’s leadership, he was off to look for another club. In 2006, he found AGF Aarhus and for once, stability in an otherwise turbulent career for a 25-year old Philly native. It has been a coming of age for White in Denmark. He has become a fan favorite, one of the veterans now at the age of 27, and one of the most dangerous and versatile attackers in the Danish Superliga. The biggest city in Jutland has become a home to him and a place where he feels like – regardless of the coaching changes or tactics – he can be himself. That says a lot about the different experiences at all of the stops that led up to AGF. “Aarhus is special to me. There’s a huge difference between Serbia, France, Denmark. In France and Serbia, it feels like they impose the culture and their style on you, whereas in Denmark, there is more of a freedom to be yourself within the framework. In France, I was the fittest that I’ve ever been. I felt really good in France. I was the leading scorer in Ligue 2 for a while before the coach benched me for seven games. I’m not sure what the reason was. I was younger though, didn’t understand it, or absorb it well. No situation is ever perfect”. His time in Denmark has been as close to perfect as one can get. Signing with a then second-tier side, White endeared himself to the community and the club helping lead Aarhus to a promotion back to the Danish Superliga. His speed, pinpoint crossing, and versatility made him exciting to watch. His commitment was evident, playing through injuries, out of position. Essentially, whatever was needed from him, he delivered. In January of 2008, however, someone else other than the Aarhus fans noticed. USMNT coach Bob Bradley called him in for camp leading up to an international friendly with Sweden. White replaced Landon Donovan in the 81st minute to receive his first and only international cap.

Fast forward to the next season and after a great 2008-2009 with AGF Aarhus (one he shared with fellow American international Benny Feilhaber who has injured most of the year), and a crowded international schedule for US Men’s National Team this summer, many thought the Gold Cup would have been a perfect opportunity for White, especially with his versatility. Not the case. At least for Bob Bradley. When asked about his preliminary call-up in the 30-player roster given to CONCACAF a month before yesterday’s final roster announcement, White seemed surprised he was even on it. In fact, he was rather indifferent and surprisingly unaware. “I don’t know because there’s no real communication. All season I was a starter, man of the match in big games – like our wins over Copenhagen and Brondby – and it didn’t seem like anyone was paying any attention”. After all, as the numbers of Yanks forging their careers abroad (81 now and on the rise) increase, White has been the quintessential success story. The former Demon Deacon had an impact every where he went whether it was Eastern Europe or Jutland. Even with strong play, it has now been almost 18 months since his last real taste of international soccer. When the 23-person roster was announced earlier this week, White wasn’t on it. It may have been fitness concerns or the need to give more Major League Soccer players a taste but, ultimately, it seems he expected it. The focus then shifts to a new year with AGF Aarhus and one that holds more promise than ever before. His early goals? “I want to get in and be healthy. If I can go the whole the season the way I started the first four games of the half season, that’d be great”.

In his time abroad, he has come to terms with the unpredictable nature of soccer and a mid-season coaching change this year was an example of just that. Even after succeeding in gaining promotion once again to the top flight – a run that White was a huge part of – manager Ove Pedersen was replaced with FC Midtjylland’s top man Erik Rasmussen. Rasmussen had been at Danny Califf’s club since 2004 and had turned them into a formidable power in Danish football, grabbing second place for two years running. On paper, the move looked great and after he took over at the beginning of 2009 and the second half of the season, he didn’t disappoint. For once, a change played to Jeremiah’s advantage. “The coaching change and tactics fit my style more. The last coach [Pedersen] played me out of position. They say I’m great at crossing and getting forward on the wing and the coaching change and new system brought on by that allowed me to show what I can do. I scored more goals last season and played the same amount of games but with the new system this season, I have been a part of almost every goal we have produced”. The success was evident as Aarhus gradually climbed the Superliga table to 6th, a huge improvement on their first year back in the top flight where they finished 10th and dangerously close to relegation. The season ended on a sour note, however. With White out injured along with seven other starters missing, Aarhus lost to the last place squad Vejle 2-1 and in the process missed out on 5th place. The key players, however, are all back this season and with Benny Feilhaber rounding into fitness and a system that the players are happy with, the 2009-2010 season looks to be an important one for White and Aarhus. All snubs aside, White has made a career for himself abroad, proving the doubters wrong when he sidestepped advances from Major League Soccer teams in 2004 to try his luck overseas. It has been one hell of a journey but it has ultimately led him to Aarhus.

As a local product, White would be a sound addition to a Philadelphia Union roster set to start taking shape. “It depends” he says when propositioned. For now, however, he left for Denmark earlier this week to start preparations for a new Superliga campaign.

For those worried that Aarhus and Denmark has become White’s home, don’t fret. There’s a reason he foregoes vacations elsewhere to head back to the Philadelphia area.

“I do enjoy being in Denmark, in Aarhus, but I’m looking for houses [in Philadelphia]. I like the area. This is my home.”

To see past Olde City posts, click News then Olde City above. For even more you can head over to Center Holds It at Big Soccer.