A few weeks after Wade Barrett arrived in Denmark, he found himself at the fishmonger's selecting a variety of herring to take to his apartment in downtown Aarhus, an eastern port city of 575,000.
''One reason I came was to live in a European environment,'' said Barrett, who was raised in Virginia Beach and spent the last five years playing for the San Jose Earthquakes. ''I wanted to learn a new language and entrench myself in a different culture.''
The language part is coming along. Barrett practices with a computer program and attends classes.
''It is hard because the Danes always want to speak English with me,'' Barrett says. Otherwise, his assimilation is moving at speed - including his newly acquired taste for the pickled fish that is a Northern European staple.
''I helped a teammate move who lives in countryside, where there's less English spoken,'' Barrett. ''We visited his parents, and that's where I felt I got a real taste of Denmark. Grainy bread, the spicy herring, the normal herring. I liked it, and so he took me to the market and showed me which ones to buy.''
The on-field transition has also gone smoothly. Barrett debuted for Aarhus GF when the winter break ended in March, starting at left back in a 2-2 tie with FC Copenhagen in front of a home crowd of 17,000. His next game was a 4-1 road loss at Esbjerg (attendance: 4,617).
''Even when the crowds are small,'' says Barrett, ''the atmosphere is very exciting because fans sing and chant all game long.''
But Barrett has gone from aiming for another league title with San Jose to helping prevent De Hvide (the Whites) from being relegated to the second tier. AGF won its last of five league titles in 1986.
''The team has struggled,'' Barrett says, ''but it's got new coaches, new management and new players.''
The Danish game, he says, is a bit faster and more physical than MLS. The travel is a different story.
''No more flying across country two days before a game,'' he says. ''We take buses everywhere. A long trip is three hours. We drive the day of the game. It's no problem. The roads are empty on Sunday because everything's closed.
''But soccer's soccer no matter where you go. There's training everyday, camaraderie between teammates, and I'm playing left back - the same way I was in San Jose.''
by Soccer America Executive Editor Mike Woitalla