Major League Soccer’s Goalkeeper of ther year for 2012, Jimmy Nielsen, has established hinself as one of the best players in the League and a fan favorite while playing for Sporting Kansas City.Yet, while supporters are familiar with his achievements on the field and larger—than-life personality off it, few are aware of the remarkable story that led him to the Midwest. Compared at an early age to Denmark’s greatest goalkeeper ever, Peter Schmeichel, Nielsen was scouted by Manchester United and a host of other leading European clubs, but at the point when he should have been building a great career he was instead developing a ferocious gambling habit. In 1999, he dropped from Denmark’s Under-21 team after missing cerfew because of a lost night at the roulette table. Nicknamed "Casino Jimmy" by rivalsupporters, Nielsen continued to gamble-the stakes getting so high that he was able to win $5000,000 on a single night at one casino and then throw more than half of that away at the same venue a day later. His losses finally cought up with him in 2004, when his inability to pay off a gambling debt helped put a major bookie out of business. Avoiding bankruptcy only with financial assistance from his soccer club and with the support of a family he feared would desert him, Nielsen gradually pieced his life back together. But in his soccer careerhe remained unfulfilled. He had spent almost his entire career with Aalborg, the team he supported as a boy, starting a record 398 games and winning the Danish championship in 1999, but he dreamed of a fresh challenge. Were it not for a phone call, from Kansas City in January 2010, that might have been the end of the story.Despite still performing at a high level, Nielsen was contimplating retirement when he was offered a contract by an American club he didn't even know existed. He said yes.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this autobiography. I normally do not read vey much non-fiction, but this reads much like a fiction novel. I found myself hoping and praying that Jimmy would see the light and conquer his gambling addiction. The comments from friends, teammates and relatives showed a side of Jimmy that was very heartwarming.
Up to a couple of years ago, I did not care for soccer and thought it was a game fit only for uncoordinated children. Boy, did I find out differently! I now am a confirmed MLS and Sporting KC fan. As a resident of Kansas City, KS, I would love to see Jimmy and his immediate family stay on to live here when his playing days are over. I believe he will make an excellent coach when he finishes playing. I just hope those days do not come for several more years.