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Falling for the classic veteran prank

Editor's note: Seattle Sounders forward Steve Zakuani, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft from the University of Akron, will be writing a rookie diary for ESPNsoccernet during the 2009 season.

As a rookie, you always have to be on your toes. Not just on the field because of the adjustment that playing professionally requires, but off the field as well. At any moment, the older players are going to play a prank on you. I've been doing my best to be alert in looking for clues and hints about upcoming pranks, but no amount of alertness could have saved me from what happened back on April 1.

A few days before that fateful day, one of the assistant coaches handed me an appearance sheet that detailed an upcoming event that had requested myself and fellow rookie Evan Brown. It was supposedly a follow-up to a photo shoot a few of us had done for Seattle magazine back in January. We were told that the editors at the magazine would like to do another story on the two rookies -- this time titled "Fresh Fish." It would involve a photo shoot at the renowned fish market in downtown Seattle. I happily obliged, not only because I like doing these kinds of things, but also because they told me it would be a paid appearance.

The grand day arrived, and after training, Evan and I, along with two teammates, drove to the fish market, where we were met by the coordinator of the whole thing. He directed us to a public bathroom, where we changed into our Sounders gear -- shirt, shorts and socks. After we returned to the set, two photographers came over to introduce themselves and asked us to remove our socks in keeping with the "Fresh Fish" theme -- being barefooted was apparently a more "fresh" look than our having socks on.

As we were removing our socks, they asked Evan to remove his shirt too. He looked at me with a look of disbelief, and I just burst out laughing. Were they being serious?

They got us into position and made us stand on some plastic bags laid on the ground beneath us, before handing us some fruits and vegetables. I was given lettuce, but I can't remember what Evan had. We were told to balance these vegetables on our feet as if they were soccer balls.

The photographer told us to pose like the Karate Kid by lifting our hands above our heads and raising the foot with the vegetable until we were standing on one leg. Throughout all of this, I was dying of laughter. I kept thinking how weird it was that they were making all of these requests.

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It was cold and raining, and by now a large crowd had gathered around to watch. "Higher" yelled the photographer as she instructed us to raise the foot balancing the vegetable even further away from the ground. If this wasn't bad enough, one of the photographers handed Evan a large, raw fish that he had to hold above his head while balancing the vegetable. I couldn't control my laughter at this point, and I said to Evan, "Surely we are getting 'Punk'd' or something!" At this point, the photographer asked us what the date was, and as soon as we remembered that is was the first of April, we knew we had been fooled.

Sure enough, Taylor Graham and Nate Jaqua emerged from the crowd laughing. Everyone from Evan and I, the photographers, the coordinator, and the watching public saw the funny side of it -- I was almost in tears from so much laughing.

On the field, our good start has continued despite suffering our first two losses of the season. The morale within the team is still great, and the support of the fans can still be felt. I was glad to score my first home goal of the season against San Jose on April 25, because as much as I enjoyed scoring at Toronto, there is nothing like scoring in front of your own fans and seeing the stadium erupt in celebration. With the exhibition game against Chelsea now confirmed for July 18, we have a lot to look forward to.


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