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Veteran Friedel fit for Tottenham's Champions League fight

By Matthew Knight and Pedro Pinto, CNN
April 10, 2012 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Brad Friedel is 40 years old and has been playing in the English Premier League since 1997 -- but he is yet to make an appearance in the European Champions League. Brad Friedel is 40 years old and has been playing in the English Premier League since 1997 -- but he is yet to make an appearance in the European Champions League.
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Friedel chases Champions League
Ever present
Blackburn goalscorer
USA's Mr. Reliable
Back in the USA
Liverpool chance
Early promise
Starting out
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Veteran Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel talks to CNN's Pedro Pinto
  • The 40-year-old American says his desire to play is as strong as ever
  • He says Fabrice Muamba's recovery after collapse gave everyone a lift
  • Recent health scares have shown "how football can bring people together"

(CNN) -- Watching Brad Friedel being put through his paces at Tottenham Hotspur's training facility in Chigwell, Essex, you could be forgiven for thinking he was a lot younger than his 40 years.

But the veteran American goalkeeper, who is coming to the end of his first season with the English Premier League club, has no plans to hang up his gloves just yet.

"I enjoy playing football so much that I try to keep disciplined. I do yoga -- I've done that for eight or nine years now," he told CNN World Sport.

Friedel's fitness levels have allowed him to notch up over 450 appearances in England's top division in a career spanning 15 years and four clubs: Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Spurs. He has not missed an EPL game in almost eight seasons.

Friedel on Tottenham's Euro hopes

Footballers' health has rarely been out the headlines in recent weeks after Bolton Wanderers' Fabrice Muamba collapsed at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup quarterfinal against Spurs last month.

Although he wasn't on the pitch that day, the incident left Friedel in shock and disbelief.

"Here you have a 23-year-old, an incredibly fit footballer that collapses and goes into cardiac arrest and then 72 hours later you start to hear about the miracle, and it gave everyone a lift."

Inevitably, the incident brought the issue of heart-screening of footballers to the fore, but Friedel is confident that procedures in place are already pretty good.

"I think it's going to be better at some clubs than others. When I came here I was fully screened, also at Aston Villa and Blackburn. I think we have to take into consideration as well that these things just happen sometimes," Friedel said.

The great thing about football is that it can bring everyone together and help do a lot of good around the world
Brad Friedel

"Take what happened to my good friend Stiliyan Petrov (Aston Villa player who was recently diagnosed with acute leukemia) -- that wasn't something that was openly going to be detected years prior. Hopefully they've caught it really early."

The most heartening aspect of both stories has been the positive response, he said. "The great thing about football is that it can bring everyone together and help do a lot of good around the world."

It's nearly two decades since Ohio-born Friedel left his homeland in search of a professional career abroad.

"Soccer in the United States has come a million miles from when I started. There wasn't a professional league back then," he said.

"We all got scholarships into university if you were good enough and then if you were one of the lucky ones you would get into the youth national team. Then, if you were really fortunate, you got a chance to play overseas."

Friedel will return to the U.S. in mid-year as Tottenham embark upon a preseason tour, with friendlies lined up against LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls.

"I think the style of soccer we've played over the years and especially since Harry (Redknapp) took over, has gone down well in the U.S.," he says.

"We're one of the teams people really enjoy watching and hopefully with the branding efforts we'll become bigger in the States."

But for now, Friedel and Spurs have more pressing matters to attend to with European Champions League qualification to secure.

The club are currently lying fourth in the table, the final qualifying spot in the EPL, having dropped from third place after a poor run of results.

"It's very important that we're in the Champions League next year ... to attract the best players from around the world. It will be a disappointment if we don't. I think the gaffer would say the same."

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