A single moment in Team USA’s victory over Ghana on Monday turned John Anthony Brooks from a fringe player into an overnight celebrity.
The U.S. national team and Ghana were tied at 1-1 in the 86th minute of their World Cup opener when Brooks, a little-known defender who entered the game in place of an injured Matt Belser, scored the go-ahead goal on a header off of a corner kick. Thanks to Brooks’ efforts, the United States defeated the team that had eliminated them from contention in the previous two World Cups.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brooks said after the game, according to ESPN. “It’s a great moment for me.”
Ironically, Brooks was never intended to be a major contributor at the 2014 World Cup; manager Jurgen Klinsmann saw this year’s event as an opportunity for the 21-year-old to gain valuable experience for future international tournaments, and many were surprised that Brooks was selected to the final 23-man roster. Instead, Brooks found himself in the spotlight a bit sooner than intended.
Still, Brooks has appeared in just five games for the U.S. national team, so many aspects of his background remain unknown to both casual and diehard soccer fans. Here are nine things to know about Team USA’s latest hero.
1. He was born and raised in Germany.
Brooks’ father, also named John, was a member of the U.S. military stationed in Berlin. Thus, Brooks grew up in the German capital and played for youth soccer teams in Germany, including the country’s under-20 team. In fact, despite his father’s roots in Chicago, Brooks has never lived in the United States.
2. He dreamed about scoring a goal in the World Cup.
Two days before the United States’ match with Ghana, Brooks told his teammates that he’d dreamed of scoring a game-winning goal. “Okay, in the dream I scored at the 88th minute, not at the 86th, but that was also a goal from a header to the corner,” he told Der Spiegel.
3. He’s one of seven dual nationals on Team USA.
Brooks is one of seven members of the U.S. men’s national team who could have chosen to play for another country. He was heavily recruited to play for his native Germany, but ultimately decided to play for Team USA.
“The U.S. really wanted me, so it was not a hard decision to play for the USA,” Brooks told USSoccer.com. “I talked a lot to my family. My dad, who is from Chicago, my mom, my sister, my grandparents, my agent. […] all of them gave me advice. Since I decided to play for the U.S., they have been very happy, congratulating me and wishing good luck.”
4. He plays club soccer for Hertha Berlin.
The 21-year-old played for a youth academy associated with Hertha Berlin before signing a professional contract with the club, which plays in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top soccer league.
5. He has prominent tattoos on each of his elbows.
Brooks has a tattoo of his hometown, Berlin, on his left below, and a tattoo of his father’s home state, Illinois, on his right, CNN reports.
6. In fact, he was once benched for getting a tattoo right before a match.
Earlier this year, Brooks’ brand-new back tattoo was so raw that he had to sit out Hertha Berlin’s game against Bayer Leverkusen, for fear that the skin would become inflamed.
Hertha’s manager, Jos Luhukay, was not pleased. “I don’t have any understanding for that,” he told Berliner Morgenpost. “The tattoo could lead to inflammation, and, naturally, that is not good.”
7. He may soon play in the English Premier League.
Details are sketchy, but Premier League teams such as Everton, West Ham, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Stoke City are all said to be interested in acquiring Brooks’ services from Hertha Berlin.
8. His game-winning goal made history.
By converting teammate Graham Zusi’s corner kick into a goal, Brooks became the first substitute player in U.S. national team history to score during a World Cup match.
9. His Wikipedia page is a huge hit.
In the minutes after his goal against Ghana, Brooks’ Wikipedia page was targeted by several hilarious edits. Adoring fans referred to him as “a God among men” and “the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln.”