There are two things that talented Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo knows for sure.
One is that he loves his job, and the other is that he’s not planning on saying goodbye to his Brisbane lifestyle in a hurry.
“I really, really love the lifestyle that Brisbane offers,” Theo says.
“Obviously it helps when you’ve got a good environment in your work, and we’ve had success in the past two years as well, which is great.
“But generally I like the fact that I’m here to work, we wake up early and we go to training and the climate is unbelievably warm and it’s enjoyable.
“You wake up and you want to do things because you’re full of energy so that’s definitely played a big factor.”
Theo says he and wife Victoria Curtis enjoy nothing more than escaping in their spare time to Sirromet Winery in Mount Cotton on Brisbane’s sxouthside.
“We love spending a Sunday afternoon there and having some lunch,” the 31-year-old says.
“You know when you go there you’re going to be there for three or four hours at least, it’s such a beautiful place.”
Theo has been with the Roar since the 2010/2011 season and says that in addition to his and the club’s successes in recent years, it was the laid-back Brisbane lifestyle that played a significant part in his decision to sign his original three-year deal with the team, which expires at the end of the 2012-13 season.
The Melbourne-born goalkeeper, who previously played for Roar rivals the Melbourne Victory, tied his long-term future to his Brisbane team in September when he signed on for a further four seasons with the club, and it was no surprise that the Brisbane lifestyle again played a big part in that decision.
“When the club approached me to re-sign it was really a no brainer to extend my stay here as my wife and I are currently enjoying it,” Theo says.
Theo, who is now one of the Hyundai A-League’s most decorated players with four championships and three Goalkeeper of the Year awards to his name, plus the Australian clean sheet (no goals conceded) record of 876 minutes, doubts he would ever play a position other than goalkeeper.
“I started playing when I was nine, just playing on the streets with my mate,” he says.
“He would shoot and I’d be in-goals and I’d dive around as a young boy does, on concrete, which probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do,” Theo.
“And then one day we decided to join a club and they asked me what position I’d like to play, and I said in-goals and to this day I’ve stayed in there and loved every minute of it.”
From the time he first travelled with a team in a semi-professional environment as an injury replacement at the age of 19, Theo says pursuing a career in football was what he wanted to do.
He says while he never applied too much pressure to himself over whether he made it or not, once he had a taste for professional football he decided it was definitely something he could see himself doing.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones, especially in the A-League,” he says.
“There’s only 10 teams now, which means there’s not many goalkeepers around.
“I’ve been here since day one in the A-League [since] back in the 2005/2006 season and I’m still loving every minute.”
Throughout his highly successful career, Theo has had a huge number of gratifying and memorable moments, none more so than the Roar’s grand final win over the Central Coast Mariners in the 2010/2011 season.
“To be two-nil down with three and a half minutes to go and then to find that equaliser in extra time, and then go on to win it in a penalty shootout, obviously being a goalkeeper and saving a couple, that was probably my highlight in terms of a single game, particularly being on the big stage and a grand final,” Theo says.
“Also being a part of this team that went on that 36 game undefeated streak and to hold that record in Australia.
“That’s something that I suppose at the time you don’t pay too much attention to, but certainly these are the things that when I finish my playing career I’ll look back on with fond memories.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the Roar’s epic grand final win in 2011, Theo says the Roar’s biggest A-League rivals are most likely the Central Coast Mariners.
But, for the current season, Theo’s old team the Melbourne Victory, who now employ the Roar’s previous coach Ange Postecoglou, also loom as potential archrivals.
Despite all his successes, Theo admits to having a set routine that he follows carefully when game day comes around, which includes not going out too much in the lead up to the game and making sure he is well hydrated.
He also admits to having a couple of little superstitions that he says just come naturally.
“Pre warm-up I’ll do my little exercises that I like just to get me focussed and I’ll make sure that I put my left sock on first and my left boot, I don’t know why,” Theo says with a laugh.
“It’s funny how you have all these little superstitions that you think you don’t even have, but you realise quite quickly they are when you say them out loud.”
In addition to these pre-game traditions, the veteran goalkeeper maintains a relatively strict dietary regimen throughout the year.
And it’ll be no great surprise to anyone that the road to his success isn’t littered with Big Macs and late night snacks.
“I’m pretty pedantic with what I eat,” Theo says.
“I have a food diary, so whatever I eat I mark it down and that way it keeps me focussed and I know exactly what I’m putting into my body, at what times and how I’m feeling.
“So it’s pretty full on, but they’re the little things that I suppose give you that extra little bit in your body.
“And being professional athletes you work hard, training twice a day, so you’ve got to make sure you are eating well.
“In terms of food, I try to eat a gluten free diet, I just feel better, I feel lighter and much better.
“And I suppose plenty of protein and lean meats and things like that, because you need your energy out on the field, whether you’re training or playing.”
For a man with a pretty impressive player record of his own, Theo is not afraid to admit that he has his own football role models that he looks up to, including current Real Madrid goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, and local player Michael Petkovic who, like Theo, played as keeper for the Melbourne Victory.
It’s perhaps fitting, then, that in recent years Theo has taken on the important job of role model for some of Brisbane’s future sporting stars.
For the past three years he has run soccer clinics for aspiring players through the Michael Theo Soccer Academy, which helps train both goalkeepers and outfield players.
“It’s something that I’m really passionate about,” Theo says.
“As a youngster I never really got the opportunity to be trained by elite athletes and so it’s something that I really enjoy, just mentoring the next generation I suppose,” he says.
“My time is limited with my commitments at the Brisbane Roar, but whenever I can I always have clinics that I run during the school holidays.
“The kids seem to love it as they get to work with myself and other goalkeeping coaches.
“And also in terms of the players, they get to work with Massimo Murdocca and our captain, Matt Smith, and all those sorts of quality players.
“So it’s a great opportunity for the younger kids.”