Bayern Munich U-17 defender Grayson Dettoni has done a lot in just a short amount of time during his footballing career.
The young American started his career playing with legendary California youth soccer club San Diego Surf and subsequently climbed his way up the ladder, which parlayed its way into a move to Germany.
Playing first for TSV 1860 Munich, Dettoni quickly showed his talent and moved to Bayern Munich, where is continuing his journey.
Grayson was kind enough to correspond with us and grant us exclusive access for this interview.
BFW: As a kid that was born in Virginia, moved to San Diego, and then hopped over to Germany to pursue your dream, talk to me a little bit about what your journey has been like, what’s kept you motivated, and at what point you realized you had the kind of ability that it would take to play at a club like Bayern Munich?
Dettoni: It’s been a long journey moving from Virginia to California, then from California to Munich. When I was a young boy in Virginia, kicking the ball around for fun, I never expected myself to be living in Munich, and playing as a center back for one of the best teams in the world, Bayern Munich. At San Diego Surf I had an incredible few years of learning and growing and the most ironic thing was, when I look back on that time, is that I tried out for Surf wearing a Bayern Munich jersey. The coach at the time remembered me because of my Bayern jersey and called me “Weiner Schnitzel Saurkraut” until I accepted a position on the team. The last time that I played with Surf was at the Manchester City Cup in 2015, and the team gave me a Bayern Munich football as a farewell gift. Super ironic and very cool.
When we moved to Munich, I tried out for TSV 1860 Munich, which at the time was a second league Bundesliga team and they were also the biggest rivals with Bayern Munich. It was a terrifying, but also exciting experience because it was so different to what I was used to in the U.S. After a trial period of 12 days, they told me that I was good and had potential but to come back at the start of the summer for more training with the team. They then would make a decision. So early summer and after about a week of training and then an away tournament in Frankfurt, I secured a spot on the team and from that moment on, I realized that my football dream could become a reality. Even during these times of life changes, pressure to perform and a culture to get used to, the joy of playing football is what stayed and it is still keeping me motivated today every time I step on the pitch. It is something that I look forward to and love everyday.
BFW: Obviously, to be able to do what you are doing it requires a ton of support from your family and friends, who have some of the most important people been in helping you get to where you are?
Dettoni: There are so many people who have helped me become the player and person that I am today, but I would say that my parents are the ones who win out over everyone else. No matter where I need to be, whatever was going on, they have always been there for me. Driving me to training, driving me to tournaments, providing me with shoes and clothes for football, motivating me, helping me appreciate the hard times as they are growth opportunities and allowing me to enjoy football and helping me to be grateful for amazing experiences. These are just a few of the countless things they have done for me. I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
BFW: Looking through your history, you started out as a winger. If so, what prompted the move to center-back and how do you feel like playing offense in your youth helped you now that you are playing defense?
Dettoni: In California, I was a winger and a striker for my Surf team, but as soon as I arrived in Germany at my new club TSV 1860 Munich, they put me in the back line as a right back and center back. At the time, I was also growing a lot and so I was one of the taller boys on my team. That’s the way I started playing defense and now today I would fully call myself a center back. Passing has always been one of my strengths and so moving from a winger/striker to a defender who has to make difficult passes out the back was perfect for me.
BFW: San Diego Surf is a pretty legendary developmental club in the U.S., what role did it play in helping you hone your skills?
Dettoni: San Diego Surf was an amazing club for me. I met some really close friends and I had great coaching. We made a lot of memories that I will never forget. Surf helped me develop and hone a lot of the skills that I use today at Bayern Munich. It was a great academy for me and I know that without my years at Surf, I wouldn’t be the player I am today. I really want to take this time and highlight one coach that I had, Ryan Guy, who was a mentor and friend to me. He was a wonderful, very experienced coach, having played for the Guam National team as well as in Europe, and he saw something in me and believed in me. After we found out that we were moving Munich, he helped me train in many private trainings on the side and prepared me for the journey ahead. We still keep in touch with him and we send him my Bayern Munich team pictures every season.
BFW: How is the developmental path different in the U.S. compared to Germany from you can see?
Dettoni: For me there is a massive difference between football development in Germany compared to the U.S. One of the biggest differences are the coaches and facilities for players. A perfect example is that at Bayern we have a 70-million euro training facility dedicated to all of the youth teams and in the U.S. my San Diego Surf team had to share a field with polo horses. We trained on the local polo fields, so the horses took priority over us! It made it difficult to have consistency to say the least. In Germany football is extremely technical, very high speed, with controlled aggression, and quick decision making in tight spaces. Culturally it is extremely different in Germany as football is THE most popular sport so there is more effort put into the sport, players and teams.
BFW: How hard was it to adjust culturally in Germany with the difference in language, food, living quarters, etc?
Dettoni: I would say that for the first 2 years it was hard, mostly because of the language. I had a very hard time understanding what the coaches were telling me and the football drills they would shout out at training. There were a couple of boys who spoke some English and I had to have them translate everything for me. It helped that my parents put me into a bilingual German school from the very start so I was constantly immersed in the language. Munich itself wasn’t hard to get used to for me. I loved how green it was and how beautiful the city was. I also made a lot of friends who helped me settle into Munich and get comfortable here.
BFW: How do you think your game has evolved since joining Bayern Munich?
Dettoni: I would say that since joining Bayern, my knowledge of the game has improved immensely. The coaches have helped me learn new drills, new tactics and have given me important instructions in critical game situations. Of course, my skill and technique have also improved a lot which you would expect switching to a club like FC Bayern Munich.
BFW: Who has helped you along since you arrived at the club? Who do you hang out with during your free time?
Dettoni: The athletic coaches at Bayern that I’ve had over the past 5 years have been great and have helped me a lot in staying conditioned and fit, as well as a variety of coaches who have helped me become a better football player. I would also say that my teammates, who are all amazing players, have helped me become better because it is always a challenge to go up against some of the best players in Europe on a daily basis. Outside of football, I like to keep a balance. I have a lot of great friends from school, both at the international school that I currently attend and from the German school I used to attend. The friends I have outside of football are very important to me because there’s no pressure and no competition. We’re just mates. I’m lucky enough to also have some great friends on my team who I can stay with during long tournaments or games and we share a lot of common interests and have a blast together!