John Arne Riise says he is settling well into life on tour in Costa Rica and is focused on improving his fitness levels before the 2013/14 campaign starts.
Riise and his Fulham teammates have enjoyed a warm welcome in San Jose and won their first match 3-0 against C.S. Cartagines on Sunday. The Norwegian played 45 minutes and believes it was a good start to pre-season.
“It is always difficult in that first game, but you focus on your fitness and I think we did well,” he told the official website. “We have had a good pre-season so far. Obviously it is difficult to get over the jet-lag when you first get here, but we are working hard and getting used to everything here. The humidity is hard to train in, but during the match my legs were feeling good and hopefully I’ll just build on that.”
With Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz in the squad, the fans have turned up in force to see the Fulham players and Riise has been impressed by the support so far.
“The Costa Rica fans were incredible, it was impossible to talk during the warm-up as there was music and banging and shouting,” he said. “They are here to have fun. I think they are enjoying the fact that a Premier League club is here. They are so friendly to us and the atmosphere so far has been great.”
With the Club training and playing just over 1,000 metres above sea level in San Jose, altitude is playing its part in the fitness preparations.
“I felt really good in my legs, I felt like I could run all day,” Riise added. “But when you are running up and down the flanks it is hard to breathe and recover the oxygen you need. That is the hard part, but it makes it easier when you get back to the UK and start training again as you’re going to feel the benefits.”
Riise is also pleased to welcome the new additions to the squad, Maarten Stekelenburg, Derek Boateng and Fernando Amorebieta.
“If you speak English then it’s quite easy to come into this group,” he said. “Obviously Fernando doesn’t, so it’s a bit harder for him but he’ll get used to us and he’ll find we’re a really friendly group. We always take people in and have fun, when we’re on the pitch we are focused on that but off the pitch we have fun together.”
The defender is certainly keen to use the summer tour to help some of the younger players in the squad and ensure that the Club is well placed to surpass last season’s achievements.
“The senior players have to give advice to the younger ones and make them feel welcome,” he said. “As long as they show they are here to work hard and don’t get too bigheaded, then they will do well.
“The atmosphere in the camp is great and we’re all working hard together and trying to make sure that we do better than last year. Obviously we finished in 12th place, but this season we want to start well for the new owner and show what we can do.”