As the Digicel-sponsored Barbados Football Association’s Premier League wraps up round one, two young men have risen to the top of the heap. Finding the back of the net nine times in eight games both, the 27-year-old Mario Harte of UWI Blackbirds, and the 24-year-old Armando Lashley of Paradise have their eyes set on the golden boot.
With their teams separated by a one-goal goal difference, and by one point on the table, moving into their last games of the first round on Sunday and Tuesday. both young men are eager to separate both themselves and their clubs from the pack. Lashley and third place Paradise will face fifth place Rendezvous on Sunday in a 6 p.m. fixture. While Harte and the second place Blackbirds do battle with eighth place Notre Dame on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Sporting World caught up with both gentlemen last night at national training in their preparation for the upcoming CFU and their first game against Curacao on 22nd March at home.
What positions and/or roles do you play with your respective clubs?
AL My position is striker and my role is really just to put the ball in the back of the net. If the coach asks for me to play behind the striker, I will play it. Basically I am willing to play anywhere I am asked but my main position is on top.
MH I play forward, I don’t actually play the leading striker. I have more of a role creating goal-scoring opportunities.
How important is it to find the back of the net in the last game of the round?
AL Well a goal will be good because I’ll be in front of Mario (they both chuckle) at least until Tuesday when he plays. But Rendezvous are tough opponents and it won’t be that easy to score… the hardest thing to do is to score, but I still believe that the opportunity will present itself and I intend to grasp it. A win will take us to the top of the table.
MH A goal is always important but I really hope for the win. Even if I don’t score myself maybe I can assist someone else to put the ball past the keeper and we can get the three points.
How did you guys get into football?
AL I started playing from very young, maybe four years of age, plus my dad was also a national footballer so I guess I am just following in his footsteps. Came right through playing for Paradise never played for anyone else. Made my international debut against St. Vincent and I’m still waiting to score my first goal though, but I started from very young and was always into football.
MH I also started very young with my father taking me to play football and I would go watch him. I always played all through primary school and in the community at home until I joined Soccer School, now Pro Shottas, where I started to take my football serious because we would tour to the UK and Florida. It was a really good set up and my football just built from there.
Describe the feelings around goal scoring.
AL Anxiety… I feel very anxious… happy after I have scored and my teammates are rushing to congratulate me, without your teammates you can’t score… its a good feeling.
MH It’s a very good feeling. It honestly relieves a lot of pressure. When you miss you feel really bad. So when you score, a lot of weight lifts off your shoulders. It’s a very relaxing thing for me actually.
What’s been the most memorable experience so far this season?
AL That would have to be when I scored four goals against Belfield… I wouldn’t say it was a hard task but I got opportunities and I took them.
MH It would have to be the game against Rendezvous. They are favourites and we beat them 2-0. I scored the opening goal a left-footer on the volley from just inside the 18. It was a great feeling.
Looking forward to CFU?
MH I just hope the guys can come together and really gel in preparation for the upcoming competition. I have no doubt we can qualify for the next stage… but it won’t be easy. But with everyone on board working hard as a team we can advance.
AL Well, I am working hard to be selected and I think all we have to do is stick together, unity is strength, once the guys go out there and fight for each other I believe we can come out on top.
Barbados will play Curacao first in the CFU, any thoughts?
MH It’s a home game so hopefully we can go out there and play some attractive, attacking football for the fans. We’re looking to score some goals and come out with a win.
AL I wouldn’t say we know much about them… we’ve never faced them before but we are playing at home so we are expected to win…no one is going to come to let us walk all over them but I believe we can come out on top. We have very good players.
Who has been the single influential person in your football career so far?
AL I would have to say my father. He’s been there all along for my entire career. He even coached at Paradise until this season. He coaches at Rendezvous now. But he has been there from the beginning until now.
MH It would have to be my grandmother. She has supported me from the beginning even if it was coming home tired she would always get me something to eat and wash my gear if I dropped to sleep. Up to this day she still does that so it would have to be her.
Recall the most memorable experience representing Barbados as both of you have been doing so from U17.
AL It would have to be Haiti. We didn’t go through, but when we defeated St. Kitts 3-2 no one was expecting us to win as they were favourites.
MH Last year in a friendly against Guyana we were down 2-0 and I scored just before the break to pull one back… it was another left foot finish.
Do you have any advice for the young guys coming through hoping to reach to this level?
AL Always remain positive, hard work pays off, never say you can’t, always think that you can.
MH Stay focused. A lot of our good young players are led astray and go towards the gangster life. It’s so much