The dream of playing Major League Soccer (MLS) could soon become a reality and may just be a couple kicks away for young Barbadians aiming to play at one of the highest levels of the game.
As a matter of fact coach of the University of Massachusetts Lovell Abel Wasswa is optimistic of selecting a number of local players from the Barbados Soccer Academy (BSA) to gain full soccer scholarships.
In recent years Edward Okey, Carl Hinkson, who is expected to start at right back on Sunday when the Barbados senior national team go up against Belize, Torian Went, and other players have all gained scholarships after graduating from the Soccer Academy.
Wasswa who is currently in Barbados on scouting duties told a news conference at the Coconut Court Beach Hotel that there was a high possibility of Barbadian footballers landing professional contracts.
“Every year there is an MLS draft where the MLS dedicates a month to evaluating all the best players in the country in college soccer. In each region they take the best fifteen players and put them in a camp for three weeks, with all the MLS coaches to take a look at the players. Every year there are 50 players drafted so the opportunities are immense because everyone is watching,” he said.
However, Wasswa said it was critical for players to be exposed at the college level where his institution plays in Division one in order for them to break unto the international scene whether it be MLS or the English Premier League, making a reference to 21-year-old Manchester City midfielder Jack Harrison who is currently on loan at Middlesbrough.
“College soccer bridges the gap between under 18 and under 23. I think it is very important. It is one of the things that the United States does a very good job in, compared to most countries. It plays a very big role. College soccer sends a lot of players to the MLS and I think if you have a quality player who is doing well in the MLS he will move on. It is up to the quality of the player.”
Having arrived in Barbados on Monday, Wasswa has had the chance to evaluate at least one training session with homegrown talent on display and although having a striker on the top of his scouting list he has been very impressed with the quality of football at the youth stage.
“The quality is undeniable, everyone is athletic, strong and quick and then there are guys who are pretty technical. For me, all that is left to do is to see how their soccer brains work, how they see the game, awareness and intelligence, but in terms of technique it is undeniable you can see it within five minutes of training. I am not finding a lot of players in the United States that are much more technical than the players here in Barbados.”
Director of the Barbados Soccer Academy Football Club Jabez ‘Jack’ Bovell who was also at this morning’s media briefing said he believed that the club’s presence in top-flight football next year would help to chart the overseas path for players.
“We have good coaching. We moved from division two to division one last year and this year we won the zone and we will be playing premier league football here locally. We try to position them to be well-rounded athletes. Since we are playing premier league, that will be the best avenue where the guys will be playing at the highest level. It will be a good launching pad if they can play at such a high level so young here in Barbados, then they will be able to play in the USA,” Bovell said.