A love for the game, discipline and hard work is part of Niall Reid-Stephens’ journey towards receiving a scholarship to Chicago State University where he will embark on his degree over the next two years.
The 19-year-old Barbados attacking midfielder said before his departure this afternoon at the Grantley Adams International Airport that he intends to work hard and be humble while knowing that everything else will fall into place. He noted that this opportunity was special considering how challenging it can be sometimes for young people like himself to keep focused.
Already aware it will take discipline and hard work to reach further in his football career, Reid- Stephens told local media his goal is to go on to play professionally when he completes his degree in sports management.
“It is a wonderful (opportunity) because coming up a lot of people would say it is either the block or in the graveyard. [So, I just want to] prove people wrong.
“First, I just want to get up there but I know it is hard work. For me I just don’t want my mother working anymore,” he said.
As it relates to his goals while at Chicago State University, the talented attacker said, “Put in more hard work for sure and then everything else will come.”
Speaking about his journey from his playing days at Arthur Smith Primary through to the St. Leonard’s Boys and the national team, Reid-Stephens stated it has been a wonderful opportunity.
The former national Under-19 captain also spoke highly of his former St. Leonard’s Boys School and University of the West Indies Blackbirds club coach Fabian Massiah. The two have formed an amazing bond as player/coach over the years and Massiah is very much part of the success Reid- Stephens continues to reap.
Speaking about the relationship they shared, Reid- Stephens said: “It was wonderful (working with him). He put all his trust in me and I believe in him “
The journey of playing with the national team, he also noted, has been a good experience.
“It is a good experience. It is hard work up there, the level of playing is faster so you have to be on the move,” he explained.
One of the most talented players on the Russell Latapy-coached Barbados Tridents team, Reid- Stephens scored one of the top ten goals in the CONCACAF qualifiers which he described as a sweet moment. “I just want to put my name out there and it is a wonderful thing to do,” he said.
Born and raised in Bonnetts New Road, Brittons Hill, Reid-Stephens shared that his parents – mother Lorna Reid and father Fester Stephens – inspired him along with his friends and legendary Argentina and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi.
Growing up in the Brittons Hill area which he said has a lot of talented footballers, Reid- Stephens said he saw himself as a role model for other youngsters and noted that they are very supportive of him.
He started playing football at five years old and it was only when he got into class three at Arthur Smith Primary that he began to take the sport seriously.
The exciting playmaker thanked everyone who has supported him over the years and he also had words of encouragement for other youngsters coming up in the sport.
“If you know you want it just go for it. Put your head to it and everything will come through,” he said.
Meanwhile, Massiah who was also at the airport to wish Reid-Stephens well and see him off, said he was excited and that this was a long time in coming.
“We are all excited for the new chapter that Niall is embarking on, it has been a long time coming, we have been working on it for a while now. Our focus at St. Leonard’s would have changed when we took the flight out in 2018 when we went to Washington. It was there that we met with Justin Reid and we were able to streamline what was necessary to get boys into college.
“So, coming out of that Justin would have introduced me to the coach of Chicago State University and from there we sent up some videos, he liked what he saw and the connection from there began. We now know the path that we have to take. We have a link so to speak and, with Niall going up and performing well, others will come calling and knocking at the doors of St. Leonard’s,” said Massiah, a certified CONCACAF B licensed coach.
He added: “Just want to say it is not only for St. Leonard’s Boys, but I am also a coach who believes that if someone takes up the phone and calls and I don’t have the type of player that they need and I know someone I would always put on that person as well.”