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Digicel U20 Footballers Describe Their Journey Of Champions

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– Six of the eight boys selected by Digicel Clinics’ Head Coach, John Barnes, describe their experiences during their week’s training at Sunderland AFC’s Academy of Light.

Thursday, 17 April – Kingston, Jamaica: The Digicel Kick Start Clinic’s Journey of Champions ended on Saturday, 12 April, when the eight Caribbean boys, selected by International footballer John Barnes, completed their one week’s training in the UK at Sunderland AFC’s Academy of Light. Six of the eight Digicel footballers, Leston Paul (Trinidad), Emilio Limon (Suriname), Gerard Williams (St. Kitts), Andrew Murray (Guyana), Devaughn Elliot (St. Kitts), and Akeem Brown (Jamaica), describe their week’s experience:

Monday April 7

Leston Paul: “When we got to Sunderland’s Academy of Light, I was pleasantly surprised. The facilities there are world class, much better than I had expected. The staff were welcoming and made us feel comfortable. We were freezing so I was happy we didn’t have to train outside. Ged McNamee, the Academy’s Manager, went over the rules and gave us all new Umbro training kits. Dwight York came to meet us and gave us a lot of encouragement.”

Tuesday April 8

Emilio Limon: “They split us up today, Brisley (Haiti), Williams (St. Kitts) and myself went to train with the reserves and the other five boys went to train with the youth team. I think we can actually play better than these players, but because they have everything at their convenience. If we had the same facilities in the Caribbean we would be so much better. We have to work twice as hard.”

Akeem Brown: “I was so nervous until I started playing with the youth team. It was easy. I thought they would be much better than us considering the facilities they get to use every day. John Barnes was right, just because we come from the Caribbean doesn’t mean we are not as good. We also met Kenwyn Jones who seemed really cool.”

Wednesday April 9

Gerard Williams: “Today they split us up again. Everyone except the youngest, 16-year-old Elliot (St. Kitts) went to train with the reserves. We all watched the first team train in the morning. Watching them was good for me, I see these players on TV and I always wondered how they train. Seeing them in action made me realise that I can be just like them, yes its hard work but it can be done. We played a match with the reserves in the afternoon and I did very well, I created a goal in the dying moments to give my team a 2-1 victory. Later we all had dinner with Carlos Edwards and Kenwyn Jones. That was great. Sitting with these big stars and they were just normal guys like us. Carlos told me that I need to work hard to achieve what I want. He said that we will get home sick but we have to know what is important to us, liming or football. He said we must stay dedicated and also warned us about being smart and making sure we read all our contracts and to make sure to sign with a FIFA licensed agent. Having dinner with Carlos and Kenwyn made me feel that if I applied myself I could be just like them very soon.”

Thursday April 10

Andrew Murray: “Today Roy Keane watched us train. I kept looking at him to see if I could tell what he was thinking. I really wanted to make an impression on him. But he had a screw face the whole time. He later explained that no matter what his face was always screw, even after winning a match. He turned out to be really cool and gave us a lot of tips on being a professional footballer. He said consistency was key and that you have to have a good first touch. He said he had it hard when he was young, and never thought he had that much skill but he knew he was smart, always made sure he knew who to pass the ball to, to make his team win. He was humble and very funny, gave us a lot of jokes. He promised to take us in to the players changing room before the match on Saturday to meet the players.”

Friday April 11

Devaughn Elliot: “Today we got more Umbro training kits. Carlos and Kenwyn gave us all new boots. I got two pairs, some got more. This week has taught me just how much discipline is needed to be a great footballer. What I love about the footballers here is that they are always happy to come to training; everyone works hard but has a good time. Back home people always complaining, they don’t want to work. I don’t know if it is because these guys get paid well why they are so happy to work so hard, but I will apply that same work ethic back home, because I know it will make me a better footballer.”

Saturday April 12

Akeem Brown: “Today was match day, Sunderland vs, Manchester City. We got to meet the players before the match and also met the big man himself, Sunderland Chairman Niall Quinn. We were featured in the programme so all these kids were coming up to us for autographs, we felt like superstars. I will always remember this week as the best week of my life. I never thought I would be here. Digicel and Sunderland AFC did a good thing when they gave eight Caribbean footballers this opportunity.”

According to Head of Sponsorship at Digicel Group, Kieran Foley, formerly a player in the League of Ireland himself; “Sunderland AFC has been a magnificent partner in this initiative and we are confident that their relationship will allow us to progress our developments for Caribbean football, which is growing from strength to strength.”

Digicel is a long time supporter of Caribbean football, partnering with a number of Football Associations where it operates such as the Jamaica Football Federation, the Haiti Football Federation as well as the football associations of Guyana and Suriname, among nine others. The company is also the title sponsor of the Digicel Caribbean Cup which involves up to 30 Caribbean countries and is the Caribbean qualification tournament towards the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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