World Football

Friday, July 21, 2006

Playing Abroad

Below is a first hand account of what it is like to go abroad and chase the dream of becoming a professional soccer player. I got the entry from Colin Vint via his older brother, Peter, who is a good friend of mine. Many thanks to Colin for taking the time out to write about his experience and allowing me the "exclusive" privilege of being the first to chronicle his experience in Ireland. Hopefully many more entries will come my way that I can share with you and hopefully in the future we can get an entry of what it's like to play in the EPL, La Liga, or the Bundesliga. Well, without further ado, I present Colin Vint's firsthand experience of training with Bray Wanderers and later recieving a contract offer...

Salutations from across the pond in Greystones, Ireland. Believe all
the rumors you heard about Ireland being really green... it is. I
don't know if it's because it rains more times a week year round than
not or what, but it definitely makes for beautiful scenery and crisp
pitches. No story really to how I ended up here, a friend of mine
from the University of Richmond who graduated a year before me lives
here and had a connection to get me a trial with the Finn Harps, a
first division side located in the northwest of the republic, but
since that couldn't go through my unnamed contact helped facilitate
the trial with the Bray Wanderers, a premier division squad
conveniently located only 20 minutes away from where I am staying. I
booked my flight, and a week later I was here, training with the
under-21s that evening. The whole process of going on trial is new to
me since I only recently graduated, and it's nothing like trying out
for your local select team. I was the only new face on the day, and
was just sort of thrown into the mix to see if I could keep up with
the u-21s, which thankfully I could. A midweek friendly was scheduled
against the St. Joeseph's schoolboys, basically a youth program that
feeds into Bray's u21/reserve sides, and regarded as one of the best
youth squads in the country. they jumped out to an early lead, but
thankfully our starters put their nerves to rest and levelled it
minutes later. Coming off the bench I quickly got into the mix
quickly, flicking on my first touch as an assist to the other front
runner, who buried the bouncing ball one touch. Second half I had a
bit of magic of my own, as my left foot is not my most prized
posession, but a through ball found me in a foot race with 2 Joey's
defenders and I was able to get onto it and slot a near post shot just
past the keeper with my left peg from about 16 yards out. The match
ended 4-2 in our favor, and afterwards the 1st team manager Tony
approached me and told me I had a good showing, and to report
to 1st team training the next week.
After a simple session on Monday, we then had our own
friendly against the visiting side Livingston FC, recently relegated
from the Scottish Premier League down to the First Division but still
a strong opponent. They jumped out to an early lead with a goal 5
minutes in, and doubled the tally just moments before the halftime
whistle blew. Whether it was the unseasonable heat (nothing compared
to the humidity in Virginia) or something else, our side looked flat
and uninspired. The second half began much like the first, with
Livingston netting an early goal to make the score 3-nil in their
favor. Being a friendly, we didn't quite adhere to the international
rules for substitutions, and in the 60th minute a few of us, including
me, were brought on to provide fresh legs and hopefully create a
spark. I didn't see the ball much, but when I did get it I was able
to play a few guys through with simple balls, flicking stuff over
defenders or splitting them, but I did make use of the one decent
opportunity presented to me. Receiving a ball at the corner of the 18
facing my own half, I faked a pass back and cut the ball back behind
me, splitting 2 defenders... after muscling through their attempts at
a tackle I smacked an overzealous shot that curled just wide of the
upper corner. Disappointed with the end result, but I did turn a few
heads with what I created. Livingston netted another late goal, and
the match ended 4-0. Overall a poor showing from our side, but we
were able to create a lot more in the second half.
After another training session with the First Team that week,
and a third early the next week, I finally sat down with Tony and
discussed my progress. He said just as he was after the u21 match, he
was impressed with my vision on the field and my ability to create,
and my size (6'2'' 220 doesn't really go against me) was a positive
given the style of defending in the league. With that, he said that
they definitely wanted to offer me a contract, and that I should go in
to the grounds that week to meet with Jack O'Neill, the general
manager, to finalize what we both wanted and expected. After a bit of
back and forth between what they had to offer and what I asked for, we
came to an agreement, and I signed with the Bray Wanderers on
Wednesday, the 12th of July, through the end of the current season in
mid-November. Crazy to say it, even crazier to think it, but that
officially made me a pro footballer!


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