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MONDAY MAN: Hackett out to help youth


KIMBERLEY CUMMINS

MONDAY MAN: Hackett out to help youth

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SOMETIMES IN LIFE all it takes is just one person to see something in you that you didn’t see in yourself and a domino-type effect of success can follow.

This is exactly what happened to former national footballer Jeffrey Hackett, and now through his organisation, Global Satellite Soccer Academy, he was hoping to do it for others.

Before Jeff, as he is better known, was the director of the Canada-based academy, or playing second division football in Portugal, and making history as the first sophomore to captain the University of Albany’s football club, he was just a “little barefoot boy” in Deacons Farm, St Michael.

On a recent trip to the island, Hackett told the DAILY NATION that back in the late 1970s, he had an interest in football but could scarcely fathom the idea of a poor little boy from Barbados becoming an international footballer. So the youngster set his hat where he could reach it by pursuing academia. But one day while playing a friendly game in his village, a well-known figure made him believe the impossible could indeed be possible.

“Back then Richard [Stoute] lived in the Farm. He was very avid about sports especially cricket, but occasionally he would come out and watch a football match. One Sunday he saw me and after the game he approached me . . . . He obviously thought I was talented and he asked me if I would be interested in being properly trained in an organised club. I was probably about 17 then in my last year at Paragon High School.”

Stoute introduced Hackett to Beverley Hills Football Club that was based in New Orleans, The City. The now father of two recounted that the experience of playing in that club was good because he met many senior players and a coach who were intent on guiding junior players.

Under their training he was able to improve his technical ability as well as his fitness levels. Then one day, unbeknown to him, Stoute invited the national junior team’s coach, at the time Berne Fisher, to the National Stadium to watch him in action.

Whatever Hackett did that night paid off because Fisher subsequently requested him to try out for the national side, where he earned a spot and remained for two years before transitioning to the senior team.

“At the time I was just enjoying myself . . . playing on the national team and one of the players I grew up with, who had migrated to the [United States], was attending the University of Albany when he apparently told the coaches there about me. I didn’t even know but they sent the athletic director from the university to watch me play and he came down, watched me in a game at the Stadium and then the next day, he found where I was and introduced himself.

“I had just started to work at a place called the Agriculture Credit Bank on Fairchild Street. I don’t know how he found it but he came and offered me a four-year soccer scholarship,” Hackett said.

Jeffrey Hackett (left), with friend and footballer Renaldo “Pee Wee” Gilkes, with young footballers Sheran Hoyte and Reymar Walters who are headed to England in March to participate in a camp. 

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“This was around 1980 and I jumped at it. This was an opportunity for me to play at a higher level and further my education – so I went for it. It took me about a year to get all the paperwork and visa sorted out before I headed there. In 1986 I graduated with a degree in accounting and another in economics.”

After graduation, Hackett’s life in football would advance to the next level when his coach set up a try-out at a Portugal football club called Peniche. From the onset the coach emphasised that there was no guarantee Hackett would make the team. As a matter of a fact, the coach stressed his chances might be very slim particularly because of the language barrier.

However, in spite of this, Hackett went on and made the team.

“It was tough. I was the only black on the team but when I got on the field, everything was equal because it is all about playing,” Hackett said, laughing.

His stint at Peniche lasted for three years before a serious knee injury brought it to an end around 1994.

Nonetheless, the 56-year-old’s career in football was not yet complete and though he could no longer play the game, he still felt the need to partake in some form.

That’s when he moved to Canada and began coaching. His first taste of success in the new role came when he took an Under-13 youth team to Wales to compete in a tournament. One of his players was spotted by an English coach, Mick O’Brien, a professional scout for Everton Football Club and Blackburn Rovers Football Club, and was invited him to play for Everton in England.

But O’Brien wasn’t done there because he was so impressed by many of the young players on Hackett’s team, that he wanted to see more and thus their partnership began.

“We developed this partnership and called it Global Satellite Soccer Academy . . . . Every year he would come up to Canada. He would introduce me to many links in England and I would organise the players, do the marketing and so on. When he passed away from cancer in 2010, I carried on the work. Now I have formed associations with clubs like Newcastle, Berri, Bolton Wanderers, etc. Every year we hold a camp, bring over coaches and we have a week’s camp. They then select the kids that impressed them, then we go there [England] for a week in March and showcase the kids. In the last four years, we have got eight kids that made it into English academies,” Hackett said.

Now he is hoping to fashion a similar programme in Barbados, hence his recent trip, but according to him, he has been met by serious resistance.

He said that over the past couple of years he had been trying to work with the Barbados Football Association to help a qualified national coach and talented players get some exposure within football camps in Canada, but there seemed to be no interest.

Nevertheless, Hackett says he is still committed to improving football in Barbados. So much so that last April he pulled his own pockets to fly to the island to watch the national Under-15 team train. There, he saw two impressive lads, Raymar Walters and Sheran Hoyte, who he invited to participate in his camp in Canada.

“They came up, attended the camp, trained and the English coaches absolutely loved them. Now they are on their way to England in March,” he noted. (SDB Media)

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