US-born Blake White catches Reggae Boyz fever

…U-17 midfielder wants to help take Jamaica to another World Cup

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Deputy Sport Editor

Friday, July 15, 2016

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ST THOMAS, US Virgin Islands — Blake White’s hopes and aspirations for Jamaica’s Under-17 football team pretty much sum up the goals of all his teammates.

The others may have said it differently, but at the end of the day, they all want the same thing. They may all share the lofty dream of playing in the World Cup, but more importantly for them, they want it to be said they did their best should they fall short in that glorious pursuit.

And who could ask for more?

"It would make me very excited to play in the World Cup and it would make me feel good to represent one of my countries on a big stage like that, doing what I like to do," he shared with the
Jamaica Observer.

In pursuit of the World Cup dream which has started with the first round of the Caribbean World Cup qualifiers being staged in the US territory of the Virgin Islands, White has figured that taking care of affairs at the business end is the only sure way to keep his team on course.

"We would like to score as many goals as we possibly can and win every game by a good margin, and I would like to score a couple of goals myself and assist with a couple of goals myself," he said.

White, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, says World Cup ambitions apart, playing for his ancestral home is a big deal for him and his parents.

"I am excited to be playing for the Jamaica national team, and my parents, who are Jamaicans, are also excited that I can play for the country where they grew up," White said at the team’s hotel in St Thomas yesterday, the day his team was due to bow into action in Group Four of the CFU play-offs against Guyana at the Lionel Roberts stadium.

Having never lived in Jamaica and experienced the culture first-hand, it took some getting used to. But today, White has confessed that he is now truly Jamaican.

"It has become more comfortable (the Jamaican experience) as before it wasn’t because I never lived in Jamaica, so I had to get used to their speech and the way they act. And now, I have started to like all my teammates and now I am more comfortable around them," he noted.

White notes he is satisfied with the way he has equipped himself to the cause, both on and off the field. His willingness to soak up the culture and his work ethic on the field, he says, has paid handsome dividends.

"That I am starting means I have done what I am supposed to do, but what I have to do now is to maintain my position because good people are always coming up and will be working to take my starting position," he stated.

White, who was due to start in coach Andrew Edwards’ team to face Guyana yesterday, believes he brings a required skill set to the Jamaican midfield.

"I think I am more of an attack-minded midfielder and I like to play with the strikers and the wingers… I think I have good vision, and for the most part, my decision making is good in the final third," he said without missing a beat.

The confident footballer has his sights set on one day parading his stuff in the glamour professional leagues of Europe.

"It’s one of my goals to one day play professionally. I would certainly like to play in Europe — maybe in France, England, Italy or Spain," White noted.

And when one looks at his inspiration in the sport, he could be destined for great things if he can fashion his game off his heroes.

I like (Lionel) Messi a lot, (Paul) Pogba and (Dimitri) Payet, who just burst onto the scene, and I think I play a little bit like him."

White, 16, who would have sharpened his football skills playing at schools in the USA, and in and around his community, thinks Jamaica’s football future looks bright with the abundance of talent on the island.

"There is talent everywhere and I agree that Jamaican players are very athletic and they also have natural talent where they can pick up different skills quickly," he opined.

Now that he is appraising local talent, White had high marks for his coach, who happens to be a teacher by trade.

"I think he is a good coach (Edwards) as he makes sure we learn everything we can possibly learn about the game as we go over tactics and the technical part of the game. He also analyses each player individually and comes to talk to us about it."

White, who takes his academics seriously, said the decision for home schooling at this time was strategic in his overall educational plan.

"I have been in public school most of my life, but since this year, which is a vital year, I need to train a lot more during the day… I do this through an online international school, so the teachers are all online.

"I think I am a good student as I get all ‘A’s. Even with soccer, I try to keep focus on my school work to keep good grades and my parents are always on me about that," he said.

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