Omar Daley impacting football's grass roots

Former Reggae Boy drives vision of US-based academy; targets J'can talent in future

Deputy Sport Editor

Sunday, April 14, 2019

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Omar “Ratty” Daley, the former Jamaica international, has switched the play by returning to football's most precious and impressionable stage — the grass roots.

Oh no, not as a player, but a coach and an emissary for kids aspiring to reach his attained heights, or even beyond.

Daley, 37, has enjoyed a colourful pro career spanning some 14 years, topped off by his tenure as an international for Jamaica's men's team, the Reggae Boyz.

Having represented Jamaica at the Fifa Men's Under-20 World Cup in Argentina in 2001, and a 77-cap run at the senior Boyz level are credentials that serve Daley well in his new role.

The former Bradford City midfielder/winger has taken up a dual position as coach and ambassador for the fledgling Nevada Soccer Academy (NSA), an operation that harbours dreams of making it big in its area of specialisation.

“I coach inside the club, but I have a second role as ambassador and part of my job is to go out and scout and bring players in,” Daley told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview in Las Vegas, the city that the former footballer has called home since 2017.

NSA, which is based in Henderson, Nevada, is just seven months on the ball, but Daley has shared ambitions with other key figures in the academy/club to one day score big in the teaching and learning business of football.

“We are seven months in our first year, so at the moment we have 153 kids, which is good for a fresh club and academy. The big clubs would have like a thousand kids, and that's where we are aiming to get and by next year our goal is to get to some 300 kids,” said the Clarendon, Jamaica, native.

Daley says while the academy currently consists of only America kids, the future model is to open its arms to students from other countries, including that of his homeland, Jamaica.

“I am trying to widen the thinking of the owners to allow Jamaican kids to come and guest play, but for the Jamaicans to come here and live and go to school we would have to pay for their stay, but at this time we can't do that… that is what the academies run by clubs here like Barcelona do, especially with Mexican kids.

“We are young and developing, so for now all we can do is bring kids in as guest players for tournaments and already I have been to Jamaica a few times scouting for kids,” noted Daley, who also had a pro stint at English club Reading FC.

The Jamaican, who is pursuing higher coaching certification all the time, shared that NSA gets most of its tutees from within Nevada, but a build-out is inevitable.

“Kids in Las Vegas and surrounding areas are the mainstay of the academy, which is a good thing. At the moment, we are a small academy just trying to make it big… it's for boys and girls and for kids born 2011 all the way to 2001, kids looking to go to college, kids looking to play professionally, so it's a development academy,” Daley said.

The former player, known for pace on the dribble, disclosed that NSA embraces a regime where “we train three days per week”, plus it competes in many tournaments with teams from all over the world “like Japan and China”

“We would normally play games on Saturdays and we compete in tournaments every other week,” Daley stated.

At the moment, the club is funded by a sole investor Christina Molfetta, who Daley claims has bought into the vision by putting her money where her mouth is.

“The club is currently funded by a wonderful lady called Christina and she has seen the dream that I am trying to put forward, along with the technical director Cleon Levy.

“It is something that she believes in, and that her daughter is also inside the club, is also boost for to put the money in,” Daley said.

The former Charleston Battery player says the experience which he brings to NSA will redound to the benefit of the mission to high achieve.

“I bring to Nevada what I learnt the professional way, and in achieving that I also help to coach some of the coaches to let them know this is this way as I spent a lot of time in international set-ups.

“I agree, however, that I am taking it one day at a time, gaining more experience as I am still learning from transitioning from a player to a coach,” Daley admitted.

Coaching at the grass roots level for the former Motherwell FC midfielder was a smooth transition, he claims, having had his formal introduction to the game under the tutelage of the late John Green and Lloyd Plummer playing at the Under-12 level.

So as Daley aptly puts it: “At Nevada Soccer Academy, I am at home and at peace.”

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