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Behind The Goal Lines: Ackeel Applewhaite

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Ackeel Applewhaite was destined to play football and it was to be no other way as his family is filled with footballers. And while he had three opportunities to become a professional footballer upset, he has not given up hope just yet.  

“From the time I was small, my uncle used to carry me to play football on the pasture, so I just pick up the love for the sport,” he said.

Officially he first played football in the BICO Primary Schools’ Football Competition at St Giles Primary, then went on to Blenheim Pasture where he played for Benfica, before moving onto Graydon Sealy Secondary where he played throughout his secondary school career and is now settled at Premiere Classes Paradise.

“Football has been great over the years. Coming through, I’ve learnt a lot from coaches, players, even from people outside of football taught me a lot. Football taught me a lot about life and playing football has been worth it,” he said matter-of-factly.

Apple joined the Barbados Football Association’s senior squad of elite players at age 17 and now has 23 national caps under his boots.

“It was a dream come true. Everybody has a dream to play for the national team someday. At that early age being called up was everything to me. I was happy to be around all the big guys and getting to play with them. It was just happiness to be there training,” he said proudly.

And while he has had at least three opportunities to play football professionally, which all fell through, the left-winger remains undaunted.

“Playing at Kemi City FC in Finland was a good experience. It was the second time I got to play football in Europe after going to trials at Crystal Palace at 16. It didn’t work out but I went to play for Barnett FC. Nothing worked out because of the work visa, so it was hard for me to get a contract. I almost had Kemi in the bag, but it was a good learning experience for me and the other three guys. I think it was a big opportunity. We all wished it would have gone better, but everything happens for a reason. It hasn’t stopped me from chasing after my dream of becoming a professional footballer, but everything takes time,” he said wisely.  

Training under Head Coach Russell Latapy has had its ups and downs but mostly ups and the occasional left-back, who is set to celebrate his 21st birthday on July 17, said he was prepared to learn as much as he could under the midfield wizard.  

“I know nobody don’t really like to do the hard work, but you have to put it in at the end of the day. I love training with Russell. He makes football so easy and when he breaks down football it becomes so natural and easy to go out there and play the game and do what you love,” he said.

National practice is set to resume today and Apple said he is looking forward to playing after not having kicked a ball for the last three months.

“I am looking forward to it, but I don’t know how to feel about it. Right now I would love to just kick a ball, but I know coaches will be looking at doing physicals first before we get down to playing a game of football,” he said adding that he knew there was more to just going on the pitch and kicking a ball.

And while he noted COVID-19 would be around for a while still, he thought Barbados could resume the game at the domestic level.

“I think the teams could be tested. At this point, I don’t think there are any cases in Barbados, so I would really love competition football to start back as soon as possible,” he said.

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