Barbadian attacker Asher J’n Pierre has defied the odds and recently signed with the University of Central Florida (UCF). He is now well on his way to becoming a professional footballer, but it has not been without his fair share of challenges.
The national junior footballer is one of many who recently signed deals to further their football pursuits and will join the Orlando-based Division 1 UCF Knights in September, after securing a four-year scholarship to study Kinesiology.
“I don’t think this journey is done yet. This is just the beginning for me because this is just me getting one step closer to professional football. Signing with UCF puts me in a very good position to get to that next level, especially coming off another season championship, which has been back-to-back-to-back. They also have a lot of look-ins from Orlando City, a professional team there. I am happy to have signed, but I think the hard work now has to come into place and now has to start for me. I want to make an instant impact when I get there, get a starting roster spot for sure and push on from there,” he said.
The former Pro Shottas footballer has had many injuries throughout his short career, from a tibial plateau reconstruction of his knee in 2016 at 14 years old, tendinitis in his right knee a year later, a hamstring injury, and a recent diagnosis of osteitis pubis.
But neither has been able to hold the 18-year-old back, and he has excelled in the Chicago Cup in the USA and Santfeliuenc FC and Segunda B club C.E L’Hospitalet in Spain. He went on to enroll at Brooke House College, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed him down momentarily before he returned to Barbados.
J’n Pierre gives all kudos to his family support system, especially his mom and dad, who continues to motivate him throughout his challenges.
“When I went to Spain after third form, my mom helped me adjust, with home-cooked meals and helping me adapt to that environment. My dad also sacrificed everything along my journey and motivated me. He works with me every time I am in Barbados, even if it is one-on-one training. He watches my footage and gives me great advice and how I can improve my game. I thank them a lot for helping me reach where I am now, not just the player I am on the field, but off the field as well,” he said.
The former Harrisonian is still on the IMG Academy’s roll and will play his final roster in May at the Championship Tournament before moving over to UCF.
“It’s been a good year for some football players, despite COVID, but the journey has not been without challenge. I suffered some injuries I thought would be a major setback and felt I didn’t compete in enough games to warrant a scholarship, but I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I secured,” he explained.
“I had a lot of injuries before, and even this season, that made things a bit hard at the start because I didn’t get the number of matches and games I was thinking about getting at the beginning,” he said.
During a trip back home, J’n Pierre was injured while training with the senior men’s national team in September 2019.
“Initially, the doctor said it was a hamstring injury and would only need two to three weeks doing some physio and acupuncture, and I should be back up and running. I did go through that time and I did do the necessary treatment and physiotherapy, but when I went back to training it was still bugging me,” he recalled.
The former Under-17 footballer who was a part of the contingent that journeyed to Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires in 2018, said he could play with pain, having a high pain tolerance level, but something just did not sit right with him and he felt he was unable to put his best foot forward.
J’n Pierre was also scheduled to return to the UK in January 2020, but changed course to the USA at IMG Academy in Florida after the UK went into full lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no football being played.
However, into the first week of training at the Academy the pain resurfaced after only one game. He said after an evaluation by the athletic trainers, they shut him down for three weeks, but he was still able to do some activity including strengthening, running and treatment.
“I came back in November and I felt like I was in the same place; my body just wasn’t giving me 100 percent. That was difficult because I felt like time was running out, although it really wasn’t. I was mentally in a tough place, but we decided to go on another shutdown,” he said.
He restarted training in December and played his second game at IMG, a live stream game against an Under-19 elite team, which J’n Pierre said was a big deal as there were a lot of college Division 1 coaches scouting and even got an early birthday present.
“I knew I wanted to get a couple of minutes especially in that game so I could get some kind of interest. I ended up playing really well even though I didn’t have a goal or an assist to cement having a good game. Despite that, I was able to stamp my authority on the game and coach told me I did a really good job and there were people showing interest,” he said smiling brightly.
J’n Pierre said interest began to pour in came from Villa Nova, St John’s University, and Stetson, which he said motivated him to push forward and keep working through the injury. He said he was able to secure some more footage for college coaches from the IMG Cup later that month and even secured some assists and a goal.
But disaster struck again when his hamstring and his groin began bothering him yet again.
“I felt the problem was bigger than what I thought it was because it wasn’t getting any better, even after quite a lot of rest and treatment. I took my Christmas break and chilled out at home. I saw Chalise Jordan in Barbados who helped me with treatment,” he said.
He said his doctor thought he might need surgery, but upon his return to IMG in January he underwent x-rays and an MRI and was diagnosed with osteitis pubis, which is inflammation on the pelvic bone.
J’n Pierre felt his season was over at that point because treatment for such a condition is usually three to four months, but there was still interest from the universities in the live stream game so he was not all completely bummed, yet he remained a bit worried.
“I was in a dead period where I wasn’t doing anything for a month but started doing physiotherapy in February along with a nutrition plan at IMG. I was able to come back in about two and a half months. In my first game back at IMG I scored and got some good film as well. There was interest from UCF about going there. When I heard about UCF’s interest I couldn’t believe it because in the last five years UCF has been one of the top programs,” he said.
And while he is still undergoing therapy to keep him above 80 percent at the least, he is psyched to be doing what he loves.
“Right now my body is feeling a lot better since September, even with my knees and having osteitis pubis. Health wise, I feel like I am 99 percent and the best I have ever felt,” he said.