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Going Dutch: AZ unveils T&T starlet Levi Garcia

Finally, some good news regarding a precocious 17-year-old’s foray into the adult world.

Ravina Rampersad’s brief encounter with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley during San Fernando’s Carnival celebrations has been the talk of the social media this week. But it is a pre-contract deal between 17-year-old Shiva Boys High School Form Five student Levi Garcia and Netherlands top flight club, AZ Alkmaar, which will have the biggest long term impact on national sensibilities.

Photo: AZ Alkmaar technical director Earnie Stewart (right) welcomes 17-year-old Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia. (Courtesy AZ Alkmaar)
Photo: AZ Alkmaar technical director Earnie Stewart (right) welcomes 17-year-old Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia.
(Courtesy AZ Alkmaar)

This afternoon in north Netherlands, Garcia was unveiled at the Eredivise outfit and signed the second professional contract of his young career with AZ technical director Earnie Stewart, who was born in the Netherlands but played international football for the United States.

Garcia cannot begin his professional career in Europe until 20 November 2015 when he turns 18 but AZ did not wait that long to secure his services for the immediate future. The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 and Central FC winger is believed to have signed a three-year deal with an option in place for a two-year extension.

“(Garcia) has great speed, a good understanding and a powerful shot in his left foot,” said Stewart, who represented USA at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. “Levi arrives in November to AZ, where he first must ease into our culture and way of playing football. We see in him mainly a promise for the future.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia (centre) steams past Cuba players Yendri Torres (right) and Roberto Peraza during the Under-20 Caribbean Cup in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia (centre) steams past Cuba players Yendri Torres (right) and Roberto Peraza during the Under-20 Caribbean Cup in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Unsurprisingly, Garcia cannot wait to get started in Europe.

“I am very pleased with this opportunity at AZ,” Garcia told the club’s press officer. “The Netherlands is known as a good country to develop as a talent… I hope to quickly adapt to European football, then I want to be important for AZ.

“In the coming months I’m going hard at work in Trinidad and Tobago, in order to get in shape to Alkmaar.”

Garcia was just 14-years-old when he made his top flight debut in the local Pro League for T&TEC FC alongside elder brothers Brent and Nathaniel Garcia. Financial issues had decimated T&TEC’s roster and then coach Dexter Cyrus had little choice but to turn to youth to finish the season.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Levi Garcia (right) takes on a Costa Rican opponent during the 2013 Under-17 CONCACAF tournament. (Courtesy CONCACAF.com)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Levi Garcia (right) takes on a Costa Rican opponent during the 2013 Under-17 CONCACAF tournament.
(Courtesy CONCACAF.com)

He spent the next two years dividing his time between the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 and Under-20 Teams and Super League club Siparia Spurs before he signed professional terms with Central FC in June 2014.

However, before Garcia’s Pro League debut, Dutch agent Humphry Nijman and his local assistant Dion Sosa spotted him during the Under-20 Caribbean Championships in Trinidad last September and successfully wooed the player.

After an initial war of words between Central and Nijman, the two parties came to an agreement late last year, through mediation, which paved the way for Garcia’s impending European move.

“I cannot say too much about the deal because there is a confidentiality clause in place,” Sosa told Wired868. “But they agreed to release him to us and we got him the move to AZ after mediation set up for both parties by TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips.

“We came up with a figure for him to buy his contract out and that was how the move was sealed.”

Photo: Presentation College (San Fernando) defender Kori Cupid (right) tries to keep up with Shiva Boys HC and Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 attacker Levi Garcia in 2014 SSFL Premier Division action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Presentation College (San Fernando) defender Kori Cupid (right) tries to keep up with Shiva Boys HC and Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 attacker Levi Garcia in 2014 SSFL Premier Division action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Central managing director Brent Sancho and operations director Kevin Harrison are now Sport Minister and advisor to the Sport Minister respectively and were unavailable for comment.

Nijman and Sosa took five National Under-20 players for trials in Europe last October. Garcia and St Ann’s Rangers attacker Kadeem Corbin went to AZ while the North East Stars duo of Neveal Hackshaw and Jesus Perez and Defence Force flanker Kishun Seecharan went to Belgium top flight team, Mechelen. Only Garcia was signed so far.

“Corbin and Levi both did well but Levi was exceptional,” said Sosa. “If Corbin was a little bit stronger they would probably have signed him too but they were a little worried about his durability. We are definitely taking Corbin and Hackshaw back to Belgium this summer.”

Garcia’s move is comparable with Dwight Yorke’s transfer to England top flight club, Aston Villa, at a similar age although Yorke was already a senior international player at the time while the former player has never represented the “Soca Warriors” at senior level.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker and future Manchester United star Dwight Yorke (left) was just 17 when he came to prominence during the 1990 World Cup qualifying series.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker and future Manchester United star Dwight Yorke (left) was just 17 when he came to prominence during the 1990 World Cup qualifying series.

Garcia showed glimpses of his potential at the National Under-17 level but exploded on the scene in the Under-20 Caribbean Championship. However, his refusal to train with Central thereafter saw a marked drop in his form for the 2015 Under-20 CONCACAF Championships where he started just once and made three substitute appearances in an unsuccessful qualifying campaign.

AZ’s attraction to the player’s ability did not waver, though.

AZ is a club of immense pedigree in the Netherlands although it operates in the shadow of the more famous Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eidhoven.

The “Cheese Farmers”, as they are nicknamed, won the Dutch top flight league in 2009 led by celebrated coach Louis Van Gaal, who is currently at Manchester United. Up until last year, legendary Dutch striker Marco Van Basten was AZ’s head coach although he was forced to step down for health reasons while other recent bosses include former Holland coach Dick Advocaat and current Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.

Photo: Present Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal led AZ to the Eredivisie title in 2008.
Photo: Present Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal led AZ to the Eredivisie title in 2008.

AZ’s current coach John Van Den Brom is quickly building a reputation for himself too after leading ADO Den Haag and Vitesse to Europa League spots in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons respectively. The 48-year-old Van Den Brom took over at AZ last September when Van Basten stepped down.

Former AZ players include current Southampton striker Graziano Pelle, former Chelsea star Jimmy Flloyd Haselbaink and United States international Jozy Altidore.

If Garcia makes it on to the field for AZ, he will become the first Trinidad and Tobago player to compete in the Eredivisie since Darryl Roberts played for Sparta Rotterdam in the 2007/08 season.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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25 comments

  1. Great news ! I Wish him all the best !
    Hope he goes on to be successful.
    Dwight Yorke was that age when he went to Aston Villa !

  2. Lasana Liburd you’re right that they need to convince the people, generally it boils down to the lack of trust the public has in these administrators. And they continue to fuel that lack of trust by hiding financial reports. Two years ago I wouldn’t watch a MLS game now I do.

  3. Jevon Cox, if local football administrators at all levels continue to repeat that it is up to the fans, the corporate sector, the government, CONCACAF, FIFA and everyone but themselves to lift the game, we will forever stay in this position.
    The Pro League must convince people that it is worth their while to show up. Just like every other business in the country must convince potential customers to part with their time and money.

  4. I look forward to seeing him at his best again soon.

  5. Why question Lasana intelligence? He is “The” boss journalist!!!! Great article, hope this lad excel.

  6. Levi is training very hard 2 prepare himself 2 head back to Europe end of April

  7. I’m so happy for these young men. I just truly hope they are not taken advantage of!

  8. Excellent, wishing him the best!

  9. Nice to know, but a starlet is a young woman

  10. AZ would be a good fit for him…. Dutch league also stresses technique, so it will help him refine his touch…. safe league for him to hone his craft

  11. Good luck Levi at AZ, this is an opportunity of a life time, make the most of it. Holland is a great place , but as I said before keep grounded! Dion Sosa knows I will beat him if this lad is not looked after.

  12. Lasana Liburd besides the direction and investment, the so called football fans need to go out and support Pro League teams. The standard of play would improve with greater financial support.

  13. Who will invest and who will implement structure?

    Wasted talent in the country. Leadership starts at the top. Maybe the private sector should get involved

  14. There is no need really. We have clubs already linked with scouts.
    Football needs direction though in terms of structure and investment.

  15. Will Sancho try to bring scouts to get the talented players a chance to play internationally?