Everybody is aware of the slim chances that an aspiring teenager has of making it into the rarefied heights of the English Premiership, MLS, Serie A or La Liga, but one Cayman youngster genuinely believes he will achieve that.
Since the age of eight when he barely knew what the word ‘professional’ meant, Jermaine Wilson has wanted to be a world renowned footballer.
It’s the dream of millions of kids, yet Wilson has an unerring belief in his destiny and although not 15 until February, the gifted midfielder has already impressed none other than the Real Madrid coaches at the club’s Miami camp.
Wilson has always supported Real Madrid and the admiration is already mutual. He has attended the last two summer camps at their Miami base and both times was invited to join their age-group teams but the fact that he lives in Cayman precluded that.
Last year, head coach Enrique Guijarro wrote on Wilson’s report: ‘You are a very good player. Keep training like that and don’t forget your studies and you will play at university.’
Guijarro and colleague Carlos Perez are two of Real’s best coaches. Female coach Catalina Varsalona plays in Miami for the club side. All three were unstinting in praising Wilson.
It’s not misplaced either. At 14 he is one of the youngest to play in Cayman’s men’s league – for double champions Elite. He also plays in First Division and Under-17 Elite matches.
Wilson feels he made the right impression at Real and is already good enough to hold down a first-team place at Elite. The fact that he is a middle-distance running champion proves his endurance, a vital component for any midfield general.
‘I think I do alright in the Elite First Division and Under-17 games because I play the whole game,’ he said.
‘I like playing First Division and Premier games the best because I get more of a challenge and have to work harder than with kids of my own age. It makes me a better player, playing against the bigger teams.
‘I want to get into the first XI for all the teams I play for and play good enough to find somewhere to go overseas. England would be the best.’
England and its lucrative wage structure is every kid’s holy grail.
‘Real Madrid invited me to play for their Miami academy but because I live in Cayman I couldn’t do it. It happened this summer and last year. My strengths are my passing which they said is very good and they said they love my attitude.’
Real’s assessment cards bear testimony to that.
Greg Ebanks, technical director of Elite, is not one to throw praise around, yet he totally believes in Wilson’s potential.
He said: ‘I’ve known Jermaine since he started training with us in the summer, so it must be about 30 training sessions. He continues to grow from strength to strength.
‘Don’t judge him by his size. His attributes are exceptional. Players like Jermaine, when identified should embrace an opportunity and go elsewhere, somewhere like England where he could get into an academy.
‘He’s definitely good enough for at least a lower league team in England and he must be prepared to crawl before he can walk.
‘He should go there every summer and eventual somebody will glimpse him and be impressed. He doesn’t need a work permit to work in England and if that recognition happens, the rest can be history.
‘He needs to embrace the opportunity now. In Cayman you can only go so far and for Cayman football to advance it needs players like him to join the pro ranks.’
Ebanks is impressed with Wilson’s all round technical ability. He likes the kid’s enthusiasm but is worried that if he doesn’t get a break soon, his interest may wander and that will be another talent that falls by the wayside.
‘He’s a good passer and dribbler and he plays so maturely. He has great speed, bravery and endurance too. He understands all the things that surround the game. You don’t have to coach him much.
‘My premiership players are so impressed with him that they joke to each other that soon he’s going to take someone’s job. Sometimes when I look at the French player Claude Makelele, Jermaine reminds me of him. The quicker he is exposed out of Cayman the better.’
Jermaine’s mom Susan is impressed with his dedication. ‘I’ve seen him ill with the flu, doesn’t feel up to being on the field but he never misses a practice, always there, rain or shine. If you had to take him there on a stretcher he would go.
‘Last Friday afternoon it was pouring with rain and practice looked certain to be off but he had to go down there himself to ensure it was not on. Phoning someone wasn’t good enough for him.
‘When I saw at eight how determined he was I started working through my lunch hours so that I could leave work early to pick him up from after-school practice.
‘He took to it like a fish to water. The ambition to play was there and he was always setting goals for himself. The team always looks up to him because they know how dedicated he is and how hard he works.
‘He says he wants to play at the pro level and if that’s what he wants to do I’ll be behind him 100 per cent.’
What if he just makes a living out if it and not becomes a superstar? ‘Well it will come close to fulfilling his dream rather than not trying to attain it at all,’ said Susan. ‘Whatever happens, we’ll support him. He knows it’s up to him to make it happen.’
Jermaine’s dad Tiger is a former world natural bodybuilding champion who knows what it takes to attain the highest level in any sport having gained track and football scholarships in Jamaica.
‘In comparison to myself, my son is just like me,’ said Tiger. ‘That’s because I’ve shown him how to achieve things in the right way with qualities of being cautious, humble and patient.
‘He is even more dedicated than I. He sleeps, eats and drinks football. He is cool and calm and not worried about the future because that’s how I taught him to be. He is very mature for a 14-year-old.
‘I’m looking for some overseas connections now. He was in the Real Madrid camp twice and they loved him. Really and truly I see him doing better than I did in bodybuilding. Internationally, anywhere he goes the people love him.
‘I’m trying to expose him internationally because with more exposure he gets more experience and learns from that. Without experience you can’t succeed which is what I’m focusing on for my boy right now.’
Despite the hefty odds against making it, when a club like Real Madrid shows genuine interest, then it’s worth continuing to dream of one day playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.