Jamaican youngsters to join Ajax - Butler
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Jamaican teenagers Kyle Butler and Leon Bailey are to join Dutch football powerhouse Ajax Amsterdam. So says Craig Butler, Kyle's father and head of player development and coach of the Under-15 programme at Austrian soccer club USK Leube Anif. Butler is also president of the local-based Phoenix Academy.
Butler says he is not yet in a position to reveal the terms of the respective agreements, but the players will be at Ajax and the Phoenix Academy will benefit from them.
Thirteen-year-old Kyle is a former student of St George's College while Bailey, 14, formerly attended Kingston College. Both players currently play in the Austrian Bundesliga Two, where they have been making their mark.
Describing the boys' moving to Ajax as the biggest breakthrough in local football, Butler said he was overwhelmed by the development.
"I am jumping through the roof," said Butler, even while expressing particular joy for young Bailey. "From Cassava Piece to Ajax Amsterdam, I can die now."
According to the 43-year-old Butler, the boys were seen while playing for Anif during an indoor five-a-side tournament recently and two clubs - German Bundesliga club Mainz and Ajax - contacted him expressing interest in the two teenagers.
Anif, he said, drew with Mainz and lost 2-1 to Ajax during the tournament, but because of the teens' impressive play, Humphrey Nijjman, agent for retired Dutch international striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, as well as the head scout of Mainz, made direct contact with him.
Over the ensuing weeks, Butler and the clubs, who campaigned aggressively, exchanged emails and other correspondence, he said, but in the end they settled on Ajax.
"Ajax will do more for Jamaica. The idea of total football will help them to learn quicker and they can pass that on to other players in Jamaica," Butler argued. "The boys will travel to Holland in about two weeks to tour Ajax facilities and see about securing appropriate lodging for their stay in the Dutch capital."
This latest agreement follows on the heels of two other Jamaican teens who have reportedly been signed to other super clubs in recent times through the efforts of Butler, Anif and the Phoenix Academy. Romario McKnight reportedly signed a three-year deal with French giants Lille in November last year. The 16-year-old former student of Calabar High School also played for Anif under Butler's guidance and was the second teen from that club who had been picked by a powerful European soccer club.
Two weeks prior to McKnight's signing, another Calabar High student, KeVaughn Atkinson, signed a five-year deal with German giants Bayern Munich.