Young Lowe willing to learn from dad's mistakes
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
FLORIDA, United States:
Damion Lowe's toughest football challenge may not be shutting down Major League Soccer (MLS) strikers. A high-profile Generation adidas contract, heading into the January 16 MLS SuperDraft, means the 20-year-old Jamaican defender has no immediate worry about his financial or educational future either.
Shedding the hulking shadow of his father, however, is another matter.
Invited here for the January 10-14 MLS Combine, after three seasons at the University of Hartford (UH) in the United States, the son of ex-Jamaica star Onandi Lowe drew queries about his relation to one of the most gifted yet polarising players to emerge from the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). But for the son, being both joined and separated from his father is not hard.
"I don't feel pressured because both of us are two different types of persons," he explained on the combine's first day, when he put in a solid performance during a trial match. "He's Onandi Lowe. I'm Damion Lowe. Two different personalities."
Damion described himself "pretty much aggressive on the field", but "humble" off it. It's tough to make the same case for his father.
"I guess, back in the days, some people are very judgmental," Damion said of the player who once stormed off the field during an inter-national and was later banned.
Yet people will call Damion 'Nana', although his own nickname is 'Chullups'. Off the field, however, there's an unmistakable bond. "He's a great father outside of football," said Damion. "... He has been an inspiration to me."
So despite Lowe senior'sturbulent past, father and son will attack the future together.
"I've dedicated this year and this level of soccer to him," Damion said, "because he's been through a lot - ups and downs ... I want to follow in his footsteps positively."
Tracking Onandi Lowe includes the spectacular rise of a player who helped lead Jamaica to the 1998 World Cup. Standing some 6' 3" with square shoulders like his son, his versatility, size, strength, speed and skills drove fear into opponents at every level. A United States coach once admitted Lowe was the only CONCACAF player whom he had no plan to stop. Former Reggae Boyz coach John Barnes said Lowe could have dominated the English Premier League.
But the 'big man' brought big baggage culminating with a criminal trial in Britain which halted his professional career although he was acquitted. Damion shrugged off any personal fallout.
"What's the past is the past," he explained. " ... He said he made a lot of mistakes, and I should learn from his mistakes."
Damion also rejected predictable negative comparisons.
"A lot of people are expecting me to do the same thing or be the same type of person that he is," the son said. "But that's not what's happening."
Damion commands recognition for his own talent, not his father's. The UH education - on and off the field - earned him college accolades and a spot on Jamaica's Under-20 team. His game blossomed.
"I've seen the next level of soccer and seen what it takes to become a professional and to win games," Damion said. "... My speed of play changed, my awareness and the exposure that I've got with MLS clubs ... has helped me."
Dream come true
A future in MLS, North America's top league, is his dream, not his father's.
"I've always wanted to achieve this, and I've played hard coming through the ranks," said Damion, "And now, I've finally got the opportunity."
He listens to his father, who he calls "general".
"He's just educating me," said Damion, who accepts playing tips.
Onandi's best advice?
"Be the best player on the field at all times," Damion said.
Yet Lowe the son hasn't heard football praise from Lowe the father.
"He's never told me that I'm good," Damion said, smiling. "Never."
He believes the strategy worked.
"I guess all his criticism really helped," said Damion, a draft hopeful for 19 MLS clubs.
Father and son love, however, is guaranteed.
"No doubt," said Damion.
Onandi's big shadow doesn't faze him. Time for the son to rise.
"You have to go on the field and take care of business," Damion said.