By Franklin Wilson
Golden Jaguar Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson is on the verge of landing a contract with United States Major League Soccer side, Toronto F.C. and if he is succeeds, will become the first Guyanese to achieve such a feat.
The lethal forward, who has made a name for himself playing with Trinidad and Tobago Pro League side Joe Public especially in the CONCACAF Champions League where he scored 5 goals in 4 matches with 4 of the goals against MLS side New England Revolution including a hat-trick in the USA, leaves Guyana today for a 7-day trial in Brandenton, Florida.
Instrumental in securing this deal for Richardson were President of the Guyana Sports Development Foundation Inc. Colin Baker and Executive Member, Garth Nelson, both USA based.
Richardson, who is well respected by defenders on the local scene and in the PRO League, said this is a dream come true for him.
“This means a lot to me because football is my life. Going to Toronto F.C is a big thing for me and Guyana because I can be the first Guyanese to ever play in the MLS.”
Yesterday, General Secretary of the Guyana Football Federation Noel Adonis met with Richardson to offer words of encouragement and congratulations.
Richardson, a regular starter with the Golden Jaguars, represented Guyana from the under 17 level right up to the senior level consistently and has always shown the potential of landing a contract beyond the shores of the region. His time has come and he is intent on becoming Guyana’s first MLS player.
The nippy forward who’s career started at the age of Five (5) under the astute guidance of Guyana’s most successful junior coach, Gordon ‘Ultimate Warrior’ Braithwaite, first played with Beacon before branching off to Pele F.C and has remained there to date, perhaps their most prized possession whenever he is available.
His worth was evident in Pele claiming for the first time the Kashif and Shanghai football tournament in the 19 year history of the event, 2008./09.
He also represented Guyana at the under 20 and 23 levels. His first game at the international level was against the Netherlands Antilles at the under 17 level and he immediately made an impact in the Curacao encounter by netting a double.
Recognizing his talent and opting to utilise his services at the Semi Pro League level was Barbados side Notredame in 2005 – 2006.
But Richardson, who said he has always felt that he possesses the requisite qualities to play at the highest professional level (Europe), was spotted by T&T Pro League side Joe Public which is owned by FIFA Vice President Austin ‘Jack’ Warner.And as it turned out, this was the perfect stepping stone for ‘Jackie Chan’ with the sky now as the limit for him.
He has mesmerized the defences of all the teams in the Pro League in 2007 – 2008 and his authentic performances in the CONCACAF Champions League with five goals was the perfect platform for him.
He totally took to shreds the defence of MLS side New England Revolution in the home and away tie with four goals, one in T&T and a memorable hat-trick in the return game in the USA. He also scored against top Honduran side CD Olimpia. Joe Public also played against Mexican side Atlante and Canadian side Impact de Montreal.
Richardson’s performance in this tournament was significant since he was just coming off a two month lay up due to an injury.
Richardson, who has matured generally over the years, believes that it does not matter from whence you came but where you aim to go. “If you want to go through this door you must put your all into that, you must not let nothing stop you. You know people will try to stop you from doing good things for yourself and if you listen to that you will never go no where.”
Richardson shared that many people had told him that he is too small to be a footballer but he never believed that because he knew different. “It’s all about your mind and a fighting spirit, I always believe that I can do it and I have never stopped.”
And while lots of our players and for that matter sportsmen and women would have had strong parental backing, this was not the case with Richardson.
Actually, as one of the younger members of his family after the death of his mother, he has been the sole bread winner of the house hold.
“My girlfriend and my sisters have always been very supportive and I want to thank them for that. They have always said to me, don’t give up football and they are all happy for me. I am like the father of the house. They always tell me just continue playing football and I thank them in a big way.”
He was high in praise of Gordon Braithwaite for the foundation he has been able to build on and told this reporter that when he started, a football boots could not have even stayed on his feet since he was not accustomed to that.
“Gordon saw me playing on a little pasture and invited me to play for Beacon. He gave me a pair of boots and a bicycle to ensure that I come to practice and I will always respect him since he was like a father to me. He always told me to keep my head up and I will always go forward.”
Richardson also mentioned that when he had to branch off it was tough but that was life.
He also offered some advice to the other players out there who are aspiring to land professional contracts like the many other Guyanese players. “Keep your head and your aims high and be disciplined always.”
He also noted that there is lots of talent available in Guyana, highlighting the fact that while playing in T&T, many never believed that he was from Guyana.
‘Jackie Chan’ thanked the Guyana Football Federation, Pele F.C and all those who would have played a part in him achieving what he has to date.
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