By Neto Baptiste
When a teenaged Akeilah Hillhouse appeared for a senior men’s SAP team in the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association’s (ABFA) Premier Division at the Police Recreation Grounds in 2001, she had no idea it would have gone down in the annals of football history and would, today, be viewed as one of the most influential moments in sports in Antigua.
Almost 30 years on, Hillhouse’s achievement is still talked about in both the female and male circles of the sport.
The former player, who is currently a vice president with the football association, said that at the time, it was no big deal and that all she wanted was to just play some football.
“Well, I was already always out there practicing with most of them earlier and then when the senior team would come I would watch them and occasionally join in, and one afternoon I just told Derrick Edwards that I wanted to play with the team and he said there were no reasons or rules prohibiting me from joining the league and so they went ahead and did it,” she said.
“I just wanted to play football so that train of thought didn’t even cross my mind until a few weeks later and I think it was the Antigua Sun Newspaper at the time, wrote an article because there was never any conversation before about that.”
Hillhouse, who broke another barrier when she became the first female coach to lead a senior men’s team in the FA domestic programme, said the road was not an easy one as, instead of encouraging her to go for her dreams, other women often tried to discourage her.
“I remember some afternoons being out on the football field and mothers would pass and say, ‘what you doing out here, you should be home cooking and cleaning’. But from an early age my mother always taught me to go after what I want, no matter what, and don’t let people discourage me,” she said.
Hillhouse is currently president of the SAP Football Club after she was elected to the post last year.