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By Neto Baptiste

Assistant coach at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, USA, and former national striker Conrad Whyte, has cautioned clubs and associations against issuing match fees and or gifts to young players aspiring or hoping to acquire scholarships with schools in the US.

According to the former footballer, the practice could significantly hamper the student’s chances of qualifying for an athletic scholarship.

“Once you get paid you become a professional. If the money he was given was to meet regular expenses then that is okay, but once you’re getting a fee to play then you’re done but you can’t have appearance fees as an amateur,” he said.

“We may want to believe that we can hide stuff, maybe little stuff like that but the NCAA will dig and dig because every player that goes through the NCAA portal is background checked, screened inside out and upside down, and they will find what they need, whether it’s two years down the road. Even if it’s two years down the road they are going to come after your university, they are going to come after your coach and maybe he would be gone by that time but who is there will suffer,” he added. 

Whyte, who represented the successful Empire FC for several years, emphasised that this does not only pertain to monetary payments but also applies to gifts and favours.

“Let’s say you go the ARG to watch Hoppers and Bassa and let’s say Ziggy [Tamorley Thomas] is in his young days so you like Ziggy. When you look on the field you see Ziggy’s boot [is torn] so you decide to go down town and buy Ziggy [a pair of boots] as a gift because his family can’t afford it. Ziggy’s amateurism is gone and he can’t play in the NCAA by just accepting a pair of boots,” he said.

He however said this does not apply to clubs covering costs incurred by college-based players who may represent them in leagues and or competitions.

“If you’re in college and you are going to play in a summer league for a team, or let’s say college is out and you go home to Antigua in the summer and you’re playing for Empire. The president, Epilus [Veron Edwards Jr] can give you only the necessary expenses you’d incur, so let’s say that for the period you’re in Antigua that bus would come to $25, then he could give you $25. Or [if] your food and lodging come up to $1,000 then he could give you $1,000 because those are necessary expenses for you to play and he’s not paying you nor is he giving you a gift,” Whyte said. Whyte is also owner of the Carisamba Soccer Academy in the USA and has hosted a number of camps here in Antigua.

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