Sport

Fuelled by family values

Reggae Girlz footballer Trudi Carter realises dream to play professionally

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 09, 2018

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Trudi Carter had to become a professional football player.

Failure to do so would have left her feeling that she had let down her family, friends, and even the Arnett Gardens community; but above all, herself.

Pursuing a football dream is not always easy, but 23-year-old Carter knew it was the only vehicle she could use to effect a positive change in her family's life.

Family has been the motivation behind her journey from the tough Southern St Andrew community to the United States, and now finally to the professional level in Italy.

A stubborn determination along with her speed and ability to read the game well have enabled Carter to realise her ambition. She is currently in the Italian capital preparing for Serie A competition with the recently unveiled AS Roma Women's team.

“This means so much to me because, growing up, all I wanted to do was play professionally because football is what makes me happy.

“I have been waiting years for this to happen and for it to finally come through now, I just can't help but be grateful and thankful to the Lord for taking me from where I was to where I am headed now through this opportunity,” a beaming Carter told the Jamaica Observer during an interview at her home in Arnett Gardens.

“I am kind of nervous and excited at the same time because I don't know what to expect going to another country to settle in and so on, but I have been in contact with my roommate and they have been encouraging me to just stay fit and be ready to perform,” she added.

For Carter, football forms an integral part of her life — it was the avenue she felt would best help to to shape fortunes of her family.

“If it wasn't for my family and friends I would have probably given up, but just knowing that I grew up in a really violent community, where sometimes I couldn't even go to school because shots were ringing out and people were dying, kept me going.

“Sometimes my grandmother was sleeping and [gun] shots were flying through the window, and that was my motivation to take my family out of this community and football was the avenue to do that,” Carter reasoned.

“When I see my mom struggling to take care of us every day and sometimes we use to go to bed without food to eat, because at that point my father wasn't around, those things are what drive me each time I have a ball at my feet

“So I really wanted to play and make it big in the sport, because when I am playing my mind is free and it's the best way for me to express myself and, more importantly, help my family,” she noted while pausing briefly to wipe tears from her eyes and cheeks.

Born with outstanding and audacious talent, Carter's love for the sport was evident from a young age, but her first taste of real competition came when she was invited to the National Under-17 set-up at age 12.

From there it was no looking back for the nippy attacker, who continued to hone her craft at Trench Town High and later earned a scholarship to attend the two-year institution Navarro Junior College in Texas.

Carter then attended University of South Florida (USF), where she made further strides in her football career while completing her bachelor's degree in social studies.

That was a key step towards Carter's steady rise to prominence, as she also paraded her skills for the senior Reggae Girlz team, her most recent stint being in the Concacaf Caribbean Women's Qualifiers here in Kingston. She tallied four goals during the qualifiers.

All this after the early struggles had shaped her, just like they have other players, whose adolescence was spent in training and trips to games.

New goals such as a possible trip to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and possibly a Champions League appearance with AS Roma are now on the agenda of the fleet-footed Carter, who is the niece of former national striker Byron Earle.

“There were times when I got discouraged to the point where I called my mom and told her that I was going to give up, and she was the one that told me not to give up, keep my head right and know that everything takes time, so I should be patient and everything would work out in the end.

“All the hard work that I have put in is now paying off and I am happy that the almighty has blessed me with a beautiful opportunity. I can't wait to get there (Italy) to get a feel of the environment and start playing, and hopefully I can represent my family and friends and country well,” she said during the interview which took place last Monday, a day before she departed.

Carter's mother, Lucille Hamilton, who has been her tower of strength, pointed out that she is not surprised that her daughter has made it this far.

“I am very happy because I expected that she would have made it this far I have a little album where her teammates from [STU] wrote about her and it made me feel good. But I know she was going to go really far so it doesn't surprise me,” Hamilton told the Observer.

Hamilton recalled the days when Carter, her only daughter and the youngest of three kids, began her pursuit of greatness. Dwayne Gayle and Owen Remikie, who is said to also be a talented player, are Carter's siblings.

“She used to follow her cousin [Lashawn McFarlane] to training, and when I asked if anybody saw Trudi they said she went over by Race Course. I was a bit frightened because it was a busy street, and when I saw her playing again I asked her if she is not tired.

“But I left her to do her thing because she loved her football and she is always playing with the boys — she didn't play with girls. The only trouble Trudi gave me was when I am looking for her only to hear that she is playing football and kicking out her shoes; apart from that she was just quiet,” Hamilton explained.

“I will miss her, but I hope she continues her positive trend because when she attended the Navarro College and SFU she was beloved there, so I hope she will be happy. I hope when I call her I will hear her laughing and I hope she feels at home away from home,” she added as her voice broke with emotion, though she expressed gratitude to everyone who has had a positive impact on Carter's life.

While her current coaches of the Reggae Girlz team Lorne Donaldson and Hue Menzies had a hand in Carter gaining the European contract, it was Andrew Wiles, the former coach at Iris Gelly primary, who moulded the player.

“She was about seven years old when she came by the Charlie Smith field and I was there coaching Iris Gelly Primary School but it was more like a community project. So she came over with her cousin and they were playing and kicking the balls behind the goals and I saw her and standing behind the goal.

“I called her and told her that she has the ability to play and she said she cannot play, so I told her that she should take her gear and play with the guys. And from there I took her aside and started teaching her the fundamentals of the game and I realised she found it interesting,” Wiles shared.

“I am so proud of her, seeing where she is now, and I just want her to keep doing what she is doing and keep herself disciplined and focused, because at the end of the day she is the only one who is going to tell exactly what happened,” he ended.

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