Atiba Harris hangs up his boots Jun 1, 2021 11:23:18 GMT
Post by Admin on Jun 1, 2021 11:23:18 GMT
St Kitts flagbearer Atiba Harris hangs up boots
...Vows to take game to next level if elected president of local association
Friday, May 21, 2021
BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport editor
Atiba Harris has had a long and successful stint playing professionally in the US leagues. But like anything else in life, all good things must come to an end.
The 36-year-old St Kitts and Nevis footballer has called time on his professional career recently, hanging up his boots at a time when he could still have a few more productive playing years left in hm.
But for Harris, the time to walk away is now.
“I have decided to hang up my boots because I felt like the time was right to move on to the next chapter of my life as I wanted to focus on going home to St Kitts & Nevis and assist with football development,” he told the Jamaica Observer recently.
Harris, who ended his playing career with United Soccer League's Oklahoma City Energy, said his 14 years campaigning in the US leagues allowed him to fulfil a boyhood dream.
“I think that my time in the US was fairly decent [as] I was able to accomplish my dream in competing consistently at the professional level,” Harris said.
He noted that among the high points of a career that also took him to Spain and Mexico, was becoming the first player from his island home to play in US Major League Soccer (MLS).
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But there was also a painful low.
“My high point was definitely becoming the first player from St Kitts & Nevis to sign in Major League Soccer and making the nation proud. My low point was having to deal with multiple surgeries between 2011 and 2012,” he recalled.
Harris, a defender, had his most successful spell at FC Dallas where he played over 120 matches.
“I have had five excellent years with FC Dallas and I will forever hold this club close to my heart. The set up at the club is amazing from top to bottom, especially the way that this club aims to develop players from the academy level all the way to the senior level,” he shared.
The Kittian said he had the pleasure playing alongside a number of former and current Reggae Boyz. Among them are Ryan Johnson and Andy Willams at Real Salt Lake; Shavar Thomas at Chivas USA; Jeff Cunningham at both Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas; Darren Mattocks at Vancouver Whitecaps FC; Deshorn Brown at Colorado Rapids and OKC Energy FC; Khari Stephenson and Shaun Francis at San Jose Earthquakes and Je-Vaughn Watson at FC Dallas and OKC Energy FC.
Harris says playing for Cadiz of Spain's La Liga and Linares of Spain's Division B, plus a stint with Mexico's Murcielagos was an eye-opener.
“Playing in Spain and Mexico helped me to understand a different way of life. Going to Spain at 18 had its challenges as I didn't speak the language, so I had to quickly figure things out. I encountered racism, but the football was on point,” Harris said.
His move to Mexico, after a well-travelled course in the MLS, was seen as being risky as his team was located in drug cartel-controlled Sinaloa.
But his desire to move to Mexico was stronger than his fear of the potential danger.
“I was married with three daughters and my wife is of Mexican heritage, so we were excited for that move. Some people thought it was a risky decision going to Los Mochis in Sinaloa, Mexico, but we had an amazing time off the field as a family,” Harris said.
The St Kitts and Nevis international said while he had dreamt of making it big in Europe, playing in the US in the main and in Concacaf competitions provided Harris with a sense of accomplishment.
“As a little boy I always wanted to go to Europe and play in the European Champions League, but that didn't happen. However, I was able to play in the Concacaf Champions League, which is our version of top club competition in this region, and for that, I am thankful,” he stated.
Harris, who was capped more than 60 times for his native St Kitts, said a great source of pride was wearing the national colours and his role as mentor for young players.
“It has been a pleasure representing my country in the professional world and I do have regular conversations with young aspiring players who are looking to make that step into the professional arena,” he noted.
Harris thinks the future of St Kitts football is secured with the talent the country continues to cultivate against the odds.
“I think our country is blessed with lots of natural talent both locally and in our Diaspora and we were able to have a few players other than myself who went on to become professional players and make an impact,” he reasoned.
He singled out Keith “Kayamba” Gumbs, Thrizen “Jamous”, Julani Archibald, Romaine, Phoenitia Browne, Shontelle Wilkinson, and female player Caroline “T Mac” Springer as other national players who have been flying the nation's flag with distinction over the years.
Now that his retirement from the playing turfs of the game is sealed, Harris has declared his intention to run for the presidency of the St Kitts and Nevis Football Association (SKNFA).
“After some serious consideration, I have decided to be a candidate for the presidency of the SKNFA as the current president is stepping down and local clubs have reached out to me to step up,” he asserted.
Harris holds the view that the SKNFA is heading in a direction which does not necessarily serve the best interest of the game.
“I think that the SKNFA has done some good things and not so good things over the years. We've seen the highs when things were looking good, but at this present moment, I think we're headed in the wrong direction, so my team and I are looking forward to getting things moving in a positive direction,” he said.
Harris, who also represented MLS outfits Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, Vancouver Whitecaps, Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes, says opportunities for smaller members of Concacaf, including his St Kitts, to grow have multiplied with the Nations League.
“I think that the Nations League is a very good thing for smaller nations to get meaningful matches on a regular basis and I'm looking forward to the next edition,” he concluded.