Prospect native Anton Nelson is used to betting on himself.
The 21-year old is set to make his senior national men’s football debut Friday (22 March) versus Montserrat in the final game of the CONCACAF Nations League qualifier.
“To play for the country that I was born in is a fantastic honour,” said Nelson. “My grandparents and my parents will be able to watch me.”
The former Tigers Football Club junior is currently wrapping up his first season with Llanelli Association Football Club of the Welsh Premier League. However, his journey to the senior team is about more than representing his country at the highest level. It’s about the years of perseverance that helped him reach his ultimate goal of playing professional football.
“I can’t reiterate the fact how many times I’ve been turned down when I thought that I’d made it” said Nelson.
As member associations like the Cayman Islands gain more international play with the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League starting in September, Nelson says he’ll use that same tenacity to become a permanent fixture for his home side.
“So many Caymanians are very talented, but the most important thing is your work ethic” said Nelson.
His journey is over ten years in the making. At the age of 13, Nelson left Cayman for England’s Shewsbury School. In 2016, Nelson was recruited by NCAA Division I Valparaiso University. After one year in the programme, he left school and turned pro.
“I went back for preseason, and it was kind of an awakening,” said Nelson. “I just really wanted go for it, so I went back to England and did everything I could to make it.”
However, success wasn’t waiting at his doorstep. Nelson says after months of sending out highlight reels and resumes, he finally got a taste of the big leagues with semi-pro Bognor Regis Town Football Club of the Sussex County Football Association.
“That was a big wake up call,” said Nelson. ” I was finally playing men’s football with grown men, earning money.”
The wing’s continued persistence paid off. After gaining a two-month trial with Wales Second League club Flint Town United, Llannelli AFC brass came calling.
“They had a game against Swansea City’s 23s, and the manager wanted to look at me. They only had one or two places on the team,” said Nelson. “I just dropped it, and just went for it.”
The rest is history. With his first season of professional football coming to an end in the United Kingdom, and his senior national team career about to begin, Nelson knows the work has just begun.
“I want to be a mainstay, and one of the first names when they send out the call ups,” said Nelson.
How will he establish himself as key part of Cayman’s senior men’s national team? The same way he always has.
“I believe you make your own luck,” said Nelson. “Make sure you have the best attitude possible, and work as hard as you possibly. You will make it, I really believe that.”