RCI St. Lucia
posted on February 03, 2015 08:05
His family and his community have been vital to his journey, and with their support, he truly believes that anything is possible. Noah 'Lucky' Nicholas says his family, especially his father, have always pushed him to be the best at whatever he puts his mind to.
"They tell me to never give up on what you want in life, no matter what, and to take my school work seriously," he says, though he admits the school work thing could use some work.
Aged 16, Lucky is a striker on Saint Lucia's National Under-17 men's football team. He scored twice against Curacao in the first round of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship (Caribbean zone). When the team advanced to the Caribbean finals in Haiti, he scored both goals to beat Trinidad and Tobago, and netted again against the home team.
Saint Lucia qualified for the CONCACAF Championship Finals, starting in Honduras at the end of February 2015, the furthest any Saint Lucian team has made it, and just one step away from making the 2015 age-group World Cup, which will be played in Chile.
Lucky had a modest introduction to football. Long before playing for Biker Boys, Vieux Fort South or even Vieux Fort Comprehensive, he found himself just kicking about at the age of six, simply because that's what everyone else was doing at the time. Peer pressure can be positive indeed.
"Where I lived, everything is football. All my friends played football, so one day I just went playing with them. They used to laugh at me, but one of my friends trained me every day, told me to watch football on TV whenever I could, and I did so."
Although Lucky now lives in La Ressource, he is originally from the community of Bruceville. It's also where former national striker Titus Elva is from. Lucky grew up with Titus' son, Caniggia, who last year signed a contract to play professionally in Germany.
"I was raised playing football with Caniggia," says Lucky. "We went to the same school, and we both liked running."
But it was not until his teens that Lucky realised he could be really good at football. "When I first played inter-school football in Form 3, I scored 19 goals in five games," he says proudly. That brought him to the attention of local coaches. National coaches, too.
Lucky was the leading goal-scorer again a year later in the schools tournament. He would also lead Vieux Fort South to victory in the inter-district competition. The first time he played at Beausejour, he lost, but he made up for it the next time around.
"Motivation" and "determination" are two of the words that pop up most regularly in Lucky's conversation. Like many members of the current under-17 team, he first represented Saint Lucia when the national federation threw a team together for the Caribbean Football Union Under-15 tournament in 2013.
"They picked me from the Vieux Fort South under-16 when we won," he explains. "And then when I came to training for Saint Lucia I was not scoring goals at all! But I think I was the hardest working player. The day they were calling the side, mine was the last name on the list - I almost cried."
When his name was called, he was understandably elated. He was determined to make it happen, and although the team struggled against the level of competition in the Cayman Islands, he says the level of togetherness, camaraderie - and yes, determination - grew.
Fast forward to 2014. Trinidad and Tobago beat Saint Lucia in the opening round, but the team was looking forward to seeing them again in Haiti. "The team was very happy," says Lucky. "And we saw history would be made. I was told no player from Saint Lucia had ever scored on Trinidad, and Saint Lucia had never beaten Trinidad, so we went out there and gave all all we had just to beat Trinidad."
Saint Lucia has actually beaten Trinidad and Tobago at the senior level, but the last time that happened was in 2002. Lucky was just four years old.
As the team prepares for Honduras, where they will meet some of the real heavyweights of the region, Lucky says that he is most looking forward to the challenge that will be posed by CONCACAF superpower Mexico. As they have progressed through the various age groups and the different levels of this under-17 tournament, he says the team has grown, but he admits there is still a lot to be accomplished.
"We have come together as a team," he says. "We know each other much better and that gives us the strength. Now we need to play our best and hope that the team does well, and that some of us can get scouted."
Lucky says that aside from Titus and Caniggia Elva, his community has been very supportive. Mervinus Estephan, a contemporary of Caniggia's, was the one who introduced him to the game. Saint Lucia senior international Jamil Joseph, who has played in Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom, has helped him a great deal. Kervin Edward, another Saint Lucia international, has been there for him throughout.
As he prepares to continue along his journey, Lucky says he dreams of playing in England's Premier League. His next step towards that goal is travelling to the United Kingdom this year. There, he will live with his uncle, who will also enrol him in school.
"I want to take Saint Lucia to the World Cup," he says. "Every opportunity I get I want to take it. When I talk to the older players, they tell me any chance I get, I should take. I feel I'm ready. I'm sure I'm ready."