Sat, Apr

A former Trinidad international who helped the Soca Warriors qualify for the World Cup was the surprise top pick at Saturday's Island Soccer League Superdraft.

Marlon Rojas, a defender who also played in the American MLS with Real Salt Lake and more recently with John Barry Nusum's former USL side Atlanta Silverbacks, was snapped up by Apex as the first choice of the night.

Rojas, a relative unknown in Bermuda football circles, quit the pro scene eight months ago and moved to the island where he has been flying under the radar at Somerset Eagles.

But his experience and ability was not lost on coaches Jean Gibbons and Jeremy Salaam who made him their top pick.

In a night of nervous tension to rival an episode of American Idol, the eight coaches of David Bascome's new six-a-side league took turns to select from a draft list of 200 players.

By the end of the night the squads that will make up the Island Soccer League - a mix of Premier, First Division and Commercial players - had been selected.

Arsenal coach Nick Jones made Paget striker Travis Wilkinson his first pick, Kings coach John Rebelo's Kings took Dion Stovell (SCC), Cymande Davis was the top pick for Ray Jones and Knights, Dennis Brown took Jemeiko Jennings for the Royal, Omar Shakir was the first pick for Andrew Bascome and the Storm, while Herbie Bascome's the Titans took Conneko Trott.

In all each team has 12 players with three alternates.

They will play for a top prize of approximately $40,000 when the season gets under way in April, in what promises to be a crowd pleasing spectacle of short sided, small pitch football.

Rojas, 27, said he hoped his pro experience could help his team challenge for the title.

"I was in the Trinidad team until just before we sealed qualification. Towards the end, when I was not involved with the further development with the World Cup, I made a decision to myself that I was going to move away from it.

"It's quite up and down as an athlete. One time I could be making money the next I'd be hitting some bumpy periods."

While his former Trini teammates were capturing the world's imagination in Germany, Rojas played out the USL season with the Silverbacks and then moved to Bermuda where he has 'settled down', doing marketing for Telford Electric.

But he insisted he still wanted to play at a high level.

"For me, it's fun. I play every chance I get. I'm looking forward to it. I expect it to be more intense than the full-sided game.

"It requires a lot of skill to play on a small field and hopefully boys can step up a bit. In the First Division and the Premier Division, guys lack the ability to play simple. In the smaller sided game that is the way you have to play - simple, yet skilful."

Rojas hopes to be able to offer his team, which also includes Vernon Tankard, Wolde Place and Colin Keane, the benefit of his experience.

"I see myself as being one of the better, more experienced players around. I haven't had a chance to see who is on my team yet but I expect to help them, regardless."

Saleem, one of Rojas' coaches at Apex, said he had heard good things about Rojas and had been keen to get in there first and snap him up before any of the other coaches.

"I kept my little ears and my little eyes to the ground, somebody alerted me to check him out and I think it was worth the pick.

"I was sold on him for weeks and was considering him for my first or second pick, then I heard his name come up a few times at the combine and that sealed it for me. I had to get in there before the other coaches."

Saleem and fellow coach Jean Gibbons didn't have it all their own way, though, missing out on a few players they had penciled in.

"I had to make a few adjustments when people I was interested in got picked up by other coaches, but we obviously had a plan B for that."

Saleem said he had been contacting the players in his team and couldn't wait for the league to get started.

"They're ready to go. Their only question to me was when do we get started?" The official answer, says league commissioner David Bascome, is May 15 when the first games of the league will be held at the National Centre.

But the players will be asked to attend a training camp a month prior to the big kick off on April 16.

"The teams have been picked and now it's down to the coaches," said Bascome

"There's a lot of pressure on them. You can pick all the players you want, but now it's about the style you want to play, teaching them how to play zone defences, adapting to the small-sided game."