Sun, Nov


ELEGANT Vibe CT 105 W.Connection FC midfielder Silvio Spann is set to become the first Trinidad and Tobago footballer to ply his trade in Italy’s Serie A after signing with Perugia yesterday.

The 19-year-old Spann, who was a Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) stand-out with St Benedict’s College, has spent the past two weeks in Italy on trials along with club teammate and former Naparima College striker Ateba McKnight.

Spann, son of former national star midfielder Leroy “Spanner” Spann, was at Perugia’s home stadium yesterday when the hosts drew 2-2 with Italian superstar Roberto Baggio’s Brescia to keep their dreams of a UEFA Cup berth alive.

He was signed soon after the match and will remain in Italy for the next ten days to sort out his work permit and accommodation.

McKnight, on the other hand, returns to Trinidad today to rejoin WCFC.

WCFC club president David J Williams was overjoyed to learn that his player had been signed although he refused to discuss his personal terms or the transfer fee involved.

He also pointed out that the club would soon have four players in Italy. National under-20 defender Jace Peters recently left for a trials with fellow Serie A team Brescia while 17-year-old ex-Tranquillity Government midfielder Keron Cordner and 25-year-old Brazilian Luciano Sato will soon leave for Perugia.

“His father is tremendously happy,” said Williams. “And his teammates are happy for him... The other two players going to Perugia is a celebration in itself. It’s a breakthrough to have four players in Italy.”

The south-based club won the domestic Professional Football League (PFL) title last season while also winning the league and cup honours in the under-20 division.

The success of the club—in only its third year of existence—has apparently not gone unnoticed globally and WCFC hosted Perugia scout Fabrizio Salvatore earlier this year who was instrumental in arranging trials for Spann.

The young midfielder—who was controversially omitted from national under-20 coach John Granville’s team for the Concacaf qualifying series—sufficiently impressed Perugian manager Sersi Cosmo in two practice games and several training sessions at the club.

Williams is hopeful that ex-Naparima College stopper, Peters, will follow suit.

“We feel very confident about Jace Peters,” said Williams. “Because he was picked out by Italian scouts who were here during the under-20 (Concacaf World Cup qualifying) tournament.”

Spann’s move to Serie A is unprecedented in the English speaking Caribbean.

Tobagonian striker Dwight Yorke was scouted by several Italian clubs including Juventus after his successful opening season with English giants Manchester United while Jerren Nixon of Swiss team St Gallen had once attracted the attention of Napoli—former club of Argentine legend Diego Maradona.

However neither player was the subject of an official offer.

While Perugia lack the history of Juventus, they have been steadily building their own niche in arguably the world’s most elite football league.

Most of their progress would go down to the adventurous signings of club chairman Luciano Gaucci.

In 1998, Gaucci gambled by signing Japanese playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata—the first Asian to play in the Serie A—whom he sold on within 15 months to Roma for a club record £10 million.

At present, the Perugia roster also includes Jung Hwan Ahn, the first South Korean to play in Italy, Ming Yu Ma, Serie A’s first Chinese player and Fabio Liverani, the first player of African descent to win an international cap with Italy.

Spann will be the “first” that will concern Trinidad and Tobago football fans most, though.