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Young ‘Gunner’ will make Ireland proud

Last update - Sunday, December 15, 2013, 18:09 By Metro Éireann

Armstrong Okoflex, 11, signs to Arsenal youth team

After a whirlwind few months of trials at some of the United Kingdom’s top soccer clubs, a young Irish player has been signed by Arsenal’s youth team.
Eleven-year-old Armstrong Okoflex has been an eager footballer all his life, says father Reginald, who lives in Dublin.
“From the day he was born… if he saw something, he kicked it. He’s a young Irish prodigy.”
The move to London was “just a fluke”, said his father: Armstrong’s sister had to go to London for some treatment, so he went along too.
While he was there, Armstrong’s local club St Kevin’s Boys Club helped to set up a tryout with West Ham.
His performance in the subsequent London training session, and then in trial matches, set off a flurry of phone calls and offers from yet more clubs in the city – firstly Tottenham Hotspur, then Fulham. But it was a call to Armstrong’s parents from the Arsenal Football Club Academy that sealed the deal.
Reginald is proud but protective of his young son, and worried about the potential pressure and attention that his talent could bring, especially learning with a side as decorated as the Gunners.
“I am trying as much as I can to keep it low key,” he says.
It’s come as no surprise to Colm Barron of St Kevin’s, who has worked with Armstrong.
 “He always showed a lot of talent, really in the last two seasons,” says Barron, highlighting in particular the way Armstrong “expressed himself” as he played.
“He probably differed from the normal Irish players in that he always tried things, he wasn’t afraid to try things on the pitch, skills and tricks.”
Ken McCue of Sports Against Racism Ireland, which works with young Irish players across cultures, said there are many children of immigrants here who show immense “promise” on the field.
Unfortunately, unless they have an Irish passport – which can be tough for some to get – the national team won’t benefit from their skills, he says.
McCue expresses disappointment that such future soccer stars sometimes have to go abroad to further their promise and pursue their careers.
“We’ve been saying for years, we should be nurturing these talents, preparing them for international football,” he says.

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