Let me begin by telling you a little about myself. I’m a 21 year old Canadian university student and a massive soccer fan. I have always supported the Vancouver Whitecaps but like many Canadians I have familial ties to other parts of the world. So underneath the Whitecaps, in a sort of tier two of support, are Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers. I hope they do well but I don’t stay up at night trying to figure out how to fit all three of their best strikers into one formation, or worrying about how many shots they concede inside the 18 yard box. You can probably add newly formed Vancouver Island club Pacific F.C. to that tier two of support. Supporting these teams means that when a new hot prospect emerges on the scene I have basically zero chance of ever seeing him in my team’s colours. This makes traditional outlets that cover the up and comers of the soccer world kind of boring to me. Yeah it’s great for Joao Felix that he’s already got 15 goals for Benfica, a 120 million euro release clause and isn’t even 20 yet but unless he fancies settling down in B.C or Yorkshire that doesn’t do much for me. To see a player I might actually be able to watch live some day I have to go deeper.
Highlights From Obscure Leagues and the Strange People Who Upload Them:
I took my first steps into this world when I was followed on Twitter by Pan American Calcio, the agency that helped bring Latif Blessing to MLS. I love these guys. They are frequently involved in petty drama,
Around the same time we also suggested to MLS team two strikers who were in Italian Serie C (Leonardo Mancuso and Riccardo Bocalon) who are now among the best in Italian Serie B, and very likely at least one of the two will be in Serie A next season.— Pan American Calcio (@PanAmCalcio) December 1, 2018
He has always thought of himself as a ⭐️ without having really proven it. Why do you think SKC didn’t protect him in the expansion draft if indeed he is a ⭐️? The problem is the people who surround him @JimmyHermez and @AmegaHans. They just feed his EGO and nothing else.— Pan American Calcio (@PanAmCalcio) December 11, 2018
They follow the IDF for god knows what reason and most importantly they provide a constant stream of player highlights from leagues in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. I’ve now built up a little cluster of these sorts of accounts that I follow. Another of my favourites is the YouTube Channel “Scout Analytic Football” which features this video that looks like something out of Better Call Saul, in which sporting directors are urged to contact them on Whatsapp to learn more about players. Who needs a business email am I right?
I joke but I love accounts like this. The highlights are like a fun little puzzle. Is this guy actually good or does he just look it because he’s playing in a literal farmer’s league? I spend more time than I’d like to admit watching highlights and trying to figure out the answer to that question. It’s time that could be spent learning a language or improving myself in some way but here we are. This has lead to...
The Dudes I Like Database Online (DILDO)
The dudes I like database online is just a list of guys in my notes who I think could do something on a pitch that has never had any cows on it. It’s not exactly scientific but in the hit documentary Sunderland ‘Till I Die two scouts turn down a player because he’s wearing gloves so I figure this is at least as worthwhile as that. Let’s go over some of my favourite players so far. I usually try to keep the Whitecaps angle in mind but they don’t necessarily have to be a fit for the ‘Caps to be on the DILDO.
Waleed Bakhet Hamid
Club: Al-Hilal (Sudan)
How many goals has Waleed Bakhet Hamid scored? It’s hard to say. There isn’t a whole lot of data readily available on the Sudanese Premier league. The only actual goal record of his I can find is him scoring 7 goals in 8 appearances in the African Confederations Cup, the African equivalent of the Europa League. That seems pretty good but I can’t say I know super well how that level of competition compares to MLS. But what he lacks in data he seems to make up for in the eye test. Hamid is quick, has an impressive passing range, and is a pretty clinical finisher. The current Whitecap I’d say he compares best too is Yordy Reyna. He does a great job of linking up with his teammates and playing 1-2s to make space for himself.
Of course these highlights have to be viewed with a degree of skepticism. On a few of these goals defenders hilariously fail to track his runs and he hits a few crosses to nobody. But I still think he has a lot of talent. Yes the defending isn’t great but he’s exploiting those weaknesses well. I particularly like how composed he is in front of goal and how he is able to pick corners, chip the keeper or put the ball through the keeper’s legs in tight situations. At the very least I think he aught to be at a club where he can get a Wikipedia page. Also, if you’ll forgive the cynicism, if you’re going to lure a Sudanese talent abroad now is a pretty good time.
Position: #6/Centre back
Club: Artemisa (Cuba)
A lanky defensive midfielder with an impressive passing range. Espino is a player who makes me really annoyed that the Whitecaps shut down WFC2 because he would be an ideal signing for them. Against the youth teams of the likes of Belize, Suriname, and Honduras he’s literally splitting defence and sending players through on goal from his own half. But against men and top quality opposition he’s unproven (he recently made his senior international debut against Mexico in a 7-0 loss). With a USL team you could sign him there and develop him for 2-3 years and have a really excellent player after that. But are you really going to take up an international spot on a talented but unproven Cuban teenager? Probably not. But Espino is a big talent and when he turns 18 and becomes eligible to move abroad I think whoever does sign him is going to be happy. His passing range is fantastic, he’s big and he offers versatility. His biggest weakness at this point, in my view, is that he doesn’t use his size enough. He doesn’t impose himself physically on the opposition and seems a bit reticent to put his body into harm’s way. But he’s only 17 so there is still plenty of time for him to develop that part of his game.
Postion: Attacking midfielder (mostly as a #10)
Club: Akwa United (Nigeria)
I first saw Okon play at the U20 World Cup where I was impressed by his touch, movement and vision. Okon is one of the few African U20 talents who still plays domestically. Perhaps it’s because he is terrible at editing videos. Seriously Aniekeme, if you’re reading this, I don’t need to see the same clip from the same angle but at different speeds back to back and I don’t need random handheld camera footage of your mum celebrating your goals spliced in. That just makes watching your videos really irritating. But putting that aside Okon seems like a good opportunity to pick up a technically gifted player on the cheap. Here’s his least annoying video which features him taking Hope of Glory F.C. to the cleaners. Are Hope of Glory F.C. good? I have no idea.
Club: Al Ahly (Egypt)
So I’m cheating a bit with this one because Azarou, while he isn’t super well known in this part of the world, is certainly well known in Africa. He is the reigning golden boot winner of the Egyptian league and the main striker of Al Ahly (who payed a 1.4 million transfer fee for him). If you’re not familiar with African soccer, this is a very big deal. But he makes the list because he’s great. His career G+A/90 is about 0.78. That is nothing short of amazing. I’d say the former Whitecap Azarou is most similar to is Kei Kamara but that’s not really a perfect comparison. He’s very good in the air, he has the pace to get in behind a defence and seems to have a pretty good work rate. He doesn’t drop deeper to be involved in the play as much as Kamara did but he seems to have more dribbling ability.
So there’s 4 players from the DILDO. There’s currently 15 on it (including the players from my article on possible USL gems) but I don’t want this article to be a million years long. I figure this could be a fun little series for when the Whitecaps are on an international break. We can introduce some new players and maybe have updates on the players who were featured previously. Let’s leave on a question. Where do you get your fix of obscure football highlights?