Craig Butler (left) founder of Phoenix All-Star Academy looks on as Pedro Boyd (second left) sports marketing specialist of Nike, shakes Leon Bailey’s hand immediately after he signed his endorsement contract at the Spanish Court Hotel on January 28, 2014. (PHOTO: GARFIELD ROBINSON)
As the world anxiously anticipates the winner of the 2014 FIFA World Cup competition, the college men turn to Amsterdam’s AFC Ajax football player, Leon Bailey Butler, for his commentary and prediction for each game. Sixteen – year- old Leon Bailey Butler, known to many as ‘Chippy’ recently joined the Jamaica College family along with his brother, Kyle Butler, after returning to Jamaica to officially signed to a three-year endorsement contract by international brand Nike at the Spanish Court Hotel on January 28, 2014.
Leon will wear the Nike brand on and off the field, and could earn up to 10,000 euros per year.
According to Sports Marketing Specialist of Nike, Pedro Boyd, who is based in Panama, Leon was seen by a Nike scout in Europe.
“Well he was playing some good football there and we developed a contact for him here in Jamaica. The final decision to sign him was made by my international boss and I was asked to come down to make it official.
“We are betting on Leon…we are betting on him to be a great player to represent the brand of Nike well and to make Jamaica proud,” he added.
Leon, who is a product of the Phoenix All Stars Football Academy, also created history by signing the biggest contract for a junior football player at Racing Club Genk in Belgium. The prolific young striker had attracted interest from a number of clubs across Europe after his exploits in Austria, Germany and Belgium where he impressed with his goal scoring alongside fellow Phoenix club-mate and brother, Kyle Butler. He is currently signed to AFC Ajax, a Dutch professional football club based in Amsterdam and the seventh-most successful European club of the 20th century. Leon has scored over 100 goals in his professional football career.
As Leon waits to return to Europe he explains what it is like readjusting to school life in Jamaica having lived in Europe since he was thirteen years of age.
‘At first it was difficult adjusting to the idea of wearing uniforms to school, the rigid class system when it came to classwork and homework not to mention the numerous SBAs but the teachers and students made me feel like a part of a family which made adjusting easier,” said Leon.
“I am rated as a football player by the students and so we talk a lot about football – the English League and the World Cup,” he added.
Leon explained that living in Europe has been enjoyable and beneficial for his football career.
“School life in Europe is fun. Once they heard I was from Jamaica they all wanted to know about Bob Marley and Jamaica,” said Leon. “Apart from English I’m now fluent in three languages and speak a little French.”
Of all the countries that he has lived in Europe, for Leon, Belgium and Austria are the most memorable places.
“I love Belgium’s style of playing and how friendly they are on the field however Austria is beautiful, clean and has a lot of things to do,” expressed Leon.
The young teen whose personal motto is “Aim for the best” days begin at 6:30am and end at 11pm. “I am confident of my skills and can only achieve excellence by working very hard. I train from 4 – 7pm Mondays – Thursdays and from 7am – 6pm every Saturday and when I’m not training I’m studying which leaves very little time for socializing,” explained Leon. He however tries to unwind by playing FIFA PS4 and through social media sites on his phone such as Instagram and Facebook.
Leon’s dream of playing football was made possible by his coach, adopted father and JC Old Boy, Craig Butler, Founder of Phoenix Academy. Leon became a member of the academy while still attending primary school.
“I started when I was seven years old and they were training at Constant Spring. I went over there and started training until I joined in with the club,” explained Leon.
His dear friends, Jamaican track athlete, Warren Weir and Liverpool footballer, Raheem Sterling, are also his biggest supporters and motivators. Sterling, who is like a brother to Leon, recent words to him before heading off to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to represent England were:
“Listen ‘charge’ push yourself as hard as you can because you will slowly make progress each and every day.”
Apart from Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Leon admires footballers Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Marc Overmars (Arsenal and Ajax Director) and Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) who he feels that he plays like as he is also a left footer like Messi.
While Leon eats, sleep and dreams of football he advises everyone to know what they want in life.
“Hard work and dedication will help you to achieve your goals.”
Leon’s prediction for the winner of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – “Brazil of course!” he exclaimed.
Warren Weir, Leon Bailey Butler and Raheem Sterling
Follow Leon Bailey Butler on Instagram leonbailey100 as he aims for his goal.
TVJ Excerpt – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVaoJdVYOg0
Author: Nateeka Wright