Fulham sweet on Malachai
The sacrifices made by Marvin and Chantelle Belboda for their football-loving son, Malachai, are paying off, with the 11-year-old playing in the under-12 team at English club Fulham.
The family left Bermuda to give Malachai an opportunity to advance his football — father and son leaving in early 2017 — and mother and daughter joining them months later. Malachai was offered trials with three London clubs, West Ham United, Arsenal and Crystal Palace.
The opportunity came about when Malachai was spotted in Bermuda at Vinzie Zuill’s Footy Promotions camp two years ago when a 12-year-old “wonderkid” from Arsenal, Omari Hutchinson, came to Bermuda for the camp. Malachai, a midfielder, impressed a scout who was also at the camp and things progressed from there.
“It all came about when Vinzie Zuill had a weekend futsal camp in 2016 and brought in Omari Hutchinson as the guest for the weekend,” explained Marvin, who made his name in local circles as a Devonshire Colts forward before moving on to Southampton Rangers, Somerset Trojans, Dandy Town and Paget. He even coached later in his career.
“I’m a Colt if anybody wants to know,” Belboda said with emphasis. “I bleed orange.”
He added: “I went to the camp on the first night but didn’t go on the Saturday because I had to work, but when he left home I told him ‘do what you have to do, you never know who’s watching’. On the Sunday, the last day, I was able to attend and they picked two boys as MVPs for the camp — Malachai and Matthew Elliott — out of over 100 boys.
“The scout came to my wife and me and told us that he couldn’t tell us all weekend, but that he was a scout and that he sees good things in Malachai, that his skill level was very high.
“He told us that if we were able to make that sacrifice that he would actually pull some string to get trials. I told him we would think about it.
“It took us about six or seven months to really think about it, and we decided he might not get another chance to do these things, especially coming from a small country like Bermuda.
“It was a big sacrifice. I actually left my wife and daughter who came up later in the year. I don’t regret it. As a parent you want your children to do the best they can. I tell him to dream every day, but that this is not guaranteed.”
Belboda added: “I figured I would make the sacrifice and bring him over. When we were coming, Clyde Best got him a trial with West Ham as well, so Malachai had trials at Arsenal, West Ham and Crystal Palace. All three took a liking to him and I asked him which one he wanted to choose and he told me Crystal Palace.”
The family did not renew Malachai’s one-year contract at Crystal Palace so that they might pursue other opportunities and were subsequently offered a trial at Fulham, who also have a good education support programme.
“On the education side, Malachai is well-rounded,” his father said. “He could have gone to grammar school, but he told me he didn’t want to go to an all-boys school. He goes to a secondary school called North School.
“We’re big on the education side when it comes to this. I try to be real with him when it comes to injuries and things like that.
“Football was my first love but he loves football and loves running. In fact, before he left everybody had a hard time catching him in races like Dash in the Dark. He didn’t get to do the Front Street Mile because we came out here the year he qualified for that.”
Malachai, who supported Liverpool before going to England, is happy at Fulham, who are now back in the Premier League. “I was at Crystal Palace but it was too far away, so we decided to go on a different trial, with Fulham, and I signed this June,” said the youngster, who admits he misses the hot sun in Bermuda.
“It’s going very good at Fulham so far. Sometimes I miss Bermuda but I’m very happy to be here.”
And by all accounts Fulham are happy to have the young Bermudian on their books. “Malachai has been signed at Fulham FC after a successful trial,” said Delroy Ebanks, head of recruitment.
“Malachai has all the attributes required and expected of a Category 1 player. He has integrated well within the group and looks extremely confident when playing in attacking positions or central midfield.
“Malachai is technically very good and will play for Fulham in premier league youth tournaments and was already selected to represent the 2007 group in Portugal. Malachai is a testament to all the coaches who have been part of his journey to date. The club have high hopes for Malachai and will enrol him in their full time programme that a number of elite players have participated in prior to making the first team.
“Most of all he is a level headed young man who appears to have the right mentality to enhance his natural ability. Fulham FC hope Malachai will be with the club for a number of years.”