Reprinted from Richmond Times Dispatch
Last month, Damani Osei, a 15-year-old Cosby High School student, scored a goal in his international debut for Jamaica’s under-17 soccer team in a lopsided 9-0 victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I received an inside pass from the right back and then cut in on my left,” said Osei, demonstrating by feinting to skip inside a chair. “A defender approached me, but I didn’t feel any contact and managed to put the ball right in the corner from 12 yards.”
It was a proud moment. Osei was competing for the Reggae Boyz in a Caribbean Football Union qualifying game. Jamaica defeated Guyana 4-1 and Antigua 3-1 before the eye-popping win over U.S. Virgin Islands to top the group and book a berth in the CFU finals, which are scheduled for Trinidad and Tobago in September.
Osei was born in the Richmond area but is eligible to play for Jamaica because of his father, who was born in Kingston. He’s optimistic he’ll be involved with the 20-man team again shortly.
“I was a little disappointed not to play a single minute in the first two games, but scoring on my debut meant that it couldn’t have gone much better,” said Osei, a left fullback. He’s one of the youngest members of the team and can also play on the wing and as a forward. “I think I played well when I was given a chance and the coach told me that I had a good game.
“In August, they will select the squad again, so all I can do right now is to just work hard and then we’ll see.”
Osei’s preparations to be ready for September have already started. He’s set to play for FC Richmond, an elite team made up of several players he used to play with in the Richmond United Academy.
Osei’s ability to be productive in several positions might put him in good stead on the international scene. He had 11 goals and 10 assists for Cosby last season.
If it does well in September, Jamaica will qualify for CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) — playing against teams such as the United States and Mexico. If it does well at CONCAF, the team will qualify for the 2017 Under-17 World Cup in India.
Education is equally important as soccer to Osei, a rising sophomore.
“I take academics extremely seriously,” he said. “If I have to, I’ll skip practice if I’m behind on school. But I have a 4.2 GPA, so I’m in pretty good shape there.”