NMI National Team pool player Merrick Toves left for Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy—an association football academy based in Leeds, England last Saturday.
The 18-year-old, who played goalie for the national team and played on the Kanoa Football Club, is excited for his new collegiate and soccer journey.
He is studying coaching and sports management at the college and chose it because of its nine-month soccer program, in which Toves said “I wanted to try out playing [soccer] in Europe.”
Toves also said he will use the opportunity to play off-island to continue improving his game and represent the NMI well.
Of the two football clubs at the college—the FC RIASA/Eccleshill United FC—Toves said he will be playing for RIASA. “I really want to play and get better to the point I could play for a professional soccer team in England.”
Both football clubs play in the Northern Counties East Football League which is a semi-professional English football league with two divisions (Premier Division and Division One). The league has over 40 club members.
Toves said will be using his time there getting college experience, getting a bachelor’s degree and a sports management degree, and at the same time preparing himself mentally and physically for the sport.
He said he will then bring back what he learned and share it with the youth in Saipan after his college career.
With this new journey, Toves said “I am feeling alright and excited. [It’s a] new environment that I have to get used to [along with] meeting new people.”
The Mount Carmel School alumnus then thanked everyone who has supported him. “I want to say thank you to all my friends and family for believing in me and for giving me advice on what to expect in college. I want to say thank you to my mom and dad for helping me with my college and making me prepare myself for my future.”
Toves is part of a growing pool of more than 10 NMI men’s soccer players who have played in the collegiate league.
Last September, Toves was part of the NMI U20 Men’s National Soccer Team made up of 23 players that competed in the Asian Football Confederation U20 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan
His mom, Catherine Attao-Toves, said in a Facebook post after his farewell party, “Thank you family and friends for your support and celebrating Merrick’s new chapter in Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy, Leeds, England. We are grateful for your blessings! May our Lord bless each of you.”
“My son. Although I already miss you so much, my heart is filled with gratitude and excitement. We are excited for this path you have chosen, this new beginning. Remember to always keep your faith, trust and hope for our Lord is with you every step of the way. Spiritually, we will be there in the stands with our signature gesture, cheering you on! Keep your head up, and give it your all! Love you so much…” she said.