Luka Chalwell makes sporting history as VI’s first professional footballer

Luka Chalwell with Lea Bradbury, Manager of Eastleigh FC. Photo: Luka Chalwell

Luka Chawell is the first Virgin Islands national, who is born and raised in the British Virgin Islands, to become a professional footballer after signing a contract on Thursday, June 15 2023, to join Eastleigh FC in the English National League.

Chalwell, a product of the BVI Football Association development pathways, started under the watchful eye of Coach John Reilly. He flourished in the BDO Schools League and blossomed in the BVIFA youth teams before earning his first full international cap in the Concacaf World Cup qualifier against Guatemala in 2021.

Since then, Chalwell has represented the VI in the Concacaf Nations League. He moved to England to develop his talent at clubs such as Poole Town, where he scored a hat trick in the FA Youth Cup. BVI National Coach, Chris Kiwomya, who was working with Chalwell on improving his all round game, recommended Chalwell to Lee Bradbury, Manager of Eastleigh FC and the Eastleigh Elite Development Program.

Chalwell impressed both Kiwomya and Eastleigh with his work ethic. He demonstrated an exemplary attitude to gain his chance and be rewarded for his undoubted talent. He also showed a willingness to listen to coaches and mentors alike and benefited from being able to work with Coach Kiwomya.

“I was able to get Luka (Chalwell) the opportunity, but he had to show dedication to learn the game and improve himself,” said Kiwomya. “He has really improved over 12-18 months, has an eye for the goal, good stamina and is a good header of the ball. I was happy to step in and help him achieve his dream, which he’s grabbed with both hands, and I believe he has a good chance of making the breakthrough to the first team and playing at a higher level.”

Chalwell was excited to learn of the offer to sign the professional two-year contract on Thursday 15th June 2023.

“This is such a proud moment for myself and my family, signing my first professional contract with Eastleigh FC,” said Chalwell. “I want to thank my parents for their unwavering support and sacrifice throughout my journey so far. Words can’t describe how I feel to have reached this stage. I’ve always worked very hard but especially this past year, putting my all into further developing my physical and mental skills whilst working very hard to condition my body for the intense physicality of professional level football, which has allowed me this opportunity with Eastleigh FC. I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

According to an announcement on the Eastleigh FC website, “Chalwell has been involved in training with the first team in the latter stages of the season and impressed, earning himself a pro deal.” Chalwell’s new manager, Lee Bradbury said “I’m really pleased to have the lad on board. He has excellent ability and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress through the early years of professional football.”

BVIFA President, Andy Bickerton added “The BVIFA is very proud of Luka, he is a shining example of what can be achieved with dedication, hard work, and the essential and necessary family support.”

Those sentiments were echoed by BVIFA Technical Director, Dan Neville, “Congratulations to Luka, the first of what we hope is many more to follow!”

Chalwell debuts in England FA Youth Cup

Luka Chalwell has become the fist BVIslander to play in one of the English Football Associations most prestigious competitions, the FA Youth Cup.

Luka Chalwell has become the fist BVIslander to play in one of the English Football Associations most prestigious competitions, the FA Youth Cup, which since its inception back in 1952, has now grown to over 400 clubs entering the competition hoping to lift the coveted trophy.

Chalwell, a shining light from the BVIFA’s Schools, Youth, Club and National Squad player pathways, joined the likes of David Beckham, George Best, John Barnes, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne and Gareth Bale who all have taken the opportunity afforded by the competition to go onto bigger and better things.

English Premier League giants, Liverpool are current Champions, Chelsea won the Cup the previous five times, Manchester United have lifted the Cup 10 times overall and it is the competition that launched their fabled “Class of ‘92” , so, whilst Chalwell’s debut may be with the slightly less renowned Poole Town FC , he is still rightly proud of his achievement.

“I am grateful to have been given this opportunity with Poole and even happier to have helped the team advance to the next round,” commented Chalwell after Poole had progressed with a 4-1 victory against Dorchester Town.

Meanwhile the BVIFA’s Technical Director, Dan Neville was equally as enthusiastic over the importance of Chalwell’s debut: “The FA Youth Cup is known around the world, so to have one of our young players involved is another milestone in the progress our players are making and the benefits our progammes are starting to produce.”

However, Neville also hopes Chalwell’s achievement is just the beginning. “It is very important we continue to provide our home-grown players with a variety of opportunities and competition in order for them to reach their full potential,” he said.

Neville also believes now is the time to create even more mile stones and memories, so maybe it wont be long until a BVIslander is not only playing in the FA Youth Cup, but also other major competitions in front of a full house at one of the world’s iconic football stadiums!