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!”