PICTURE above shows Mutsu Oyama of Arriva Bangor and current Nefyn United man Lukas Baltovic.
IT’S NO SECRET to anyone that football is the most-loved sport up here in North Wales and our passion for the game is often unrivalled.
And so it should come as no surprise that many players from beyond the island, and in fact this country, have enjoyed their time playing here in the past.
One of those is Spaniard Borja Plana Lorenzo (pictured on the ball below). The midfielder, who is now back living in Spain and self-isolating during the country’s Coronavirus pandemic, recently recalled his time playing on the island.
Whilst speaking to AFE, Borja said: “I played for Valley Athletic and Holyhead Hotspur. I played in North Wales’ lower leagues for around two years.
“Wales is a wonderful place and of course, after Spain, my second team at The Euros would be Wales!”
Over the years, several foreign talents have graced the lower leagues of football in North Wales, as well as those in the top flight – who often get a lot more coverage.
In the Cymru Premier over the last few seasons, fans have enjoyed watching the likes of Zimbabwean midfielder Alec Mudimu (Now at Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova) and Polish attacker Adrian Cieslewicz tear it up for Cefn Druids and The New Saints respectively.
In the lower leagues many more players of different nationalities just like Borja Lorenzo have come and gone and some are still around today.
Llandegfan Football Club became a hot spot for many of those players, particularly when Jamie Davies, now a coach for Manchester City in China, was manager there (when they were Llandegfan Antelope). Among those at the club were Eduardo Bellomo (Italy) and Matin Sedighi (Iran) – both of whom followed Jamie to Pentraeth when he later went to manage there.
Also at the club were Marc Seif (Tanzania), Anderson Suzart (Brazil) and Loic Perhirin (below) – a man described by the Anglesey League reports written by Dave McCann in 2013 as ‘the Flying Frenchman’ – who told AFE that his “time playing in North Wales was short but the football experience was great.”
Even during my short stint as manager at the re-formed Llandeg, we have seen a few different nationalities join up with our squad. In 2017/18, we had Bibek Gurung (Nepal) and Faisal Mbabaali (Uganda). This season we had the Nigerian duo of Seun Oki and Yusuf Agunbiade.
Elsewhere over the years, there has been countless nationalities represented in the lower divisions here.
Perhaps the most notable (or certainly the one who received the most press at the time) was Ibrahim Fazeel (below) – A Maldives international footballer who rocked up at Bodorgan in 2016. The then 35-year-old was a central midfielder who had made 72 caps for his country, scoring 22 times. He later went onto play for Llangefni Town too.
Others in the past, have included the likes of Demetris Christodoulou (Cyprus) who was at Llandegfan, Taki Kojima (Japan) who was with Llangoed, Clauvice Tangang (Cameroon) who spent time at Cemaes Bay, Nantlle Vale and others, and Bart Slezok (Poland) who was a great player for the likes of Glantraeth and Gaerwen.
Even in the Sunday League days there were plenty too. Paul Skorey (USA) and Lyonel Lisandro Augusto (Portugal) were just two of those who had played for Tynygongl-based Treetops.
In 2017/18 – two foreign nationals made it into my Anglesey League Team of the Season. Japanese full-back Mutsu Oyama (below) was the first, after enjoying a fantastic cup-double winning campaign with Arriva Bangor. Second, was Ciaran O’Brady of league winners Mynydd Tigers. The Irish wing wizard was a joy to watch in his sole season in the AL and popped up with 15 goals too.
Fast forward to now and there are still many players from many different backgrounds plying their trade in Anglesey/Gwynedd.
Luis Teles, who started the season at Gwynedd League side Bethesda Athletic but is now at Bangor City in the Cymru North division is Portuguese as are Bro Goronwy brothers Rui and Jorge Silva. Talented Slovakian Lukas Baltovic is a firm favourite at Nefyn United and so is Scottish centre back Matt Lawson at Cae Cob with Anglesey League side Bodorgan. You also have Northern Irish man Lee McNulty at Bangor 1876 and
So, you can safely say then that the following nations have been represented in the local leagues over the years (alongside Welsh and English players of course!):
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
I’m sure there are many more too but these are just the ones I know of. Know of any more? Leave a comment below!