By Ras Wadada
IN a country where very little is being provided for women’s football development and the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel seems dim, the second local-bred player has broken free from the shackles of the under-development of the sport, here, in Guyana.
The first female to do so is goalkeeper Natalie Nedd who is now in her junior year at Graceland University in Iowa.
In just under seven years of taking to the “Beautiful Game’ that 23-year-old Shamika Marcus, who hails from the village of Vergenoegen on the East Bank of Essequibo, continues to make positive progress on and off the football pitch. And after her first semester at the Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey she is focussed and determined to succeed.
“My first semester at College was tremendous, challenging and interesting. I have learnt a lot, not only academically, but a great lot about myself.
“There have been so many lessons about life in my first year at College, and I am truly appreciative of all the experiences and memories so far. At first it was a bit difficult to adapt to the new and different environment but thank God I did. College has definitely made me a stronger individual, willing to accept challenges.
“I must add that I am fortunate to be playing with a great and resilient group of young women with an exceptional coaching staff. We had a great season and ended 2nd runners-up in our Region of the NJCAA Division 1 in which I scored 2 goals and had 5 assists.
Personally, it has been a first year that can be described, so far, as challenging and fun. The level of play in America is vastly different from in Guyana since it requires a higher level of intensity and more technical awareness,” proclaimed the former Uitvlugt Secondary student who gained passes in 8 CXC subjects in 2014.
“My academics are priority for me and I honestly feel there is no other option where my education is concerned, so my focus is finishing my two years at Essex with a high GPA and going on to College for a four-year Bachelor’s degree programme. I believe there is life after football.
“It is not easy playing football and studying but the truth is there are so many positives, like it teaches you responsibility on how to manage yourself and time. It is a life skill that you can actually take throughout life and I am enjoying it since it is a learning process on how it can impact on my life in the future”, stated Marcus who attended Philadelphia Primary School at Vergenoegen.
The eldest offspring from the union of Keith and Deryl Marcus recalled that it was her Accounts teacher who got her involved in the sport, ”My initiation with the “Beautiful Game’ was in 2013 while attending Uitvlugt Secondary School. It was my teacher Ms Chevon Monchoir, a role model and confidant, whom I admired with much grace that introduced me, and although I was hesitant at first, due to my lack of knowledge, I decided to give it a try and indeed it was the best decision,” a thankful Marcus declared.
In an invited comment, teacher Chevon Monchoir professed, “Her attitude towards hard work and commitment to excel earned her accolades in her academics and football. I taught her Principles of Account in Grade 10 and overtime I noticed her athletic ability whenever she played cricket with the boys during recess, so I encouraged her to play football which she declined at first before she eventually committed herself to participate”.
“Over the years I have developed a passion for the game and it has become the driving force of my life. My focus on the sport has been persistent hard work and along the way I have experienced tremendous growth and success as well as support from fellow players, close friends and family,” cited the solidly built midfielder who considers herself a utility player.
Reflecting on her seven years with the sport, Marcus explained, “In my first year of the sport I was named captain of the school team and we brought 3rd in the West Demerara Football Association’s (WDFA) competition and my performances earned me a place on the WDFA’s female team.
The next year, 2014, we improved and won the WDFA Girls Championship. 2016 was a bit disappointing as I was offered a try out at Sporting CP Women’s team in Portugal, but the trip did not materialise. The offer nevertheless provided exposure for me as I was now being viewed as a player with talent and the following year I was called to the Guyana national team’s encampment held in Berbice.
That same year 2017, I successfully completed a CONCACAF ‘D’ License Coaching course. In 2018 I was again part of the local National team encampment in the city, this time, and also received my ‘D’ License Certificate”.
In 2019, through the instrumentality of former Guyana national footballer, Kevin Beaton, she attended a try-out and secured a 2-year Student Athletic Scholarship at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey.
“I started at Essex on September 4, 2019 in pursuit of an Associate degree in Business Management. In fact, I was also offered a scholarship at Bryan and Stratton College in Upstate NY, but chose Essex since it was more financially sound.”
According to Marcus, her first love, as regards sports, is certainly cricket and she still has a love for it, but admitted that, “I have no regrets that I stopped playing cricket and switched to football. At a very tender age, I can remember my dad, who was very strict and never wanted me going over to the neighbour’s house or outside to play with my friends on Sundays.
And so he would have me stay indoors to watch cricket and that’s how I fell in love with cricket. My family background is more associated with cricket as I have an uncle, Kevon Boodie who has a double-century playing Inter-county for Essequibo and my late grandfather also played cricket.”
Despite never making a Guyana National selection the former Lady Fox says she is thankful for the experiences gained from being encamped with national training squads. Marcus gained a 3.83 GPA in her first semester and is expecting a similar or better grade for the 2nd semester, which had to be done from home online and which results will be known shortly.
When questioned on the impact of the COVID-19 she replied, “This pandemic has taken a toll on my psyche and it has been extremely stressful having to deal with remote classes and being homesick. Anxiety has become a part of me since this lockdown but I constantly remind myself that there is a God and should not worry, but pray more and seek his presence.
“I have been channelling my energies in a spiritual way and trusting and believing that this will soon be over. During this time I am a bit worried about my family at home, but I have been taught the importance of prayers by my granny, Wilma Marcus.
“Whenever I start to feel homesick and think about my parents, I remind myself of the reason for being here and I just pray. However, my motivation is always what my parents have taught me because while growing up their emphasis has always been on education and I really want to make them proud. They are not that talkative but I know they are elated at the opportunity I have been given to be here.”
Chronicle Sport also caught up with her coach at Essex County College, Monique Douard who was loud in praise, “Shamika is a well-respected individual who takes her schoolwork seriously. She knows what she wants and why she is here. I wish I had many kids like her. She was part of the impact we had last season and towards the end of the season she made a big improvement on her game after adjusting to the fast-paced game here in the USA. I feel this coming season will be her defining season.”
Marcus’ parents, along with many others have been very supportive so far: “The GFF has definitely played a pivotal role with needed resources and also Claudia Simon, a Guyanese living in the USA, Forrester Lumber Yard, team mates, family members and friends too numerous to mention. It has been a collective effort that I am really thankful for.”