Meet Will Packwood: One Midfielder’s Journey from Boston to Birmingham to Bradenton to Nigeria
Imagine having just turned 15 years old, packing up everything you own and moving across the ocean, away from your parents and friends and beginning a career in a different country...
Oct. 28, 2009
Imagine having just turned 15 years old, packing up everything you own and moving across the ocean, away from your parents and friends and beginning a career in a different country. That’s exactly the path that American midfielder Will Packwood has taken to first get to England and Birmingham City FC, and then to the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
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Taking a journey mirroring that of young European starlets more than a U.S. youth national team player, Packwood joined the U.S. U-17 MNT late in the two-year cycle, and quickly worked out a way to get himself to Bradenton in time to train with the team and earn a place on the final 21-player World Cup roster.
Packwood attended the U-14 National Development Program and the U-15 Boys’ National Team while playing for FC Greater Boston. A standout youth career in the Boston area led to a trip to Birmingham, England, and a six-week trial with Premier League side Birmingham City FC.
The 6-foot-2-inch midfielder impressed enough people in England to get an invitation to their youth academy, where he would train in the morning and attend boarding school.
Born to an American mother and an English father, Packwood was excited for the chance to live on his own in Birmingham and to be in a place where his parents could come often.
His parents visit once every couple of months, and Will goes home at least twice a year – for Christmas and his birthday in May. Just 16 years old, and one of only four players on the U.S. team born in 1993, Packwood has already appeared for the Birmingham’s Reserve team.
“For me, the transition was actually fine,” said the American midfielder. “It was a boarding school so it was pretty easy to make friends with the people I live with there. And I see my parents once every six weeks or so anyway, so it’s not much time between visits.”
Though Packwood has been on the radar of youth national teams for years and attended a training camp in Bradenton as recently as the spring, his final push to be part of Wilmer Cabrera’s team came during the team’s last foreign training camp before Nigeria.
In Cobham, England, on the grounds of Chelsea FC, Packwood proved he was worthy of a possible place on the final roster.
“I was with the team for a couple of days right before the qualifying tournament in April,” said Packwood. “I wasn’t selected, so I went back to England and kept training. I had another chance during the team’s camp in England and I was able to just drive down there and train with them for about 10 days.”
Just two days later, Packwood packed his bags and was jumping on a plane bound for Bradenton, where he would make a final push to be part of the 21-man team.
“Birmingham was happy for me actually. It’s good for them to have a player in the World Cup,” the midfielder added. “It’s positive for them and it’s a great experience for me so, they were very supportive. They were all for it.”
As far as fitting in with his U.S. teammates, who have been living and training together for the better part of two years, the laid-back midfielder says the other players have made the leap easy.
“We’re all playing the same sport, so joining in wasn’t too difficult,” he said. “I’ve been in Florida for about three weeks now, so in that amount of time I’ve really felt like part of the team, it’s been good.”
After spending about three weeks training with the squad at the IMG Academies, Packwood re-packed everything he brought to Florida and carried it with him to Nigeria. He will go straight back to England at the conclusion of the tournament. He has temporarily lost what he calls “a bit of an English accent” that he picked up in Birmingham, but says he will likely get it back quickly upon his return to school.
In the mean time, he hopes to do his talking on the field, as the American side will continue its campaign at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday afternoon against Malawi in Kano, Nigeria.