‘Excited to share my experience’: Akeem Garcia taking a break from football to pursue coaching opportunity in Halifax

After four seasons with the Halifax Wanderers, Akeem Garcia wants to give back to the local soccer community.

Garcia is taking a break from professional soccer to pursue his coaching certifications and work for a local club based in HRM.

“This decision is very tough but something I put a lot of thought into,” Garcia said. “Words can’t explain how much I love soccer and how much soccer has done for me, but I’m not walking away from it, and I’ll still be in the game. I’m happy I can still be in soccer but play a different role.”

Garcia joined the Wanderers in January 2019 from Santa Rosa in Trinidad and Tobago. He scored the first goal in club history on May 4 of that year against Forge FC. With 21 goals in 77 matches across all competitions, Garcia departs the Wanderers as the all-time leading scorer in club history and is second all-time in appearances.

“Akeem’s place in the history of the Wanderers is forever secure, and I will never forget the joy he brought us all when he scored the first-ever goal at the Wanderers Grounds,” Wanderers Founder and President Derek Martin said. “I am so happy he has chosen to stay in Halifax and will continue to inspire the next generation.”

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m grateful for the Wanderers selecting me,” Garcia said. “Everything is amazing, the city and the atmosphere with the fans, I’ve been here four years now, so it’s my home away from home.”

Scoring that first goal in club history sticks out among Garica’s fondest memories in a Wanderers jersey, alongside winning the 2020 CPL Golden Boot Award. Garcia scored six goals in nine appearances during The Island Games as the Wanderers advanced to the league final.

“The first game in Halifax definitely went down as one of my greatest footballing moments – my main focus that day was just trying to win our first home game, so I’m pretty honoured, honestly, to have scored the first goal,” Garcia said.

“The way we came together in PEI and stuck together with nobody giving up and then getting to the finals. I was fortunate to get the Golden Boot, but it was about that team being a family.”

While Garcia is not closing the door on returning to professional football, he will take some time to continue his coaching education and begin a new role at a local soccer club in Nova Scotia. 

The Trinidad and Tobago international is hoping to be among many future Wanderers players that come from around the world, embrace the Halifax soccer community, and look to share their experience with the next generation of players.

“I’ve been given a couple of chances to run sessions and come in to work with the youth. I enjoyed it; to see them out there reminds me of when I was that age,” Garcia said. “Now, with everything in Canada, it’s possible for them to reach that goal (of professional football); I want to be able to help them reach that goal with the experience I have.”

And it’s an exciting opportunity for the soccer community in Halifax to have an international soccer player looking to stay in the city and inspire the next wave of players.

“As a club, we have consistently looked for ways to connect our players with the local community, including coaching roles at clubs in our area. We’re happy to see Akeem make this next step in his personal journey with football and the lessons each young player will learn under his guidance,” Wanderers sporting director Matt Fegan said.

“Akeem has written his name into the history of the Wanderers as not only one of our original squad members but with the important goals he scored in his four seasons with us.”

Garcia has already begun taking his coaching courses in Nova Scotia and intends to continue his footballing education alongside his new role in coaching.

“It’s incredible to have this new opportunity, I’m super fortunate, and the club is happy to have me on board. I’m really excited to start and share the experiences with the kids. It still surprises me how much the kids look up to us,” Garica said.

And as he gets set to start his new journey in Halifax, Garcia is grateful for how he found himself in Canada with a chance to be a part of the Wanderers and make Nova Scotia his new home.

“I’m super grateful for the club and just want to give a huge thanks to everyone at the Wanderers, the staff, the coaches and a special shoutout to Derek King,” Garcia said.

King, a well-respected coach in Trinidad and Tobago, was the Wanderers’ assistant coach in the 2019 season. King, Garcia and Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad were all part of a Santa Rosa side that won the 2018 T&T Super League championship.

“He stuck with me through injuries back in Trinidad and is one of the reasons I’m here, he brought me here, so I want to give a huge thanks to him for playing a big part in my career.”

While Garcia says a possible return to professional football may still happen down the road, for now, he is putting all of his focus into helping future players follow in his footsteps and maybe one day take the pitch at the Wanderers Grounds.

“I’m going to give it 100% as if I was playing,” Garcia said. “I get an awesome feeling helping the kids, and that’s something I want to continue. I want to share my experiences with them.”