ATLANTIS are not the most glamorous of teams to play for, but Helsinki football has been a revelation for their Antiguan striker since he signed for the Ykkönen side. Having played part time in his homeland, making ends meet by working as a journalist, the opportunity to play professionally arrived late for Skepple.
The German president of Bonner SC has previously tried to bring Caribbean footballers to Europe, his most notable attempt being the 1999 signing of the entire Cuban national team. That led to the German FA introducing restrictions on the number of foreigners playing for German amateur clubs, which in turn meant that Skepple could not play for Bonn as their quota of foreigners was full.
Happily for Atlantis, as the international striker is now free to play for them with Viol sponsoring his wages. We caught up with Skepple on his arrival for a second season of Finnish football.
So how did your move to Finland come about?
I’d been playing for Bullets, my amateur team in Antigua. Before that I’d actually had a whole year out of the game because I broke my arm. Then after I’d played a few games for Bullets I was called back into the national team and played in the World Cup qualifiers. My manager Hans Viol first saw me play when he was travelling with the Cuban national team at this time. I played two World Cup qualifiers against them for Antigua and Barbuda, and he decided he wanted to bring me to Europe.
I scored in the first leg, although we lost 4-3, and after the second leg in Cuba he approached me about coming to play in Europe. He’s very nice guy, a man of his word. He’s very busy with his business, but he’s a very good person and he brought me here.
How did you find Finland when you first arrived?
I liked it, because it’s not too fast, you know? In the area I was living, Espoo, it’s cool and you have time to relax and move at your own pace. I found it very interesting, because back home nobody exercises. Over here, even the oldest person who can’t work exercises! That was kind of funny for me. It was fun, and I’m back again so it must be that I like the place.
Which would you say is the number one sport in Antigua? Cricket has historically been popular, hasn’t it?
Maybe it was, but not any more! We have a lot more people playing football than cricket, maybe a few playing basketball as well but football is the main sport in Antigua.
You’re one of the first Antiguans to play abroad (apart from those brought up outside the country, like Mikele Leigertwood and Justin Cochrane), are there other young talents on the islands?
I think me coming to the other side of the world will open doors for some others too. There is a lot of natural talent on the islands, but it hasn’t been exploited. I mean this is a place where you can get players of a similar quality to the African countries, so we’re just waiting for someone with the wisdom to come and exploit the talent properly.
What are your goals for this season?
To try and score as many goals as I can, and to enjoy the experience. If I was going to be here for the whole season, I’d say 20 goals, or whatever, but I will go on trial in Sweden when the transfer window opens, so I just have to enjoy myself and improve.