St. Ann’s Rangers Under-17 midfield prodigy Che Benny and Antigua and Barbuda’s Ronaldo Flowers will both jet off on Thursday, with their destination Manchester United in England, after winning the Flow Ultimate Football Experience 2017 challenge final at President’s Ground in St. Ann’s, Trinidad two weekends ago.
Benny, 16, and 13-year-old Flowers, fondly referred to as ‘little Ronaldo (Brazil)’, stood out amongst a group of 30 finalists from across the Caribbean who were put to the test by Manchester United academy coaches Mike Neary and William Miller.
Benny, who scored an instinctive half-line goal during the first of two scrimmages during the Flow Ultimate Football Experience final, said it’s a dream come true to visit his favourite club, Manchester United, and meet his favourite player, Spain’s Juan Mata, as well other stars such as France international Paul Pogba and Spain international Ander Herrera.
“It was at the start of the second half and I (quickly) spotted to goalkeeper off his line,” said the Belmont-born Trinidad and Tobago Under-17 footballer as he recalled the moment. “After I scored Mike (Neary) came and congratulated me, and he gave me a wink. I knew from then I had made it, although it didn’t stop me from working.”
Benny also said that Dwight Yorke, the Tobago-born Manchester United legend and ambassador who he had bet before for shooting tips during a training session with the T&T U17s, had reminded him on the day that he was representing Trinidad and Tobago in the Flow Ultimate Football Experience challenge.
Benny who dribbled his way to the top prize said he has also been weaving through all the attention over the past two weeks which included on-camera interviews.
Flowers, who, like Benny, wants to become a professional footballer, said, “The [Ultimate Football Experience] challenge was very difficult because there were other talented players but I played hard.”
“This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and definitely the ‘ultimate football experience’ that these two young footballers have been given through Flow’s partnership with Manchester United,” said Wendy McDonald, Flow’s senior director of communications for the Caribbean, in a news release by the company. “We will continue to follow their journey to Manchester United and we hope this will encourage even more aspiring footballers from the Caribbean to be ready for opportunities like this.”
St. Ann's Rangers U-17 coach Everette “Rocket” Williams, who will accompany Benny and his uncle Kevin Villafana, said the visit will include touring the famous Manchester United museum, witnessing a training session under the Red Devils’ first team boss José Mourinho and witness the club’s final English Premier League clash of the season against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Benny and his coach are both hoping he also gets a chance showcase his talent against Manchester United academy players, and experience a glimpse at life at one of the world’s most-recognised and symbolic athletic centres, the state-of-the-art Aon Training Complex.
“Football is everything to Benny and he has always been committed to the game,” said Williams. “It’s a great joy for him. But it’s also a great joy for me because his effort has also fulfilled one of my biggest dreams, which is to meet one of the top coaches of the world, José Mourinho.
“We never doubted Benny would top the [Flow Ultimate Football Experience challenge]. Every game in the (Flow) Youth Pro League Benny stands out as the man-of-the-match. He is a naturally gifted player and all we had to do was polish him Rangers. He is also a very humble youngster that makes everyone around him happy – an excellent role model for other young players.”
Benny, who joined Rangers seven years ago from Trendsetter Hawks, a former club of his coach Williams, also represents St. Anthony’s College.
Last February, in a 3-3 draw between Rangers and Club Sando, he became the first 16-year-old in the history of the Pro League to score a top-flight double.