THE Philippines could be the next stop for any gifted, young footballers signing for Sydenhams Wessex League outfit Blackfield & Langley this summer.
In a move never before seen in local non-league, the Watersiders are looking to unearth players with the potential to secure lucrative professional contracts on the other side of the world.
Already two former Blackfield first-teamers – Mark and Matthew Hartmann – are earning the equivalent of several thousand pounds per month playing in the south-east Asian island republic.
Now their father, Andrew, who has a residential football academy located there, is looking to add to the growing army of British players currently plying their trade in the United Football League.
“Professional football is developing rapidly in the Philippines with a significant number of young British players making an impact on the league,” said a B&L statement.
Hartmann has established his own professional team which is on track to join the Philippines League in January next year.
Now, having involved himself in the development of 2012/13 Sydenhams Premier champions Blackfield & Langley, he is looking to identify players, aged 17 to 24, who could potentially secure professional contracts.
“Andrew, along with experienced first-team manager John Robson, is looking to attract players to Blackfield & Langley with a view to assessing their capability to ‘move’ to the Philippines and establish a professional career,” the statement continued.
“If their development is as expected then some of these players could move to clubs in the Philippines and the opportunity of a professional contract awaits.
“Andrew’s vision is to ‘employ’ a number of talented young players full-time at Blackfield & Langley from August 2014 onwards. They would play, when selected, for Blackfield in the Wessex League, FA Cup and Vase.”
Hartmann believes that many young players have “dropped out”
of football having become disillusioned with the professional system in the UK and wants to offer them a second chance.
Blackfield will look to develop links with both Hartmann’s own club and with professional clubs in the Philippines in general.
Back in 2009/10 Southamptonborn English-Filipino brothers Mark and Matthew Hartmann featured for Blackfield in the Sydenhams League.
By the end of that season they had both secured contracts in the Philippines having returned to the western Pacific to help dad, Andrew, with the development of his academy.
Younger brother Mark, 22, had youth stints with Portsmouth and Swindon Town and is now top scorer for Global FC, the Philippines’ leading professional club.
Matthew, 24, spent his formative years with Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest and the leftback/ left midfielder currently plays for Meralco Sparks, who are second to Global in the top tier.
Any bright, young sparks interested in joining Blackfield can attend pre-season training at Gang Warily on Tuesday, June 24 (7pm).