English soccer player strives for greatness in America

Moving to a new country can be a daunting task. For 23-year-old Ashley Watson, the opportunity to come to the United States to get a master’s degree and play soccer was one that he said he said he wanted to embrace.

“I like it in San Francisco, and I was ready for a change,” Watson said.

Ashley Watson (11) a Park Royal, London native, plays attacking mid-field for the SF State men’s soccer team. He juggles to warm up before practice Friday Sept. 11, 2015 at Cox Stadium at SF State.  (Emma Chiang / Xpress)

Ashley Watson (11) a Park Royal, London native, plays attacking mid-field for the SF State men’s soccer team. He juggles to warm up before practice Friday Sept. 11, 2015 at Cox Stadium at SF State. (Emma Chiang / Xpress)

Watson, a Park Royal, London native, plays attacking mid-field for the SF State men’s soccer team and is on a full scholarship. He said he is adjusting to his new life in America day by day, as he bonds with his teammates and embraces the opportunity given to him through his previous years of coaching experience.

Watson started coaching two years ago through the U.K. International Soccer program, which allowed him to come to the United States and coach children under 18 years old. While coaching, Watson was scouted by current Gators assistant coach Mike Sharabi. Sharabi said he saw Watson practicing, and the rest was history.

“I saw (Watson) training and saw he was a skilled player,” Sharabi said. “I saw that he was athletic and could cut well, and that he had a great left foot.”

Sharabi said he talked to Watson after the assistant coach saw him practice, and the two discussed Watson’s desire to continue his education and get a master’s degree.

It wasn’t until this past year that Sharabi contacted Watson to come play for the Gators, and Watson said he happily accepted.“I wanted a new experience,” Watson said. “I didn’t want to live at home my whole life.”

Before coming to study at SF State, Watson earned his bachelor’s degree at University of East London. He was offered a scholarship into the master’s program at University of East London, but he said he decided to choose SF State instead.

Watson is eligible to play soccer for two years at SF State and plans to earn a master’s in kinesiology. He said he isn’t sure about his plans after college, but is happy with the master’s program he chose.

“Kinesiology seemed practical,” Watson said. “I wanted to do something where I am active, not something where I have to sit around all day.”

Co-captain and midfielder Emmanuel Serrano said Watson’s activity on the field is easy to see. Serrano said the team enjoys Watson’s different style of play, which incorporates elements of speed and physicality.

“They play a bit differently in England than we do here,” Serranno said. “It’s cool seeing how Ashley plays. He’s really smooth and smart on the ball.”

Watson currently resides in Daly City, where he rooms with fellow players Daniel Herrera and Ilja Golubevs.

“It’s fun living with those guys,” Watson said. “We all have the same expectations coming into the year to be successful, which is nice.”

Ashley Watson (11) a Park Royal, London native, plays attacking mid-field for the SF State men’s soccer team. He juggles to warm up before practice Friday Sept. 11, 2015 at Cox Stadium at SF State.  (Emma Chiang / Xpress)

Ashley Watson (11) a Park Royal, London native, plays attacking mid-field for the SF State men’s soccer team. He juggles to warm up before practice Friday Sept. 11, 2015 at Cox Stadium at SF State. (Emma Chiang / Xpress)

Watson said his transition to American life is going well. As much as he enjoys San Francisco, he said he still misses some aspects of home.

“I still try to do a lot of things here that I did at home,” Watson said. “I still eat the same things and try to keep the same daily routines.”

Watson said he is getting along great with his teammates, and head coach Matt Barnes said he agrees.

“We’re excited to have a grad student from London on our team,” Barnes said. “He is a quality player and nice guy. His teammates respect how he plays. The guys can see that he is a good player.”

Watson said he is looking forward to adapting to the American collegiate style of soccer, which has unlimited substitutions and no stoppage time. He said that he wants to keep improving as a player and continue to adjust to living in America.

“Coming halfway across the world and immediately playing soccer is a bit challenging.” Watson said. “But overall it’s been great. I love San Francisco. It’s a nice place, full of nice scenery and nice people.”

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