Report by Bradley Rice.
Moors Academy’s Mikkel Hirst is only eighteen but he has already represented his country at a major international tournament.
Hirst was part of the St Kitts and Neves side who played in the CONCAF U20 Championships in Miami in November last year.
“On my mum’s side, my grandmother is from St Kitts and my grandad is from Neves, and obviously that leads back to me,” said Mikkel.
Although he qualified through his ancestral roots, initially he didn’t entertain the idea of playing for the dual island nation.
“Playing for St Kitts, I didn’t think there would be an opportunity until I was much older,” he said.
“I didn’t think at eighteen it was even possible to play for them. It wasn’t until I saw Romario, a former teammate, turn out for them, that I realised I could be doing the same.
“I remember watching him via stream and thinking I could do that in a few years’ time.
Inspired by Romario, Mikkel began setting the wheels in motion and it wasn’t long before he was flying out to meet the team.
“I got somebody to come and watch me, who Romario knew, and then they asked me to go and play for them.
“It all happened really quickly. The tournament kicked off a week after we arrived. We didn’t have much time to get to know the team or the staff.
Mikkel was joined on the plane by Romario Martin and Tyrese Shade (another Moors graduate), and it’s fair to say all three were surprised by the standard of football out there.
“When we got there, we were thinking what are the lads going to be like? How are they going to compare to the other teams?,” said Mikkel.
“Talking to the other lads, many came from village teams over in St Kitts. They played in the village where they grew up.
“But, considering they came from local teams, the standard was unbelievable.
“The two wingers we had, were really gifted technically, their first touch and ability to beat players was some of the best I have seen.”
In fact, Mikkel was impressed by the level of all the teams competing and the tournament provided a real stern test for him.
“To think there were countries, that I had never heard of before, I didn’t think they would be up to much but their levels really surprised me,” he said.
“I played left back for the five games and came up against some really good wingers, that had real quality. If they were to play here, they would definitely be at academy standard.”
St Kitts didn’t make it to the latter stages but their victory against Canada provided one of the shocks of the tournament.
“They were the group favourites and we beat them 2-1 so that was a great confidence boost for us.
“It was a brilliant result and gave us something memorable to take away with us.”
It was a moment that will stay with Mikkel throughout his career as will the experience as a whole.
“It was better than I could have imagined. I learnt so much because the players I was facing, were top level. It’s an experience I will never forget,” he said.
Bradley Rice can be found writing for his blog – Half-Time Oranges – where he provides original insights into the beautiful game from a number of different angles, all sharing the same trend of focusing on real stories from real people.
He can also be found providing live tweets and content for Solihull Moors Academy side @MoorsAcademy