CONCACAF Q&A: Andy Williams (Retired, Jamaica)
Andy Williams (yellow jersey) is shown competing for Jamaica against Guatemala in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)

As far as CONCACAF history goes, Andrew “Andy” Williams could be considered among the confederation’s unsung stars.  He enjoyed a long professional career, spending 13 years with numerous clubs in Major League Soccer (332 games/30 goals) and earning 97 caps for Jamaica.  For the Reggae Boyz, the now 39-year-old – who retired in 2011 -- appeared in one game at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, competed in four editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and captured two Caribbean Cup titles.  Williams took some time to speak to about his career and what he is doing today.

How old were you when you first started to play football?
I was either six- seven-years-old when I started playing football.  To be honest, my first sport was tennis because that was what my parents were playing at the time, almost playing every night.  But football was my love.

Which footballer did you look up to?
When I really started watching, it would probably be the entire Napoli team with Maradona, Careca and Carnevale, but Diego was the King.  Plus, he was short and stocky like me (laughs).

Between 1994 and 1997, you played college soccer in the USA with the University of Rhode Island. How key was it in your development as a player before turning professional?
To be honest, it did probably help my attacking abilities, allowing me to try more things in the attacking third of the field.  Also, scoring goals was a little easy, so I tried assisting a lot more while there.  It helped me develop creativity and gave me the freedom to try new things.

You made your debut for Jamaica in 1997, how did it feel to do so?
It was always a dream wanting to play in the National Stadium alongside Walter Boyd and Onandi Lowe and hearing the crowd go crazy.  Even though I played on all the youth teams growing up, the senior team was always my goal, so I was happy to achieve it.

You were born in Toronto, Canada.  Did it ever cross your mind about representing the land of your birth?
Yes, it did, until I was called into the Jamaica U16 national team and then it never popped into my head again.  Jamaica was my first choice to be honest, so I feel confident I made the right decision throughout my career.

What was the feeling like being part of Jamaica's 1998 World Cup squad at 20-years-old?
I really took it for granted thinking I’ll have at least two more World Cups to go to in my career.  Thinking back now, I wished I had cherished it a lot more.  But it was a wonderful moment that united Jamaica and it was a special team that worked hard.  To be the first English Speaking Caribbean nation was also a nice record to have.

You won the MLS Cup in 2009 with Real Salt Lake, overcoming the LA Galaxy on penalties in the final.  Would you say this was your proudest moment in club football?
It is definitely up there with going to France 98 for sure. Those were two of my proudest moments definitely.  Going to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011 was also special with Real Salt Lake.

What are your thoughts of Jamaica’s group for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer?  Can the Reggae Boyz replicate what they did in 2015?
They better get at least 2nd place finish, even though Curacao is up and coming in the CONCACAF region.  It is not going to be easy at all.  The Caribbean teams in CONCACAF are making massive strides, so Jamaica has to be pragmatic in their approach and finish their chances well in order to have a run like they did in 2015.  It is possible to repeat, but they need to score goals.

What advice do you have for youths who want to play football professionally?
Watch as much football as you can, no matter what league it is.  Educate yourself and learn from different players, not just your favourite player.  Soak in as much as possible.  If youths can follow these steps they will go places in life with football.

You are now with Real Salt Lake as their Head Scout.  Are you enjoying it?
As for being with Real Salt Lake, currently I am back to being the Head Scout, the same role I had when I retired.  The role I have now I enjoy it extremely, not as stressful as being a coach, but I still get to influence the team by bringing in quality players for the club.  I am grateful that the RSL Family gave me this opportunity after playing for them between 2005 and 2011.