Willie Clemons has signed his first professional contract with Swedish side Bodens.
Clemons, the BAA and Bermuda midfielder, penned a two-year deal for the club, who play in the fourth tier of the Swedish game.
For Clemons, it was the realisation of his childhood ambition to play professionally.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to become a professional and for the last month and a half I have been actively pursuing it all across Europe,” Clemons told The Royal Gazette.
“I’ve always wanted to do this but never had as good an opportunity as I did this year, so I knew when I got it I had to take full advantage of it.
“Fortunately, I got in contact with the right people at the right time who were able to help me out.”
The 23-year-old has made an immediate impact at his new club, helping them win a preseason tournament in which he was named the most valuable player last weekend.
“Willie is a very exciting and entertaining player that we think will bring a lot to our team,” Christian Samuelsson, the Boden sports director, said.
“He works very hard for the team and is a player who has that little extra and can make it unexpected.
“It feels like he can become a new favourite of our audience; he has very many good qualities.”
Clemons is enjoying his new surroundings and has been made to feel welcome by his team-mates.
“I like the team and I’m very happy where I am at,” he said. “It’s a very good vibe out here.”
Clemons left Bermuda in January to participate in the Professional Soccer Consulting Baltic Showcase Tour in Latvia and Estonia in the hope of landing a professional deal.
“I did a showcase tour with PSC in Latvia for two weeks and played against different opposition from different levels from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania,” he said.
“Following that tour I had a couple different clubs that showed an interest, so we made the decision to go to Estonia for trial for a week.”
Clemons, a former Southampton Rangers player, was initially offered a deal to play for Estonian top-flight outfit Viljandi Tulevik but turned them down.
“Things went well there [in Estonia] but when we came to contract talks we couldn’t come to an agreement, so I got on a plane to Sweden the next day and I’ve been here ever since,” Clemons said.
“[The pro deal] hasn’t quite hit me yet but I’m pretty happy,” Clemons said. “It feels good to get results from the hard work that I have put in and it’s just the beginning as I have more hard work to do.
“The first two weeks in Latvia really helped me get my game up to speed as far as coming from Bermuda. I hadn’t played much before coming because I had a [hamstring] injury. But those two weeks helped me get up to speed with the European game.
“The speed of the game is definitely faster than Bermuda and the players a lot more technical. But it’s not something that I’m not used to, playing at high level, because I’ve played with the national team.
“Half the battle coming from Bermuda was bridging the gap in intensity and technical ability and it just took me a couple of games to get acclimated.”
Kenny Thompson, Clemons’s former coach at First Division leaders BAA, offered his well wishes on social media.
“Congratulations Willie Clemons on signing with Swedish club Bodens BK FF,” he tweeted.
“The journey is the most amazing part. With each destination there starts another amazing journey. New beginning, work harder than before.”