He rattles off places, dates, and statistics like it was yesterday and not 10 years ago. His passion for the game is only overshadowed by his enthusiasm. Known simply as ‘number 10’, Melvin Monrose is not your average football player, or soccer depending on which side of the equator one calls home. The 24- year-old from Canaries, St. Lucia has been a fan of the game almost from birth.
“Some of my earliest memories are of my grandfather, aunt and mother taking me to matches in the community,” he said. He explained that football was a way to get residents to bond.
“It was the one place where everybody had the same status,” he said. “No rich or poor, everyone was a family for 90 minutes”
His father, and those before him, grew up playing competitive football. So he fell in love with it early. Most afternoons were spent playing with classmates, instead of going home after school. He wore out several pairs of shoes per school year.
Monrose finally started playing competitively at age 10. His first position was that of goalkeeper. It was not his forte, but love of the game was paramount. Their first inter-school competition ended in a heartbreaking loss, which still haunts Monrose to this day.
“You train so hard to reach the championship game. To go from having one hand on the trophy to losing it all in a few minutes is a tough pill to swallow,” he said.
He didn’t suffer many more athletic defeats. Upon entering secondary school, he tried out for the team but was not confident of being picked. Luckily his coach had vision and positioned him as an attacking midfield due to his uncanny ability see the whole field during play, his dribbling skills, and smart ball distribution.
He would only score two goals during his school career but his assists were abundant. This led to him being named to both the junior and senior squads.
He played most effectively as a member of his community football team, Canaries United.
Monrose played forward and turned out to be a prolific scorer. In the 15 and under National Tournament, he scored a blistering 30 goals in 15 games.
He followed that up by scoring 23 goals in 18 games in a subsequent tournament. The accolades poured in: Junior “Footballer” of the Year, National Player of the Year, and Most Disciplined.
During his downtime from that squad, he played for Sandals Roadblock, where he was a top scorer in the senior tournament and led them to three straight titles. He was only 16.
Needing a challenge, he joined SYO, a mediocre Soufriere squad, which also happened to be a bitter rival to his home squad. It was an homage to his father, who was born in the little town, but who had pledged his unwavering support to his son despite his choice to play for an opposing team.
“Many times I played against my father’s community where he was well known for his talents but he still pledged his full support to me and my team.”
During the years, Monrose gained a legion of fans, especially young boys who tried to imitate his moves. To give back to the communities who had given him so much, he often held coaching clinics to help young athletes develop their own skills.
Over the summer, he met a young man named Rasheed, who was so enamored with his style of play that he wears one of Monrose’s actual playing jerseys for inspiration.
Monrose was so touched by this gesture, that he invited him on several outings in addition to giving him boots, socks, and a coveted Ronaldinho jersey, a favorite of both young men.
Today, Monrose is a senior student at Grambling State University, majoring in accounting and economics. He said that football taught him to analyze his mistakes and look forward to the future.
“You learn to critique yourself in order to become a better individual. Dealing with all these different attitudes prepares you to deal with the world.”
He recently played a pivotal role in starting the GSU Men’s Soccer Club, and plays semi professionally during summer breaks.
While he has given up his dream of playing professionally, he hopes to one day have an academy, where he can train future stars. That may turn out to be his greatest assist of all.