Michael Seaton: "Amazing to be a part of all of this"
MILAN – As you watch him on the field, heading and volleying the ball, dazzling with the odd bit of skill and flashing a contagious smile – despite the driving rain that almost flooded Inter's Academy training ground – you get the distinct impression this is a kid who's headed for the top. After a thoroughly deserved hot shower, Michael Seaton sits down at a desk in the heart of the Centro Sportivo Giacinto Facchetti and flicks through an issue of Time. He stops and stares for a good minute or two at a page showing three photos: Neymar, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Snapped out of his trance, he looks up and says, "Sorry, was lost in my thoughts for a minute there..." "Thinking what?" "What it must be like to be the best player on the planet."
Seaton is a D.C. United youngster currently training with Inter's Primavera team during the MLS off-season. But his story starts even further away than Washington.
He explains: "I was born in Jamaica in a place called Spanish Town. I'm very big on family because we grew up not wealthy so you have to be with your family to enjoy the day. My mom's dream was always for me to play abroad and that's what she did: she got me on a plane from Jamaica to America. I owe her a lot. I started out in the game thanks to her."
What's Spanish Town like?
"It's a small island, basically for tourists. For the people who are born there, you have to really work hard to survive. Life's not easy but if you like football you can enjoy the day playing with your friends on the streets and in pick-up games."
But if you want to become a pro, you need to move abroad, right? What's the level of football like in the Jamaican national team?
"Yes. We're in a rebuilding stage, just like D.C. United. They've brought in youth ahead of the next World Cup. They've called me in, we have Deshorn Brown of Colorado Rapids, who almost won rookie of the year, and a couple of other guys who just got drafted in the MLS. So they're getting youth together and the prospects are good."
What about Italy? What's your first impression been like?
"This is my first time in Italy and I love it! I've brought my camera with me to take a lot of photos. But I was really looking forward to training here. The guys playing here are a few years older than me but they look at me as if I'm a grown-up, I guess because of my build. Technical-wise they're amazing! I've seen some talented kids in America but these guys are really trained very well. The club makes sure everyone knows what to do and what not to do."
What differences are there in the training methods used here compared to the States?
"I don't think there's a huge difference. Perhaps America is more about the physical side – working out on the weights, your legs. Here there's more technical focus and that's why I want to train here so much because I need that technical work."
How was today's training session?
"I was ready to train, like every day. But one thing that amazed me was the warm-up: I'm not used to doing that sort of stuff. It's very different and I feel like it really helps you, especially when you wake up sore."
How often do you train in Washington?
"It's like here, generally Monday to Friday and if we have a game on Sunday we train on Saturday as well."
D.C. United sent you on loan to the Richmond Kickers. What sort of experience was that?
"It was good. I needed experience in games because I was 16 when I scored my first goal for Richmond, so that was amazing. When I first started training with DC, they would put me on my face every time I touched the ball: they would knock me down. Over the years I've been getting stronger and now I'm the one coming out of tackles still standing. So Richmond was a great experience. I scored five goals in ten games. The guys there kept giving me advice. We won our conference too."
Then there was your debut with D.C.
"My first game was a friendly and I had an assist off my first touch. Then my first competitive game was against Toronto. I played 90 minutes, which I didn't expect, but I was ready for it. I remember I didn't shoot the whole match but I didn't lose the ball and I passed it a lot – I was playing more as a midfielder that day."
Were you emotional?
"I did get butterflies that time, yeah... [smiling]"
You also made your debut with the national team at just 17.
"Yes, it was against Trinidad and Tobago. I went in with the mentality of fighting for my country. I went in as a sub and loads of people said to me afterwards that I changed the game. It was a great experience, especially for my grandma, my mom and the rest of the family. They made the two-hour drive across from Kingston. There were a lot of people but I heard them screaming my name when I stepped on the field. And I started the next game, so I know I did something right."
Did you know about Inter before you came here?
"Honestly I started following Inter when Ibrahimovic played here. I'm a center forward so Zlatan is someone I try to emulate. I remember the three league titles he won with Inter. And I know about the rivalry between Inter and AC Milan. Palacio scored that amazing back-heeled goal!"
You could be considered the first step of this partnership between Inter and D.C. United. How do you feel about that?
"I feel honored that I'm the first person. Especially me being the youngest on the team and they've sent me over to Inter to train. I think there'll be more to come after me, and hopefully I'll be involved again too. I would love to be a part of that. My family's happy, I'm happy, everyone's happy."
You were at San Siro for Inter v Chievo. What was that like?
"The stadium from the outside is amazing, especially at night. I've never seen a stadium that big! And the fans are really in it. I've seen fans that can give up on the team dramatically when things aren't going so well but the Inter fans aren't doing that: they're behind the team 100%."
Which player impressed you most?
"I asked one of the fans next to me, 'Who's the No.10?' And he turned round and said 'What?! You don't know his name?' So I said I'm from America and he told me, 'It's Kovacic, 19 years old.' I thought, 'He's only two years older than me, that could almost be me on the pitch!' But really, he's amazing: his technique, the way he maneuvers his body to defend the ball... I think, give him two to three more years and he'll be able to play anywhere he wants to."
What about Palacio?
"He's amazing too. I follow him all the time, and of course he plays for Argentina. Even when he has an off-day, he still does his best to help the team and doesn't give up. Then you have the General in midfield..."
"Cambiasso – he's the General! He's a really smart player and he's not showing any signs of getting old. He knows what to do with the ball and what not to do. He just keeps it simple and does what comes to him naturally."
How would you say your career's gone so far?
"I think it's gone great. Some 17-year-olds in MLS don't even see the pitch, they don't even make the A team. I signed my first professional contract with DC when I was 16, I made the A team, then worked my way up to start a game, and then play a second. The entire year has been very busy, I didn't take a break at all. I've been traveling, training, even when I can't train with DC I train on my own. Last night I went out for a run after training!"
Which position do you prefer to play?
"I think I'm a typical number nine, but coming here I've realized that I love dropping off, playing one-twos and setting up the other guys. So I'd like to be able to play in the role you Italians call nine and a half."
Can you name any other promising teammates of yours back Stateside? Maybe they could come here and train like you...
"Sure. There's Collin Martin, a 19-year-old midfielder, and then Bill Hamid, goalkeeper for the US. He's brilliant. Personally, I would love to come back and train here again, but I think there's another person who would enjoy it even more than me."
"My mom, of course!"
This article was translated from it's original format on Inter.it