by Nadia Laws
looks back at his past sporting IDOLS and MENTORS
Growing up, Nahki Wells could think of nothing he wanted more than to be a professional footballer. He’d see international stars like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo hitting their stride on the field and dreamed of one day playing against them. His real impetus came, however, from seeing local giants – Shaun Goater, David Bascome and Kyle Lightbourne – make a name for themselves beyond Bermuda, proving that anything is possible with hard work, determination and a healthy dose of talent.
“Shaun Goater was someone I really looked up to as a kid,” Wells said. “He was the one I saw break into the elite level of football. We all wanted to be him. I remember watching him play with Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier League and even go on to score in those games, which solidified him as a legend. Growing up, that was every footballers’ dream to witness someone you could relate to, that was one of your people, doing it.” He admits it gave him “real hope” that he could also accomplish incredible things in professional sport. “From Shaun’s example, I saw that it really is possible if you believe in yourself and do everything in your power to get there.”
These days the shoe is on the other foot for the 29-year-old Bermudian. As a forward for Queens Park Rangers, on loan from Premier League club Burnley, Wells is humbled by the hundreds of local young people who look up to him for motivation. “It’s a great feeling knowing that you’ve inspired someone else,” he said. “However, it also comes with a weight of responsibility. You always feel like you need to be as professional as possible, to lead by example and put Bermuda on the map.”
That’s why I want
my career to be
about something bigger
than just myself
Wells tries to enjoy each moment he gets on the field, especially considering his professional career can’t – and won’t – last forever.
“That’s why I want my career to be about something bigger than just myself,” he said. “I have big plans to start my own foundation in the future to provide opportunities for young people interested in following a similar path.” In the meantime, when he’s on Island, he makes a point to speak to children at schools and sporting clubs, painting a realistic picture of what it takes to turn a love for football into a professional career.
“It’s not an easy road,” he said. “It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and guidance to follow this path. My parents [Michael Wells and Elizabeth Simmons] had to believe in my talents, be relentless about my ability and make contacts with the right people to get my foot in the door at a young age.” Though he started playing football at age five, Wells admits his “head wasn’t in the game” until reaching age 15. “It’s important to understand as a young Bermudian aspiring to be a professional footballer the amount of research and support required from my dad and other knowledgeable football influencers [like coaches Kenny Thompson and Scott Morton] who had the vision for my career path,” he said. “They understood what the right opportunities were and kept me on track. At such a young age, you can’t be expected to understand it all, that’s why the support from the community and my role models was vital.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 edition of RG Magazine.