Bill Moravek got hooked on soccer as a boy growing up on a small farm near Oatlands Plantation. But in the Loudoun County of the 1970s, there were few places were he could satisfy his passion for the game. Moravek adjusted, traveling east to Reston and Annandale to play club soccer or to Washington to watch games in the competitive Hispanic leagues.
"There was nothing out here then. It was pretty desolate as far as soccer programs were concerned," Moravek said. "We didn't have many things to do as kids. We rode horses and fished. But there was room to run, and we played soccer every day."
From those humble sporting roots, Moravek, 32, has become a historic figure in American soccer. His moderate success as a player--Moravek led Loudoun County High to regional finals his junior and senior years and was a reserve on Clemson's 1987 NCAA championship team--served as the springboard for a unique coaching career that may have the Leesburg resident manning the sideline at a future World Cup.
In April, Moravek was hired to coach Seba United, a Jamaican professional club team, and the national team of the British Virgin Islands. The British Virgin Islands is a Caribbean territory that nonetheless competes as an independent nation. According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, Moravek is the first American-born coach to lead a foreign national team.
The BVI players live in a country where cricket and basketball dominate the sports landscape, and they are not professionals. They work full-time jobs and play recreationally in the evenings.
Earlier this year, BVI was eliminated from the earliest stage of 2002 World Cup qualifying, losing two games to Bermuda by an aggregate score of 14-1. FIFA, soccer's governing body, ranks BVI 170th out of 202 national teams.
"Who would have figured, coming from Loudoun County High School and now doing this . . . but I realize what a tremendous opportunity this is, and I want to make the most of it," Moravek said. "If I can make a name for myself overseas, it's going to open all kinds of doors for me. I'm not nervous about any of it. I'm about presenting myself in a professional way and winning. That's it."
Moravek has worked hard over the past decade to make his way through the coaching world. He served as an assistant coach at Howard University from 1994 to 1997, where he grew accustomed to working with Caribbean players. In 1999, he was an assistant with the ill-fated Maryland Mania, a second-division minor league team, and he continues to run Moravek Soccer School, which has been training players and teams for three years. But his exposure to high-level Caribbean soccer happened "at warp speed," according to Moravek.
This past spring, a former Howard player with Jamaican connections contacted Seba United, which competes in the Jamaican Premier League, on Moravek's behalf. The club from Montego Bay was looking for a coach and, after reviewing Moravek's credentials, invited him for an interview.
"I went down there, and I was taken from the airport right to the stadium. I'd never even been there before, and all of a sudden we're at this stadium, and it was packed. There were like 20,000 people, barbed-wire fences, reggae music so loud it would crush your chest, police in riot gear . . . it was insane," Moravek said.
His interview turned out to be a halftime speech to Seba, which was trailing another Jamaican team, 1-0, after a lackluster first-half performance. Seba scored twice in the second half, tied the game, 2-2, and Moravek was hired.
"We noticed his professionalism. That is a key," said Seba United official Western King, who traveled with his players to Prince George's County, Md., where they currently are conducting their preseason training under Moravek.
"We kind of lacked in attitude and discipline, and with [Moravek's] professionalism and attitude toward the game, we struck up a relationship."
Moravek's first time out with the BVI national team was just as successful. In late April, after three weeks of preparation under Moravek, BVI won a four-nation tournament with victories over St. Maarten and Antigua. Antigua was the country that eliminated BVI-conquering Bermuda from World Cup qualifying.
BVI national team veteran Avondale Williams, who is training in Prince George's with Seba this month, was impressed.
"The way he conducted his training sessions was great. He worked on our fitness, our touches, our way of playing . . . training together and being more professional. He is more into the game, showing more interest in what he wants out of players. He's a very good coach," Williams said.
Moravek signed a three-year contract with Seba and will live in Montego Bay during the September-May season. He will travel to the British Virgin Islands when its national team is in action and will return to Leesburg to run his soccer camps each summer.
Although he has demonstrated a keen ability to network and compile impressive results wherever he coaches, Moravek insists that he will never forget where he came from. He is still interested in the Loudoun soccer scene, making time this past spring to watch several of the area's rapidly improving high school teams.
"Seba wanted me to come down during the summer, but I wanted to make sure I could come back and run my camps. If I can't coach travel teams, at least I can do that to have an impact locally," Moravek said. "There's definitely a lot more people playing out here, and they can only get better. . . .
"I'd love to come back here and coach at some point, but I'm young and I've got plenty of time. As long as I'm still progressing and I'm still enjoying it, that's all that matters."