BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, February 15, 2011
As the top league in the Czech Republic prepares to start the second half of their season, American forward Stefane Jerome says he is ready to get things started at Sigma Olomouc.
Jerome has joined the team for the rest of the season on loan after previously playing with Miami FC.
The 18 year old, whose rights are owned by Traffic Sports, went on a brief tryout in November but he was unable to play in any games due to the winter break.
Still the club liked his talent and wanted to bring him back for an extended tryout in January where he could play in games with the first team.
"Going over there on a trial was a great opportunity for me," Jerome told YA. "Sigma is a great club in Europe and I've always wanted to play over there since I was younger. When I first got there, my first few days were a little bit rusty and I was getting used to the style of play. Everybody is good with their technique. It's a professional environment and I have to get used to that."
During the trial, Jerome played in two friendly games. In the first game, Jerome was battling rust in addition to the new and unfamiliar high-level professional environment. In the second game , however, things changed and he put on an impressive performance.
"On the third day we had our first game," Jerome recalled. "I was getting used to the style and speed of play. I am learning when to play one-touch and when to play two-touch. It was very physical and it's a physical league. I did okay in that game. A few days later we had another game and that's where I thought I played very well. I had a goal and an assist. Everyone who was playing around me helped me a lot."
It was after that game that head coach Zdenek Psotka pulled Jerome aside and told him that the club was going to begin negotiations for a loan until the end of the season. Jerome was excited to have finally found a place to begin his professional career in Europe.
"After that game, the coach had a meeting and told me that they wanted to keep me on the loan," Jerome described. "My reaction was in shock and that they wanted me and that I made it in Europe. I quickly told my family and friends and they were all excited.
"It is just a great opportunity," he added. "I think it's a great environment for me to develop in. I love the city and my teammates are all really nice. They have helped me adapt both on and off the field."
For Jerome, the last time people had seen him play was in 2009 at the U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. Jerome is confident that he has developed a lot since then and he will continue to improve now that he is playing against professionals.
"I do a lot of things differently now," Jerome said of his improvements since 2009. "My speed of play is way faster now because defenders are on you quicker. I don't hold the ball as long. Over there it's one and two-touch, and that's the system that the coach at Sigma likes. I now need to know what I am going to do with the ball before I get it. The whole speed of game issues are what I am doing better than when I was with the U-17s."
Jerome is currently back home in Florida where he grew up but he will return to the city of Olomouc in the eastern part of the Czech Republic this week to resume training with Sigma.
At Sigma, Jerome is eligible for the club's U-18 team, the reserve team, and the senior team. He is aware the he will likely have to start on the reserve team since he is young and new to the team. He does have a goal of climbing the ladder quickly.
"I see myself as a reserve team player at first that will try to make myself into a first team player," Jerome pointed out. "It's tough because every player is good. But I love competition. You have to win your spot on the team. I haven't been on the team long so I see myself starting on the reserve team but I'll be trying to move up to the senior team."
Jerome admits that it is a priority for him to play well so that he can continue to play with Sigma after this season. As part of the loan agreement, Sigma holds an option to buy Jerome's contract from Traffic if they are impressed and want to keep him. Jerome wants to stay because he feels that Sigma is the best place for him to develop into the player he wants to be.
"Sigma has a very good youth system and I think they have the best developmental system in the Czech Republic. Sigma is a great club for me to get to where I want to be as a player. Having them buy my contract is a top goal for me."
Jerome is also happy with his decision to sign with Traffic Sports who currently own his rights as a player. While the Brazilian-based management group has come under some criticism, Jerome is happy with where it has got him.
"Traffic has done a very good job with me and placing me here," Jerome insisted. "They were working very hard at getting my tryouts and finally they got a good opportunity here in the Czech Republic. I am happy where I am. It's been good for me."
Jerome's move to Europe has also given rise to the possibility that he could reemerge internationally with the US. He played with the US U-17 national team in the World Cup in 2009 and began playing with the U-20 national team in 2009 and early 2010.
Jerome's last appearance for the US was in January 2010 with the U-20s for the Copa Chivas tournament. Jerome hopes to get back into US U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen's plans but for now his priority is simply to keep improving at Sigma.
"It's always on my mind to try to get back onto the U-20 national team," Jerome concluded. "But I just want to work on my goals here at Sigma right now. Maybe Thomas [Rongen] will see something in me that can help out the team. I am always there to help. I would love to get called up again and I love playing for my country. But the first thing I need to do is try my best and play well at Sigma."
Sigma Olomouc will return to league action on February 27th when they travel to take on last place Usti nad Labem.