UEL duo shooting for the top
PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 June 2013
Students target senior international honours
It has been a successful year for Craig Martin-Heskey and Kiernan Hughes-Mason, two University of East London students who have Antigua & Barbuda blood running through their veins.
Craig, a cousin of former England international Emile Heskey, won a Service to Sport award at UEL’s glittering prize-giving at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium last month, and was also chairman of the football squad which won Club of the Year.
Kiernan was a member of that cup-winning outfit and, away from UEL, also helped non-league Welling United win the Conference South title.
Both men harbour ambitions of playing for the senior Antigua & Barbuda national side, after being involved with the under-20s set-up.
Martin-Heskey achieved international recognition after impressing in a College Sixth form final in 2009 and joined up with the senior squad for a training camp in Ipswich.
“They said I was a bit young but wanted to get me involved in the under-20s side. I did that and played twice in the 2009 FIFA U20 World Cup qualifiers,” said Craig, who played twice for them in 2009.
Hughes-Mason hoped to follow in footsteps last year, but was left frustrated after a mix-up.
After flying over to represent Antigua & Barbuda at the Under-20 World Cup qualifiers last summer, Kiernan found out he was too old.
He was 20 at the time but was reassured he could play beforehand, which proved incorrect.
He said: “I went out there and the day before the game, they are doing our passports and they go ‘you can’t play’. I was like ‘oh my god!’
“I couldn’t play in any of the three games but trained and it was a little holiday. I would have had to do some sort of training to get me into shape so it did keep me fit.”
Craig, 22, has not been involved in the international set-up for a few years as he has tried to focus on his university studies.
His time as chairman of the UEL football team is over now, but he admits it meant the world to him to win the Club of the Year prize.
After missing out in 2012, he wanted to improve the brand of the football side of the university.
He said: “I don’t think there is any club that can say they have done as much work as myself and a couple of other people across the committee this year, but it meant the world to me.
“We needed a different angle and for us to become a bigger brand.
“I thought to myself a lot of other universities have an African Caribbean Society football team and why not make one.
“It is not just having three men’s teams and a women’s team, it is about the community side of things as well. Bringing everyone together and making it the most played sport across the university.”
He has only been at UEL for two years after transferring from Gloucestershire, but described his move as ‘life changing’.
He added: “It has been life changing. It was more or less the best decision I ever made.
“Having the chance to be in charge of a sports club has helped me grow as a person.”
Kiernan also played a part in the football team’s success this year, scoring twice for the first team in their 3-2 South Eastern Conference Cup final win against Reading.
He explained: “It was 1-1 when I came on. I scored and then they got a penalty in the last few minutes and from the kick-off we went and scored again. It was really good.”
Initially he couldn’t play because training with Welling conflicted with university training, but this changed towards the end of the season and he hasn’t looked back.
“I started doing it, played a couple of games, scored a few goals,” he added.
“I then went with the first team and we won the cup. I haven’t looked back since.”
Craig Martin-Heskey has six months left at UEL and has a couple of options open to him when he finishes his degree; including working with UEL Sports full time or moving to Antigua to pursue a football career and achieve his ambition of representing the senior national side.
He and Kiernan have played a huge part in the football team’s successful year and the ‘Benna Boys’ can be proud of their achievements in the 2012/13 season.