Photo by ISIphotos.com
As you may have read elsewhere on Tuesday, there is a Belgian soccer team claiming to have signed New York Red Bulls youth prospect Johnny Exantus (left in photo). Just how legitimate a claim that is remains very unclear.
While the signing was announced by Real Racing Club of Montegnee on Sept. 2, Exantus is currently attending Columbia High School in New Jersey and has been playing for the school’s soccer team. He has scored in each of the team’s first two games.
Not only that. There is also some question about the professional or amateur status of the club in question, Real Racing Club, which plays in the Belgian Fourth Division. (The club calls itself a professional club, but claims that the program
So if a player signs with an amateur club, has he really signed a thing? More importantly, why would a player regarded as one of the top youth prospects in the nation sign with a fourth-division team in Belgium? And if he did sign, why is he still playing high school soccer in New Jersey?
While the Real Racing Club does appear to actually exist, there do seem to be some red flags regarding its legitimacy. Whether its the curious fact that the club is Belgian yet has an English-only website, or the fact that only two of the club’s many contacts have team-issued email addresses (the team’s sporting director has a yahoo email address listed on the team site), there is something just a tad bit fishy about the club’s description of itself (a professional club that sounds like a quasi-college set-up).
As much as the club’s status, and the listing of 15 American players on its squad list, make for some head-scratching, my focus right now is on Exantus and what exactly his status is (while the RRC website does describe the club as an academic and athletic experience, there is no description of what sort of professional ties or contracts are involved between players in the program and the club). Signing with a professional team would mean the Red Bulls would not be able to sign him this winter (which is a possibility if Exantus is not under contract elsewhere), and it would also make Exantus ineligible to play high school soccer in New Jersey (and would force his team to forfeit its first two wins).
That said, if Real Racing Club is not a professional team, then Exantus wouldn’t be bound by any contract, thus making the club’s announcement misleading. (Based on the wording on the club’s website, it suggests that taking part in the program does not jeopardize the player’s college eligibility, and therefore is not a true professional club. If that is true, then Exantus is not bound by any professional contract with Real Racing Club)
So what exactly happened? I am hoping to find that out today. A call to Columbia High School head coach Gene Chyzowych has yet to be returned. An email message to Exantus has also not been answered. Columbia is scheduled to play West Morris Central today at 4pm.
Red Bulls fans shouldn’t assume that Exantus will join the Red Bulls even if Exantus is not legally bound to a contract with Real Racing Club. Sources have told me for some time that Exantus wants to play in Europe. Whether that desire led to the desperation move of signing with a low-level Belgian club remains to be seen.
I will update this story as information comes in. For now, feel free to share your thoughts on this story in the comments section below.