The player whose professional dreams were left in tatters by COVID-19

Alexander Knox had moved to Italy with the hope of making it big. Within weeks everything had changed

8:00am on Saturday 10th October 2020
Paul Macdonald

Alexander Knox can count himself as seriously unlucky.

For well over a year, he had been readying himself for a move to Europe and what he perceived to be his destiny.

Knox has spent 10 years in the soccer system in the USA, joining a prestigious football academy based in Arizona at the age of 12 before transferring to UCLA, where he spent two years. But at the end of 2019, he made the biggest decision of his life to leave his course and pursue his dream of playing in Europe.

He is a marauding full-back very much in the modern style, always on the front foot and spending as much time as an auxiliary winger than he does defending. He scores, provides and does everything expected of that position in the modern game, and has the engine to boot, honed over years of relentless fitness and conditioning exercises.

He began a collaboration with filmmaker OJ Pipkin in California, who documented Knox’s training regimes, dedication and desire in a video diary that the 22-year-old hoped could be looked back on, once he had achieved what he set out to do.

COVID-19 decided otherwise.

The American made contact with business intermediaries who had connections in Italy, in particular Serie A clubs. He raised $6,000 to fund his trip and was able to facilitate those relationships to train for high-profile coaches there, but, to his surprise, there had been a misunderstanding.

This wasn’t a formal trial process. Despite performing with distinction - as the formal reviews and citations from the coaches and sporting directors he worked with would testify - there was no contract being made available.

Knox had only been in Italy for a short period but then, COVID-19 struck. With Knox still in the middle of his trip, attempting to arrange other trials and opportunities to make a career in Europe, Italy went on lockdown and he was forced to return to the USA. From months, and years, of building up to a seminal moment which could make or break his career, he instead was forced to leave the country and return to his family home, where he now resides. A lot can change in the space of a few weeks.

Speaking to FootballCritic, Knox said: “Right now, what is running through my mind is the future.

“Despite the pandemic that is occurring right now, I am still waking up everyday and training twice a day, working on every single aspect of training: technical, tactical, physical, and psychological.

“I won't give up, my future depends on it. I am relentlessly in pursuit of being the best version of myself I can be. I am obsessed with my career and my work. I take great pride in it. This is my biggest asset to any team or organisation - I have commitment like you've never seen.”

In his video diaries Knox talks openly about the different stages of his career; about how he became obsessed with the number 314 after being left out of his team's matches when in Arizona as a result of technical and tactical mistakes. He reminisces about the team in Arizona, from which members went direct to professional clubs or to established universities, and how that success drove him to succeed.

He has a huge weight of precedent against him. Statistics from Business Insider stat that only 1.4% of players who feature in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) go on to become professionals.

But when this is over Knox plans to return to Europe and reignite his dream of professional football in Europe. It is difficult to know how or when sport will emerge from this crisis, or what the landscape will look like afterwards, but one thing is clear - he’s not ready to give up. Far from it.

You can watch Alexander Knox’s video diary here. FC will update on his progress once football returns!

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