CONCACAF Q&A: Harrison Panayiotou (Barrow AFC and St. Kitts & Nevis)

St. Kitts & Nevis international Harrison Panayiotou, shown holding the Barclays U-21 Player of the Month Award for March 2015 while as a member of Leicester City, is another Caribbean striker looking to make a larger mark internationally. (Photo courtesy of Leicester City FC)

Harrison Panayiotou is a player with bags of potential. After spending most of his young career with Leicester City, and going out on loan spells with Port Vale and Raith Rovers, the 22-year-old St. Kitts & Nevis international signed a two-year contract with English National League side Barrow AFC in September 2016. The Leicester-born forward took some time to speak with about his experiences and ambitions moving forward.

How old were you when you first started to play football?
I first started to play football when I was about six or seven years old. This was the time when I truly started to enjoy football for fun and it was an activity I always enjoyed doing. From being that young, I knew what I wanted to do with my life and that was to play football.

When you were growing up, who was your footballing hero?
Growing up, my footballing hero was former Arsenal and France footballer Thierry Henry. He was a real star in the Premier League and he showed to me that with hard work and continuing to work on your talent you can succeed, especially at a high level.

You had the choices of playing for Cyprus, England or St. Kitts & Nevis. Why did you decide on St. Kitts?
My father was born in Cyprus and my mother was born in St. Kitts & Nevis. I was born in Leicester, England. My decision to the fact of playing for St. Kitts and Nevis was that they was so keen on me coming. Cyprus didn't go to the extent of wanting me like St. Kitts did, and I feel like I made the right decision. Playing in CONCACAF is a wonderful feeling. Playing against teams in the Caribbean, North and Central America is a pleasure and I am exposed to different brands of football on a regular basis. I am proud to have Kittitian roots and represent this wonderful country.

You scored on your debut for St. Kitts & Nevis in 2014 in a 3-2 loss to Barbados. What was it like making your debut for St. Kitts & Nevis?
It was very hot making my debut, but it felt so good. It was a proud moment for me and my family. Disappointed not to get the win on the day, but it was a good experience as a 19-year-old playing international football. Not many players get this opportunity, so it was a pleasure.

What is your goal as a professional footballer?
My goal is to be the best I can be and to hit the targets I set myself when I was younger. In CONCACAF for St. Kitts and Nevis, it would be an honor to help us qualify for a CONCACAF tournament. We have made huge strides in the region and in the FIFA Rankings. I believe better is coming.

What advice do you have to youths who want to play football professionally?
My advice to any youngster who wants to play football professionally is to be yourself and you should not let anybody tell you that you are not good enough or you can't do something. Self-belief is key over anything. Once this is followed, then they will do very well in football.

What are your goals as an international footballer?
My goals for international level is to try become the all-time leading scorer for St. Kitts & Nevis and also help the team get as far as possible in every competition in which we play. I have seven goals so far for St. Kitts & Nevis and the record is at 47, so I will just have to keep working hard.

You are now with Barrow AFC, but how key was Leicester City in your development as a footballer?
To be honest, Leicester City, when I was growing up, was very key as it helped develop me as a professional. I won the Leicester City U21 player of the year for the 2014/15 season and I was also the Barclays U21 Player of the Month for March 2015. I would say Leicester was important. As I am with Barrow AFC, I can say Leicester played a massive role.

Away from football, what do you like to do for fun?
Outside of football I'm family man, so I like to relax with my niece and other family members. Also, I have some good time with my girlfriend and also chill with my friends that I grew up with when I was young.