Lionel Messi’s remarkable 46-goal haul during the 2012/13 season saw him once again take an unrivalled position as the chief goalscorer in world football. However, there was a close battle going on behind him between two other goal-getters, stationed on a remote Pacific island, who also broke the 40-goal mark.
Scott Spindel ended his season in Guam’s top flight with the golden boot, grabbing 42 goals in 19 games for eventual champions Quality Distributors. Hot on his tail was Ashton Surber, who picked up 40 goals for Guam Shipyard. Speaking to FIFA.com, the 18-year-old Spindel admitted he had surprised even himself with his incredible goal tally.
“I have never had a season like this,” Spindel said. “This is the most I have scored in any season so far. I grew up watching games in the Guam Soccer League, so when I got the chance because I was finally old enough I was excited.”
The young forward, who was born on Guam to a native Chamorro mother, and whose father is from California, benefits from a football-mad background. “I grew up in a soccer family, both my parents played and are coaches now. I started playing at the age of two.”
Despite his tender years, Spindel has already played for the Guam national side, and has been impressed by the transformation since Englishman Gary White took charge last year.
“Our football has been improving incredibly since he became the coach,” Spindel said. “He is telling us not to back down and not go down without a fight. We have competed against and beaten teams we’re not used to. Nobody takes a game against Guam for granted any more.”
Guam’s version of El Clasico sees Spindel’s Quality Distributors take on Surber’s Guam Shipyard, and it is always a close affair. “I always love playing against Shipyard,” Spindel said. “The rivalry is pretty big because we get to play each team four times so everyone knows each other.”
“I remember growing up watching Shipyard v Quality matches and for the longest time it’s always been between those two sides,” Surber added. “There’s so much tension in the match, and it’s one of my favourite matches to play because there’s so much riding on it.”
Surber, who was also born and raised on Guam, turned 23 during the season. He is currently serving in the US Air Force which restricts his training time, making his goalscoring feats all the more impressive. “I’ve not had a season like this since high school, in my senior year I scored over 30 goals but since then I haven’t played consistently. For the past five years I’ve been on and off with it.
“It’s working OK now because I’m stationed back home on Guam. [Being in the US Air Force] has some setbacks because I don’t get to play football all the time, but it’s a living. It’s tough to juggle both, but you’ve got to make time for the sport you love.
“I was in Florida for a year, then I did two and a half years in Arkansas before I did a year in Korea. I got back to Guam a year ago.” That makes this Surber’s first season back in the Guam Soccer League, and he has enjoyed being back home.
“The Guam FA have really put together a great programme. The Division One league is very competitive and it’s been good, it’s fun and of course it keeps me in shape too. Being a striker, scoring goals is what I like to do. If you want playing time you’ve got to prove you deserve it. You’ve got to go out there and put it in the net.”
“It was never guaranteed that I was going to get [the golden boot]. It would have been nice, my first season back home, but I couldn’t expect to go out there and just take it because I’ve been out of the game for a couple of years now.
“It was neck and neck throughout the entire season. Everytime we saw each other we joked about it. It was a fun race. We harbour no negative feelings towards one another. We’re friends, it’s all fun.”
Spindel revealed just how close the race was. “Me and Ashton have known each other for a while and when the season started we were both pretty competitive. I needed five goals to beat him in the last game of the season. I was able to get that and, of course, I was happy to win the golden boot.”
Both Spindel and Surber dream of playing professionally one day. Despite Guam’s population being only slightly larger than the record attendance at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, player development in the country has been aided by FIFA’s Goal Programme, which recently helped the Guam FA construct a national training centre.
“We’ve already started to see a couple of players turn professional,” said Surber. “A former team-mate of mine, Ian Mariano, who I trained with on the national side during high school has gone professional.
“Personally, I can’t go out and be cocky but I can see myself competing at a higher level,” Surber continued. “If I were able to focus solely on football and I didn’t have to juggle it with the military I can honestly say I could see myself competing.”
The close rivalry between the two Guam goal-getters will not be resumed next season, as Spindel is heading to the USA to study mathematics at University in Alabama, but the former Quality Distributors frontman has a certain Argentinian in his sights. “I would love to try and beat Messi next season. It would be an honour.”
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