Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant City soccer prodigy destined to go pro

At a balmy Thursday night soccer match at the Otis M. Andrews Sports Complex, Omar Castro receives a ball from the back line. • The lanky 16-year-old with wire-hanger shoulders takes a few touches, slinks through the midfield and delivers a pinpoint pass to his striker's foot. • Omar's club, the U-17 Plant City Lancers, is playing in the semifinals of a men's league featuring some of the top rec teams in Central Florida. Some of the players he's facing are twice his age, but he stands out like a man among boys, even though he's a boy among men. • Each touch is deft. Every pass is precise. • And when Castro finally unleashes a top-spinning laser from about 25 yards out that hits the crossbar, a chorus of "oohs" rises from the 200 or so Plant City folks. Many wear Omar Castro jerseys and have come specifically to watch the prodigy do something spectacular.

"He's a special player and person who is focused on nothing but soccer," Plant City coach Stephen Rossiter said. "His story is really all about a boy and his ball."

If the name Omar Castro doesn't ring a bell, there's good reason. The teen doesn't play high school soccer. His name hasn't appeared in area newspapers or on local TV stations. Except for the small, plugged-in soccer community, he's mostly unknown.

He's quiet, unassuming.

And supremely talented.

"I've been in this game for a long time," said Rossiter, who has coached for 13 years, including two at Plant City High School. "I have never seen a player around his age who has the talent Omar does. He's off the charts in terms of ability and understanding of the game."

If Rossiter glows about Omar like a proud father, it's because he's not far from it. The boy's parents came from Mexico 20 years ago and supported seven children by working in the strawberry fields around Plant City. The tight-knit Castro clan had little money, but Omar's father, Jesus, passed his love of soccer to his second-youngest child.

"All of my brothers played, and I have a cousin who plays (professionally) for the Indios," in the Mexican League, Omar said. "My father started training me at 4. I loved it and have been playing since."

Omar eventually began playing for the Lancers and struck up a relationship with Rossiter, who would occasionally give the then-11-year-old rides to and from practice. Sometimes the pair would share meals. Eventually Rossiter grew close to the entire family.

"My family got to know him and respected him," Omar said.

Then Jesus Castro made a tough decision.

"Omar's dad came to me and explained the family's (financial) situation," Rossiter said. "He asked me if I would be interested in bringing Omar into my home. He wanted the best for his son and knew this was going to benefit his future."

Rossiter agreed and became Omar's legal guardian six years ago. The Rossiters live 3 miles from the Castros, and Omar still sees his family frequently. The families often share meals and gather to watch soccer on TV.

"We go to church together every Sunday and I see them a lot," Omar said of his parents. "It was difficult at first, but I knew it was for the best."

There's another connection between the families. Rossiter's son Samuel married Omar's sister Idelisa.

"It's a unique situation, that's for sure," Rossiter said, chuckling. "But we're all real close and make it work. It's really kind of one big family."

Omar doesn't just play soccer; he breathes it.

"Soccer isn't just something he does. It's his life," Rossiter said. "He doesn't have a Facebook or Twitter account. He just lives for the game."

And in a couple of years, his name is likely to appear on the back of a professional jersey. Omar has worked out with FC Barcelona, one of the world's top clubs that features two-time FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi.

Last spring, he enjoyed another training session with Dutch club Vitesse.

"Playing professionally is my No. 1 goal," he said.

Omar has also been on the U.S. National Team radar for years and will join the U-17 USA team next week in California for training. Omar, who is homeschooled because of his hectic travel schedule, is also eligible to play for the Mexican national team because his parents were born there.

"I want to play for the United States' national team," he said. "I was born here and it's my home."

Omar, who turned 16 in February, can't sign with a pro team until he's 18, but Rossiter said "it's a lock he's turning pro" shortly after that birthday. The teen is already represented by ExtraTime, a marketing agency based in Barcelona.

"I would love to play for Barcelona one day," Omar said, "but right now I just want to keep training, keep my focus and keep getting better. It's what I love."

Just a boy and his ball.

Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Plant City soccer prodigy destined to go pro 07/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:45: Cash said Robertson was taking better swings Friday and so he wanted to move him up today, liking the idea of having three straight right-handers vs. a LHP they don't know much about. ... Souza was still smiling this morning about his failed dive attempt last night, and the reaction it got. .. The …

  2. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  3. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule

    Tennis

    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]