In order to have a better understanding of the New York Red Bulls’ new Venezuelan signing Wikelman Carmona, we contacted Jordan Florit, who’s author of the book, Red, Wine & Arepas: How Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion and runs the Twitter account, @FUTVEEnglish, alongside Dominic Bisogno. Florit’s observations helped draw out a better picture of Carmona, who will turn 18 later this month.
“The first time I heard of him was at the Under-17 South American Championship in 2019. It was the year that I started writing the book, the year that I was doing a lot of research, so I came across him in that tournament, a very talented generation,” said Florit.
In that team Carmona was teammates with Daniel Pérez and Jeriel De Santis. Florit remembers Carmona’s performance in that 5-3 win over Bolivia, in which he scored and assisted one of De Santis’ goals. “In that team you had Daniel Pérez, a 6-3 striker now 19, who Club Brugge in Belgium have just signed on a four-and-a-half-year deal; it's his club's first ever international transfer.
“Jeriel De Santis, who scored a hat trick against Bolivia that day with Wikelman Carmona assisting one of them, is at Boavista in Portugal. In that game (against Bolivia), Carmona also scored. That generation is very talented,” he noted.
Florit highlighted that a conversation with Cristian Cásseres Jr helped him in his process to start writing his book, which he published in August 2020.
“In 2019, I wrote an article about Cristian Cásseres Jr.; it was a move (his move to RBNY) that really intrigued me, and the progress that the Venezuelan youth sides were making under Rafael Dudamel, who took charge of the Under-15s, U-17s, U-20s and ended up in the senior team and that pathway, and that continuity really intrigued me,” he said. “Cristian Cásseres Jr. was coming up just behind that generation, and it really caught my attention. You could say that the book started in 2012, but what finally motivated me to start the book was my conversation with Cristian Cásseres Jr.”
Carmona’s move to RBNY caught many by surprise in Venezuela because as Florit notes, Carmona is a player that’s making the move abroad from a private Academy, Academia Dynamo FC Margarita, shedding light on the fact that several private academies in Venezuela are doing an excellent job in developing the future of Venezuelan football.
“He left my mind until this move, and one of the reasons for that is Red Bulls haven't signed a 17-18-year-old player that was known and playing lots of Liga FUTVE football. Red Bulls have bought him from a private Academy, and that's one of two things that really caught my eye about this move,” said Florit. “RBNY bought a player from a private Academy, and also handed him an international slot. It's really an intriguing move. But in Venezuela, you do have a number of private academies, where the facilities and the level of coaching is arguably better than quite a few professional clubs.
“So in no way is it indicative of anything like the private academies in Venezuela can be really good,” he added. “There's another one called Academia Emeritense, which was set up by the former national team manager Richard Páez, and they've exported players directly to Europe. In fact, last season in the Copa Libertadores, Estudiantes de Mérida, who’s the professional club in Mérida where the private Academy is based, beat Alianza Lima of Peru 3-2, and they're Starting XI were from this private Academy with another two on the bench. Private academies in Venezuela, particularly in the past 10-15 years, there's real value and potential in the player. I think this could be a very smart move for Red Bulls.”
In Carmona, Florit sees a footballer who already high-presses and is a quick left-footed thinker. “With Carmona, who's joined practically at the same age as Cásseres, is perhaps more ready already, which is a big ask because he's a young guy, and Cásseres has been a sensational buy in MLS’ recent history.
“We saw last season Philadelphia Union buy “Brujo” Martínez, but the big difference there is “Brujo” is already 25-years-old, and it was a very brave move because you're buying a 25-year-old midfielder who's only ever played in Venezuela. But then he walked straight into Philadelphia Union and had a great year, one of the best newcomers, lifted the Supporters’ Shield, and Cásseres said in an interview a couple of weeks ago, ‘All the other teams in MLS now want a defensive midfielder from Venezuela,’” said Florit. “Carmona isn’t that, but he’s a player suited to the Red Bulls style, that can press very well and has that vision to play balls in the channel to advance the ball up the pitch quickly.”
With Cásseres Jr. as his mentor and role model, Florit anticipates that a lot of people will be following his progression at RBNY.
“I'm really excited to see what will come, and I know that Carmona will have like one hell of a following back in Venezuela because like I say, they're so passionate about watching their players overseas,” he concluded.