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By Ryon Jones via the Gleaner

JAMAICA – History was created Tuesday after 16-year-old Leon Butler became the first football player in the region to earn an endorsement contract from major sporting goods company Nike.

Butler inked a three-year deal with Nike which will see him don their apparel both on and off the pitch. The deal comes on the heels of the player, who came up through the Phoenix All Stars Football Academy ranks, signing to Dutch powerhouse Ajax.

“Nike has scouts all over the world and he (Leon) got into the Nike radar and then we did some investigations and started negotiations,” Nike’s regional director, Pedro Boyd, said during yesterday’s press conference at Spanish Court Hotel. “We were interested in Leon because we knew he was talented and we got good reviews on him from our secret scouts.

“He is getting a historic deal and we are expecting him to have fun, to play football and do what he likes. He is going to have the whole Nike lifestyle, all the clothing on the pitch and off the pitch as well.

Leon, who was born dyslexic,  is pleased that he has overcome  the varying challenges and has  now earned such an endorsement.

“I feel excellent because we  have been through a lot and it is  a great accomplishment for me  and the Phoenix members,”  Leon shared. “It is a dream  come true because I have  always liked Nike and I think  Nike is the best.”

Kyle Butler, Leon’s younger  brother, is set to follow closely  in his footsteps as negotiations  are well advanced for him to  join Ajax, while Nike is to  commence talks for an endorsement  deal with him.  “We are going to start negotiations  with Kyle and, hopefully,  we can also sign a deal, Boyd  shared. “Just for this contract  (Leon’s), we negotiated more than two months, so one step at a  time. ”

Kyle, the former St George’s  College Under-14 captain who  turned 16 earlier this month, is  looking forward to signing off  on his deal.

“I am looking forward to it  because I have worked all my  life for it,”  Kyle expressed. “It  is history in the making and I  am really glad that I am alive to  witness it and be a part of it. It  is a great accomplishment for  me and my country, and I am  just going to keep working hard  and stay focused, as the sky is  the limit. ”

Nike’s partnership will  extend beyond the two players,  as they have also signed a three-year deal with the academy.

“We demonstrated interest in helping out the academy  because I know from a personal  point of view, Jamaica has the  bio type and the athletes, so we  are sure there should be more  Leons and more Kyles here,

Boyd shared. “The contract has  X amount of money for products  and then the Phoenix  organization can ask for whatever  they need for the academy:  balls, soccer shoes, jerseys,  etc.

Founder and president of  Phoenix, Craig Butler, who is  also the father of Leon and  Kyle, was delighted.

“This is our first international  sponsor and it was a big fight  between Nike and Adidas to get  this contract with the boys and  with the academy, Butler  revealed. “We chose Nike  because of their commitment to our foundations, which is to  Jamaican football.”

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