18-year-old defender has developed with multiple South African professional clubs | Image Credit: Richmond Kickers
RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers on Tuesday announced the signing of defender Otavio Zerbini to a USL Academy contract, pending league and federation approval.
“We are looking for younger players that have that game understanding, are prepared for the professional level training environment, and are close to playing in games for us,” Chief Sporting Officer and Head Coach Darren Sawatzky said. “Otavio has trained very well here and his individual defending knowledge and bite fit very well into what we are working for here every day.
“We are committed to developing young players for the professional team here. Otavio is a hard-working, committed young man. He chose to travel across the world to chase his professional dream. His future is bright and we are happy to add his personality and fight into a very competitive locker room.”
Otavio joins the Kickers after playing with Hout Bay United Football Community in Cape Town, South Africa. The 18-year-old spent the last year with HBUFC’s first team in the SAFA Second Division which is in the country’s third tier of the footballing pyramid. Otavio was promoted to the first team after previously playing with the club’s U-18 team during the spring and early summer of 2021.
“My conversations with Darren [Sawatzky] were great, we got along well and he made it clear that he saw my potential and wanted to have me at the club so I can develop into a top player one day,” Otavio said.
He continued, “what made me want to join the club is that it’s extremely well run and run by good people. The team is made up of great players who made me feel welcome from the minute I got here. Also, I see the Kickers fans are the best in the league, there’s a great atmosphere at every game, and I can’t wait to play in front of them.”
Before joining HBUFC, the Boston native first made the move to Cape Town to play in the youth system for Cape Umoya United FC which competed in the second-tier National First Division.
Otavio joins Eli Mumford as the second member of the 2022 Richmond Kickers under a USL Academy contract. Under Sawatzky, four players have signed USL Academy contracts, with local Richmond United products Damian Gallegos and Ty Johnson joining during the 2021 season.
Now, as a Kicker, the exciting Brazilian-American talent is looking to make an impact while further developing his skills as a defender in American professional soccer.
“I want to help the team to win both the regular season and the playoffs, in addition to developing as much as possible as a player and learning from all the experienced players and coaches at the club. Not only this year but beyond that too.”