Culture Club star bassist Mikey Craig's son Paco on his epic 8,000-mile round-trip to secure Miami FC move
PACO CRAIG could be forgiven for asking: Does football really want to hurt me?
The former West Ham youth defender — whose dad Mikey is the bass player in 80s band Culture Club — was forced to head to the USA to continue a career that never took off in England after being released at 18.
Craig definitely hit the right notes for Louisville in the USL, effectively the second tier of football Stateside.
He won back-to-back titles during a four-year spell at the club.
But the Londoner — a classy, ball-playing centre-half — wanted one last crack at playing in his homeland.
He went on trial at QPR at the end of 2019 before eventually landing a month-to-month deal at Wycombe.
Everything was on song — until the global pandemic hit and his contract turned into dust.
Craig, 28, said: “I was gutted. They were giving me default reasons as to why I was leaving but I remained confident in my ability.”
It was a bitter blow — and then another offer disappeared after Portuguese top-flight side Vitoria de Setubal were relegated to the third division because of financial irregularity.
But just when everything seemed lost, up popped Paul Dalglish — son of Kenny and manager of Miami FC — to offer a deal to return across the pond.
The chance to play in the South Florida sunshine, back in the USL, was too good to turn down.
All Craig needed was to sort out a visa and pack his bags.
It should have been straightforward but these are not normal times.
The havoc wreaked by coronavirus meant the US Embassy in London could not see him until September — hardly ideal for Miami, who return to pre-season at the end of this month.
So what else to do than embark on a gruelling multi-city trip via London, Paris and Amsterdam to get his documents from Poland?
Even the plan to head to the US Embassy in Warsaw was packed full of problems which, not for the first time, left the music-loving defender fighting to keep his dream alive.
Craig explained: “It’s been a very challenging year psychologically, but getting involved with Miami was very exciting.
“Once I signed the contract I was relaxed but I never envisaged trekking across Europe in the freezing cold to get my US visa appointment.
“When I turned up at Heathrow to fly to Frankfurt and then to Warsaw, I was told at the desk that because of the travel restrictions, that would be impossible. They said there was nothing they could do.
“I couldn’t believe it and the lines to get some help were the longest in the airport.
“It was pandemonium and still only 3am back in Miami, but I got on the phone and they managed to sort me out on a trip to Warsaw via Paris and Amsterdam.
“But before that — and I only had a few hours — I needed to get an antigen test in the makeshift medical area in the basement of Terminal 2.
“I’m a relaxed traveller but this was the most annoying travel day ever.
“I finally arrived at midnight and after a couple of days I was sorted.
“So at least it all worked out in the end — a few days in Warsaw was cool and I got a direct flight home.
“Whatever has happened recently, though, it will be worth it. I had just been training on my own and being pied off by teams, so this was a bit of excitement.”
Craig’s epic voyage would have broken many but he never gave up faith — much to the delight of his legendary, football-loving old man who is still busting out the tunes alongside pop icon Boy George.
He said: “Music is the biggest part of my life. I grew up playing the drums and I have so many amazing memories of watching my dad play concerts.
“It’s a dream come true to watch him perform. It’s beautiful.
“He loves football, though, and the reason I am playing is because of my dad — the humblest man around even though he is a musical superstar.
“My outlook on life and demeanour has been shaped by him. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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