Having been named to the USL Championship All-League Team in his previous stint with San Antonio FC, Billy Forbes is excited to be back in what he now considers his home. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
In terms of what you might expect from college recruiting, the process that brought a young Billy Forbes from his home in the Turks & Caicos Islands to Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas was a departure from the norm.
“I played in a World Cup qualifying game in 2008,” Forbes said this week. “I was 16 at the time, and [current Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association general secretary] Oliver [Smith] knew one of the guys who knew the coach from Texas. The coach watched the game and he offered me a scholarship when I was 16. He held the scholarship until I was 18, I graduated high school and I moved to Texas.”
Almost a decade after he became a Westerner in the fall of 2009, Forbes’ affinity for the Lone Star State continues to grow. Now in his second stint with the USL Championship’s San Antonio FC after having previously played for the Scorpions in the same city, there are few players who have the connection to the club’s fanbase that Forbes possesses.
Part of that can be attributed to the energy and drive Forbes looks to bring every time he steps on the field, but his naturally outgoing personality has equally endeared him to the Alamo City’s supporters.
“For me as a player it has to do with the people, the organization as a whole,” said Forbes. “I just share a connection with the people that I just can’t explain, you know what I mean? Whenever I go away and play, there’s never bad blood, the fans still love me, still send me messages, so I think as far as San Antonio goes, San Antonio is home for me. I have a great connection with the fans and with the organization.”
That feeling could be clearly seen on the opening weekend of the 2019 season as Forbes made his return to SAFC’s lineup after spending the 2018 season with Phoenix Rising FC. The standing ovation given by the sellout Toyota Field crowd to Forbes’ tremendous finish said plenty as the city welcomed him home.
It’s the same sort of feeling Forbes feels when he gets the chance to return home to Turks & Caicos to represent his country internationally. Now the captain of the side he made his debut for as a 16-year-old, Forbes has a big role to play in helping the quality of the side improve, but he embraces it eagerly.
“Yes, there’s a lot of pressure, but whatever I do in life I always give 110 percent,” he said. “If I work hard, I think the guys will see it because they look up to me to provide that energy coming from the U.S. and playing abroad, so the guys look up to me because of that, but also because everybody is looking at you. When we finish playing, most of the guys get to go home and relax, I have to go home and come back to the U.S. and look at what went right and what didn’t. It keeps me honest as a player, to be honest. I like it.”
The arrival of the Concacaf Nations League has certainly been a major plus for the country’s national team in Forbes’ eyes. Where previously games for Turks & Caicos might be separated by years, the structure implemented by Concacaf to allow smaller nations more regular competitive action has seen the side play four times since last September in the qualifying stage and will see it square off with Guadaloupe and Sint Marteen this fall in its League C group.
According to Forbes, that has provided added incentive for players to hone their abilities, which in turn could provide bigger opportunities for others to follow his path and join the professional ranks.
“I think what Concacaf has done is great,” said Forbes. “Like I said, I’ve played for my national team since I was 16, so it’s been 10-years-plus, but I remember back in the day when we would play every three years or every four years when World Cup qualifying came around. Now guys on the island who have the 9-to-5 work harder because we have more games coming up. We just played in Anguilla, we played the Bahamas, we played some friendlies, so now guys get to keep going.”
Before Turks & Caicos’ next competitive games arrive in September, however, Forbes is aiming to help San Antonio return to the USL Cup Playoffs. The club has made a slow start to 2019, going without a win in its first four games despite leading the league in chances created (50) as its attacking pieces mesh together. SAFC welcomes Las Vegas Lights FC to Toyota Field on Saturday night aiming to get its season on track, with Forbes eager to lead the charge.
“Right now, the goals aren’t going our way, but we know we’re a good team and we’re going to stick to our plan,” he said. “Once the goals start falling, everything else will fall into place. Once you start winning games, everyone will be more relaxed, but right now everyone in the locker room knows what’s at stake.”
Billy Forbes has shared a strong connection with San Antonio's soccer fans since his days playing for the Scorpions at the start of his career. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
With friends and family surrounding him, including those of his fiancée Michelle, Forbes is ready to make the most of his return to his home away from home and the warm embrace San Antonio has always provided.
“The fact that I can just be myself,” said Forbes about what he likes most about the city. “When I go around, it’s always love, you know what I mean? Everyone is welcoming, everyone is warm and always wanting to love you. That’s what I love about San Antonio, and that’s exactly how it is in the Caribbean. Everyone is laid back and wants to show you a good time, that’s what I love about it.”