Jean Harbor said yesterday that he is on a mission to play for the U.S. national team in the 1994 World Cup.
The Maryland Bays scoring star said a misunderstanding by U.S. Soccer Federation officials has prevented him from getting a chance to make the squad.
"They think I played for the Nigerian national team [which would make him ineligible to ever play for the U.S. national team], but I never wore a Nigerian national team jersey," said Harbor, who left Nigeria at age 17 and came to the United States. "I was too small and not good enough to play for the Nigerian national team when I was 17 years old. I played for four Division I teams in Nigeria, but never the national team. People are confused. There are too many stories."
Harbor, 26, said he could prove to U.S. officials that he has not played for the Nigerian national team.
"I can give them the contacts [in Nigeria] to talk to," said Harbor, who will lead the Bays (5-0) against the Miami Freedom (1-3) tonight at 7:05 at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia. "All they have to do is ask me. I want very, very much to play for the U.S. in the World Cup."
U.S. national team coach Bora Milutinovic, reached in New Haven, Conn., yesterday where he is preparing the U.S. team to play Juventes of Italy tomorrow in Game 7 of the World Series of Soccer, said he would check Harbor's status and see if he could join the team.
"He [Harbor] needs to be an American to train with us," said Milutinovic. "I'm going to find out the facts. I would like to see him play for us."
Harbor, who leads the American Professional Soccer League with four goals and three assists in five games, is a citizen of Nigeria but holds a green card in the United States.
If Harbor proves he has not played for the Nigerian national team, he still would have to become a U.S. citizen to be eligible for the U.S. team.
"My chances of becoming a U.S. citizen are very, very good," said Harbor. "I've been a good person the nine years I've been here."
Harbor, who works as a biochemist in Gaithersburg, has dominated the APSL this season, prompting Bays coach Gary Hindley to call him the "best target player in America."
Hindley said: "When Jean Harbor has the ball, the guys on the other team hold their breath, the players on his team look at him in anticipation of what he's going to do, and the fans rustle. They're all expecting him to do the unexpected. They're looking for something great out of him."
Harbor, 6 feet 2, 210 pounds, was flattered by Hindley's comments and said: "It makes me feel good to hear it, and I think I ought to go out each game and back it up. I like to do two or three different moves each game to show that I'm a good player."
Asked what will happen when he runs out of new things to do, Harbor said: "I don't think that will ever happen."