He has not been around a National Team since this country’s last 2010 World Cup qualifying game back in October, 2009.
But former National youth captain Leston Paul hasn’t stopped playing. Matter of fact he’s already on the watchlist of a couple American Major League Soccer clubs following a string of impressive showings for the University of South Florida.
Paul, who captained this country’s Under 17 and Under 20 teams respectively at the 2007 and 2009 FIFA Youth World Cups, opted for a balance between the ball and the books and took up a four-year scholarship in early 2010.
He’s completing a major in Geography and is has a year and a half left before he graduates. Last month Paul was among eight USF student-athletes recognized fortheir work on the athletic stage and in the classroom. He was named an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar.
The award is given out to undergraduate candidates who have excelled in athletics and community service along with having a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2.
The Mayaro-born midfielder is aiming to following a host of T&T nationals who have come through the American College system and went on to have commendable professional and international careers as players or otherwise such as David Nakhid, Avery John, Brent Sancho, Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Brent Rahim, Stern John, Keith Look Loy and Alvin Henderson among others.
“But I’m trying to get my College days over with by the end of the third year,” Paul said as he spoke of his eagerness to return to the national team and a possible professional career. He still has a desire to play in Europe.
“It’s every player’s dream to play in Europe and I would definitely love to end up in England some day,” Paul added.
Looking back at his experience at South Florida since he joined the university and became a starter on its soccer team, Paul said he would make the same choice to take up the scholarship if he had make such a call today.
“The experience for me has been great. It thought me how to live om my own, away from my family and loved ones for long periods, which is something I wasn't quite used to in the beginning. It's also preparing me for the real world,” Paul said.
“Just knowing that I'm going to be away from my family for long times in pursuing a football career after I graduate is something that made me realize that the times I am experiencing now will benefit me in the long run.”
Earning selections on the Big East Third team and the Regional third team last season are among some of his accomplishments in the United States.
But Paul added: “It's somewhat difficult to manage the both because you have to make time for them and the right amount of time But it's not impossible of course, once you put your mind to it.”
“The environment and players around have made it enjoyable and worth it.”
The interest from the MLS is no secret although the clubs prefer to remain anonymous. That is the furthest thing from his mind at the moment.
I'm not really focused on that at the moment. Firstly I'm focusing on finishing my degree and then I’ll start looking at my options. But of course it's something I’ll consider, knowing that it's a good start to a college athlete's career coming straight out of school.
“I do feel the same way about the decision now that I felt at the start. The time has gone by so quickly and I have almost attained my degree. I have no regrets at all. Playing for my country has always been an honor.
So I'm reminiscing on the past times while awaiting the next opportunity to arise. Although the 2018 World Cup is somewhat far ahead, Ii am locked in on the tournament and the possibility that our country could be taking part.”