Belgium-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland is relishing the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions league with Racing Genk.
Hyland played in the first leg of their recent Champions League qualifier against Maccabi Haifa but stayed on the bench in the return leg which Genk won 4-1 on penalty kicks to advance to the group stage.
Thursday’s draw saw Hyland’s team end up in Group E with Chelsea FC (ENG), Bayer Leverkusen (GER) and Valencia CF (ESP).
Hyland is the first Trinidadian since Dwight Yorke and Marvin Andrews (three starts in 2005) to play in the Champions League with Russell Latapy also holding such distinction while at FC Porto.
“It’s a great feeling for me personally. This is my first real achievement since I moved to Europe,” Hyland told TTFF Media on Thursday.
“We had a long wait with the match going into penalty kicks and of course we went into the second game after coming off a loss in the first match. We fought until the last second to ensure we got a result to stay alive.
Then it was onto penalties and we did well with our kicks and our goalkeeper pulled it off with two great saves,” added the ex-San Juan Jabloteh player.
The 22-year-old Carenage born player made 59 appearances with former club SV Zulte Waregem, former team of David Nakhid, and is now anticipating the chance to secure a starting role for Genk.
“I’ve settled in well so far. Of course Genk is a massive club and the pressure is always on. You have to be at your best at all times and places in the team are always up for grabs. But this keeps me focused and always ready to put my best foot forward.
Right now I can’t wait to get the chance to play in the Champions League and compete against the best players and best clubs in the world,” Hyland added.
The former National Under 20 player is scheduled to arrive in Port of Spain this weekend to join the national team ahead of its 2014 World Cup qualifier against Bermuda next Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium at 4pm.
“A lot is happening football wise. We are on a high at the club and now I have to get on a plane to Trinidad for another big opportunity which is to play in the World Cup qualifiers.
I am eager to do well for my country also. I played in the Under 20 World Cup in Egypt and now I will like to be in Brazil also with the national team.
We have a long road ahead of us but I think we are definitely in with a good chance once we can put our heads down and play the football that will get us through the qualifiers,” Hyland added.
After further consultation between the TTFF and the Ministry of National Security, it was determined that Friday’s World Cup qualifier will now be played at 4pm and not 4:30pm as announced previously.
Tickets will go on sale on Saturday at all Kenny’s Sports Outlets. The TTFF in conjunction with All Sport Promotions is also ensuring that maximum security is provided for both teams next week in the lead up to the Match, also on match-day and in all post-match related activities including the departure of both teams from this country.
The Trinidad team leaves on September 4 for Bridgetown for its qualifier against Barbados on September 6.