Late in the season, Whitecaps FC signed Trinidad & Tobago international Carlyle Mitchell. The centre back ended up starting three of the final four home matches on Bell Pitch at BC Place.
Yesterday it was announced that Mitchell has been called up to play for his national team, but before leaving he took some time to talk with whitecapsfc.com, telling us about his humble beginnings on the island, his career path, and how he ended up becoming a defender.
Q: Alright Carlyle, to start, tell us what life was like growing up in Trinidad?
A: It was pretty hard because I didn’t come from a rich family. My dad worked and my mom was a housewife. Making it as a footballer was the best way out of poverty.
Q: Do you have any siblings?
A: I have three brothers and three sisters. My brothers are Devon, Dexter and Joseph and my sisters are Saphire, Carlene and Melissa.
Q: Who did you look up to when you were younger?
A: When I was younger, I liked Manchester United because of Dwight Yorke because he came from Trinidad and he was playing for a big club in England. That was a big thing for Trinidadians.
Q: Which teams have you played for?
A: I played on my neighbourhood team called Uprising and then Pinto United in my village. Then I went to Memphis (in Trinidad), one of the biggest youth academies on the island. From Memphis, I played school football at Mt. Hope, then I went to Hillview College. A coach saw me and liked me and took me on for the national U-20 team. I then started with Caledonia AIA for one year in the TT Pro League. I was a U-20 player, so I wasn’t on a professional contract. Then I made the Trinidad U-23 Olympic team and I signed with Joe Public F.C., which was the first pro contract I signed. From there I came to the Whitecaps.
Q: How old were you when you made your pro debut?
A: I was 19-years-old playing for Caledonia. I’d just come out of school. We were playing Defence Force in a cup match and we won on penalties, 4-3 I think.
Q: Have you always been a defender?
A: No, I was a striker. I played striker for the national U-20 team, U-23 team and at Caledonia AIA. At Caledonia, the coach played me a bit in defence because of my height, but I didn’t like defence because I liked to score goals. I moved on to Joe Public to play striker. Then one game, one of our players at Joe Public got injured, and the coach asked ‘Who wants to go on for that guy?’ and I said ‘I want to play, I’ll go on for him’, so I go on for him in defence.
After the game finishes, the coach comes up to me and smiles, and I say ‘What you smiling about’, and he says ‘Just giving you food for thought… I didn’t know you could play defence’. So then I started playing defence for Joe Public, and when I did I got a call from Caledonia and they said ‘I thought you had a problem playing defence’, and I just laughed.
Q: Trinidad and Tobago was the smallest nation ever to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2006. What do you remember about that?
A: When the first game came up against Sweden, I had to go get my grad suit. So my friend and I went into Port of Spain to get shoes to match my suit, and as we were heading over we listened to the game on the Maxi (public transport) radio. I got to watch the second half when I reached home. In the second game versus England, when Peter Crouch scored that goal against us, the whole of Trinidad went ballistic.
Q: What do you think of the level of play in MLS?
A: MLS is a big step for me and where I come from. The pace of the game is very high compared to Trinidad and great crowd support. Vancouver Whitecaps fill the stadium every game and the crowd makes it great to play football.
Q: What is your favourite memory in your career so far?
A: In 2009 with Joe Public F.C. we won five titles in one season. I think we created history, the only team ever to do that in Trinidad and Tobago.
Q: Who are your favourite players?
A: Ronaldinho and Messi. They have great skill.
Q: Favourite team?
A: I like Barcelona because of the way they keep the ball and play simple. Great chemistry.
Q: Favourite food and drink?
A: I like macaroni pie, chicken. And I like orange Gatorade.
Q: Favourite type of music?
A: I like soca (a musical development of traditional Trinidadian calypso).
Q: What do you think of Vancouver?
A: It’s a great city. I don’t know many places yet, but nice people who are very friendly. I look forward to meeting more people and seeing more of the city.
Great, thanks for your time Carlyle!