Former Naparima College striker Shahdon Winchester recently interacted with the Soca Warriors Online (SWO), telling us about his new found home and how he is adjusting to life in Finland.
The Princes Town-born footballer signed with Finland Premier League club FF Jaro only weeks after his 21st birthday.
Coming from a country like Trinidad where the temperature on average is 33ºC to one of the coldest places in Europe where the temperature can average 7ºC is a huge challenge; but the striker is eager to make the best of his opportunity.
Winchester made his debut for T&T at age 18 against Antigua & Barbuda and has two senior international caps for his country with the other against Haiti, and now looks forward to getting more caps under his belt.
Winchester meanwhile will be remembered for his goals while playing for the T&T U-23 team against Uruguay at the 2011 Pan American Games in a 1-1 tie and in the 1-1 draw against Panama at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final round in Los Angeles last year.
At school level Winchester was named one of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) top five Players of the Year in 2009 for his previous year’s accomplishment. He also took home an individual award for best forward that year.
He led Naparima to both the 2007 and 2008 National Big Five League and South Zone leagues respectively. Winchester took it further in 2009 when he single handedly destroyed St Augustine’s Green Machine Coca Cola InterCol title hopes and its bid to make a clean sweep in the Secondary Schools Football League. Naparima defeated the Green Machine 2-0, however Winchester could not have saved his school in the final as the former champs bowed out to El Dorado.
Winchester also left his mark on the T&T Pro League before jetting off to Finland when he scored a hattirck against neighbours Central FC in a 3-0 win which spoilt Terry Fenwick’s debut as head coach of the "Sharks". He also recorded his 7th league goal of the season in the process.
In Finland he scored on his debut for FF Jaro against SJK and has already amassed 4 goals in 10 appearances for the Club. Unfortunately, after his appearance against SJK (the second time around) he had to undergo a sport hernia operation which has so far kept him on the Club’s injury list.
Below are a few questions with the talented center forward.
1. How are you adjusting to life in one of the coldest countries in Europe, Finland? Tell us about your ups and downs?
SW: It’s definitely a culture shock, but I am adjusting quite fine at this moment. However, at first it was a bit difficult because coming from the Caribbean to meet weather like -21ºC (wind chill factor) would be hard for anyone. In my experience here thus far would consider a down to be a more mental one, like for example when there are double sessions. It was a bit difficult at times when after the first training, you come home to eat and sleep then you have to go back out in the cold for the next session. The hot and cold gets to you. The discomfort caused by the weather when playing is really tough. At times you can't feel your fingers and toes. On the upside, signing my first European contract was a thrill. It felt good to get out here, try something new, see where I'm at in terms of football and try to better my game from an overall standpoint. I also thank God, family members, and true friends for the continued support and with that coupled with my ambition I was able to make the necessary adjustment.
2. You recently signed with Finland Premier League club FF Jaro becoming the second Trinidadian to play for the Club, the first was Akil DeFreitas. Since signing you have already scored a few goals averaging a goal every two games. Then you got injured and you’ve been out for a while now. Can you tell us a bit about your game, the League in Finland, your injury and when you are expected to make a return?
SW: My game is more or less the same as when I left Trinidad. The only difference now where my football is concerned is that I`m more focused. When there is need for extra work in my game I put it in, hence my scoring average. The League is not one of the top leagues in Europe like England or Scotland, but it is at a higher level than T&T’s Pro League. The intensity of the game, the skill of every individual and also the mentality of everyone is right up to standard. The injury that I had surgery for is not a new injury, I have been experiencing this for quite some time with a little pain and discomfort, but I just never really thought it to be that big of a problem until I came across here. It became very bothersome and eventually it was diagnosed as a sports hernia, so I had to have an operation. It was a successful operation and by the grace of God recovery is coming along fine. I`ll be back up fully in maybe a week from now, I'm praying.
3. I've seen you play a few times and in my opinion you fit the center forward position more than an all out striker. Again, this is just my opinion and I base it on your skills where you can run at defenders. What position do you prefer on the field and are you a regular starter at the FF Jaro?
SW: To me as a footballer it doesn't matter the position I play once I`m playing I am happy, but the position I prefer is the center forward and yes I`m a regular starter with the Club since I have signed.
4. If you had to compare the T&T League to the Finland Premier League, apart from the crowd support would you say there is a big gap?
SW: Believe it or not there is a big gap. This is just my opinion, but there is a stark difference in the passion for the game, the drive to give 100% every time you are on the field, the willingness to learn, the focus to get a positive result whether it is in training sessions or official games and also the professionalism of the players. There is no question about the talent that exists in the Caribbean as we can compete anywhere in the world, but we need to learn how to take ourselves to the next level. Once these attributes are ingrained in us the rest is history. But first we have to realize our flaws and work hard on remedying them and taking our football to a higher level.
5. Being away for the first time in your career, what do you miss the most about T&T?
SW: Actually I miss a lot of things like the warm weather, the food, the partying (laugh), but most of all though, I miss my family and friends. Out here it’s a totally different world where everything is not what I'm accustomed to. However, it's all about the sacrifice for me to do better in my life. I want to also mention that I see Ataullah Guerra when our teams meet. He lives in a different city so we don't hang-out at all, it would have been nice to meet him more often though.
6. Regarding T&T, obviously you would be disappointed in our Olympic team’s performance in LA last year. Where did you feel we went wrong?
SW: I think we lacked international experience, not individually but as a team. We had players with some experience, but that certainly wasn't enough to get us through as the statistics showed while our players were playing in the Pro League and college football the players from other teams were playing in top flight leagues. Also, we can always look for an excuse and say this and that, but it is up to us the players to do what is necessary to get ourselves on the same level as the other players we are competing against or even higher.
7. Which is your favorite football club and country in the world?
SW: I would have to say my favourite club team is Chelsea and my country where football is concerned is England.
8. Who is your idol?
SW: Didier Drogba is my idol.
9. What is your main aim as far as your career goes?
SW: As far as my career goes my goal is to be remembered as one of the greatest from Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the world for what I have done on the field, and to make my family & friends proud. I know it’s a lot to accomplish, but I hope to put my head down and work hard to accomplish this.
10. You were at trials with many teams including Song Lam Nghe An, FC Dallas, PFC Sevastopol and Scottish giants Celtics FC. Can you tell us a bit more about what happened and why no deal ever materialized?
SW: Actually I had signed with Song Lam Nghe for a year on-loan. What happened was that my international clearance came in after the transfer window and that barred me from being able to play. However, my contract is a valid contract so right now it’s currently in the hands of FIFA so they would have to pay me off for the year. At FC Dallas they didn't want me. They said I have the talent, but I needed a little more time. I know to myself that I didn't perform well during the trial period so I wasn't expecting any different news. At PFC Sevastopol and Celtics FC they both wanted me, but my club president and the teams couldn't come to an agreement.
11. You've played in the T&T Pro League for quite some time and you've also played for T&T at the youth and Olympic level. As a result you've played with many of your countrymen. Who in your opinion can be top players?
SW: Trinidad & Tobago has a lot of good players with a lot of potential, and in my opinion I expect players like Joevin Jones, Daneil Cyrus, young Matthew Woo Ling and even Jomal Williams to become top players. Also, there's a few more I can mention like players from North East Stars, Central FC, Caledonia AIA, but at the end of the day it all comes down to them and how bad they want to make it. It’s a bit difficult for them though because to my knowledge W Connection is the only club that gives players that opportunity. They operate very professional and they want to really help players succeed in their careers.
12. Who would you say is responsible for you being the player you are today?
SW: A lot of people are responsible for me being the player I am today. Firstly, my dad who is deceased, was the one that started me off playing football at age 8 and he even coached me for a bit at youth level at W Connection. Then after that Sean Cooper and Dunstan Williams were mainly responsible for taking me through the ranks of school and youth level football. Then I progressed to the senior team and Stuart Charles-Fevrier took it from there.
13. Who is your favorite player/s in the game both locally and internationally?
SW: My favourite players both locally and internationally are Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy, before they retired. But currently I don't really look at anyone that much. However, I'm highly influenced by Didier Drogba.
14. Who are some of the best players you've played with and against?
SW: Thus far in my career I have played with and against a lot of players likeKevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Daneil Cyrus, Jan-Micheal Williams and Clyde Leon just to mention a few. Also some top players played against were on the Mexican and Honduran teams during the Olympic qualifiers in LA.
15. Have you ever visited the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) and if yes, what can we do to help make your visit more frequent? You also have many supporters at SWO, do you have any words for them?
SW: I think the site is very well organised and structured; it’s a home away from home if so to speak. It's always up to date with important information. That's why when people need to know what’s going on in T&T they can always log on to the site and be informed. I visit the site quite often actually. As for all my true supporters, I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting me whether I'm up or down, because that goes a long way in an athlete’s career and I just want you to know that I appreciate it very much - Thank you guys.
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