Caledonia AIA striker Jamal Gay is up for any football challenge, however, the former Joe Public marksman has two main aims on his mind at present; the 2012 CONCACAF Champions Cup and playing abroad soon.
The promising young forward, still only 23, has had his ups and downs however; but has matured with the experience he gained in the past and now the former ElDo' man is planning to let his football do the talking.
Jamal, began his professional career with Joe Public, then joined German Second Division club Rot-Weiss Oberhausen. Went out on a brief loan-spell with Turkish Club Dardanel Spor A.Ş, before returning home to join one of Trinidad and Tobago's 2011 more progressive teams; Caledonia AIA.
This proved to be a move that would bring home 5 trophies in 2011/12 starting with the; First Citizens Cup, CFU Club Championship, Lucozade Sport Goal Shield, The FA-Cup and also the K&S trophy (Guyana).
But before we proceed, let’s get to know a little about Jamal. At school level, the big striker single-handedly led his team El Dorado Senior Comprehensive to the 2007 Inter-Col finals but only to be disappointed by a 2-0 defeat in the hands of Naparima College.
However, throughout the Inter-Col series, Jamal was a constant threat to opposing defense. He had the physique of an adult, could hold-up the ball with his strength, was composed and most of all, could score goals, bringing to mind a young Stern John who ironically enough, happens to be a player he admires.
As for his accomplishments, Gay was named one of the top five 2007 SSFL Players of the Year and was also the league's top scorer with 12 goals (9 Inter-Col and 3 SSFL).
Despite also being named to the 2007 SSFL All-Star team, he was omitted from the All-Star team that toured Jamaica under head coach, Shawn Cooper .
One of the reasons that might have been was that Jamal was on his way to win his first international cap for Trinidad and Tobago, the striker had something bigger in store.
In-fact, he was so impressive for El Dorado that his form did not go unnoticed; Jamal was quickly called up by then coach Francisco Maturana to play for the Trinidad and Tobago senior football team. Previous to that the rookie striker never played for any Trinidad and Tobago youth teams and was called straight out of high school to represent the Soca Warriors senior team.
The La Horquetta-born player went on the make his debut for T&T in 2008 against El Salvador which T&T won (1-0), and though he did not score he did manage to played a full 90 minutes. He got his first international goal against Barbados on May 11 that same year in only his third game.
The lanky striker eventually joined the Under-20 team and was now a potent figure for the team which was bound for Egypt (2009) but it came at a price. Jamal was one of the 11 players banned by the TTFF for competing for their schools in the 2008 SSFL competition, rather than the 2008 Super League competition, which was to be used as a build-up for the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt.
El Dorado (aka the "Blue Thunder") was hit the hardest as they would lose the service of 3 of their top players; Jamal Gay, Dacien John and Tobago-born Daneil Cyrus. As a result the Blue Thunder foundered and St Augustine (Inter-Col) and San Juan (SSFL) respectively reclaimed East glories.
This however, did not stop Jamal from continuing his fine form. The striker led the T&T Under 20 team to two Super League titles, winning the Super League itself and then the knockout competition.
Soon after the striker left T&T and joined German Second Division club Rot-Weiss Oberhausen. He could not, however, continue his goal-scoring form in Egypt and T&T was sent home early as they crashed out 2-1 to host Egypt, lost 2-1 to Italy and a 0-0 tie against Paraguay, games in which the player failed to score.
Caledonia AIA leave Trinidad and Tobago for the US today, where they will kick off their CONCACAF Champions League campaign against MLS club Seattle Sounders on Thursday. And despite the hectic preparations, Jamal still managed to take the time off to do an exclusive for us here at the Soca Warriors Online (SWO).
You were instrumental in El Dorado's historic win when your team knocked out defending champs San Juan out of the 2007 RBTT Inter-Col competition. In 2008, you scored the winner when T&T Under-20 team edged Angostura 1976 FC Phoenix 1-0 at Canaan, Bon Accord to claim the b-mobile National Super League title. You were top goal-scorer for T&T Under 20 and Under 23 teams respectively. You were also instrumental in helping Joe Public demolish New England Revolution in the 2008 Champions League Cup. Now with Caledonia AIA, you copped many awards including the 2012 First Citizens Cup, CFU Club Championship, Lucozade Sport Goal Shield, K&S trophy (Guyana) and the FA-Cup all of which you played a pivotal role. And, I am sure that there are many other awards I have not mentioned. What would you say are some of your proudest moments on the field and who would you say are responsible for you being such a talent?
JG: My proudest would definitely be playing at the 2009 Under 20 World Cup in Egypt. Second, scoring my first international goal against Barbados on May 11th, 2008 and what made it more special was that it was on Mother’s Day. Well behind every successful individual there is always a support system; my support system has always been my mother and elder brother, Walter. He would always be kicking ball in the yard. I looked up to him. He inspired me to play.
You have had some great success in the past and you seemed to have a knack for scoring goals, a target-man so to speak. However, in 2011 you had an unsuccessful trial with Toronto FC and then in 2012 it was reported in the T&T Newsday that you were on the verge of signing with Major League Soccer club New England Revolution. Do you see yourself playing abroad anytime soon?
JG: Well the New England Revolution deal fell apart due to some of the terms and conditions and recently I was suppose to go FC Zurich, but I experienced a major set back acquiring a visa, due to the delay they eventually signed another striker. But I am confident that when the time is right I will be back playing abroad.
In 2009, it was reported that you signed a two year deal with German Second Division club Rot-Weiss Oberhausen. A year later you returned to T&T and had a run-out with some local team (Dream Team) in the UWI employees Super Football League Knockout competition before eventually joining Caledonia AIA in 2011. What happened in Germany and, how was the experience while there. Can you give us an inside view on this from your end?
JG: First of all I never played with Dream team in the Super League (laugh). In Germany there was a change in staff and the new coach had a new format and I was now coming off two successive injuries, it became evident that I would not be getting much playing time, so I opted to leave. I believe every experience you can learn from.
You have 10 senior team caps and 2 goals for Trinidad and Tobago senior team. You made your debut for T&T as a teenager and have played with some of T&T's finest locally based players and also a few foreign based as well. How was the experience while playing for T&T and what were some of the highlights you would like to share with us while being a senior team player?
JG: The experience was one that I enjoyed greatly and dreamed of at a young age, one of the highlights for me was playing my first senior time game at the age of 18 against El Salvador and we won 1-0.
Who are some of the T&T and, international players you adore and, why?
JG: I like Stern John a lot with him being a former El Dorado player like myself and the fact that he has the most goals for T&T.
In October 2011, T&T Under 23 Olympic Team did very well at the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Then they returned home unbeaten to Mexico (1-1), Uruguay (1-1) and Ecuador (1-1). I thought that was very impressive. In January 2012 they took it further and managed to slip pass the senior team of Finland (1-0) you being the goal-scorer. Then something interesting happened and everything fell apart at the Olympic qualifying games in California. The team was brutally beaten by Mexico (7-1), tied Panama (1-1) and was dumped out of competition (2-0) by Honduras. My question is; why in your humble opinion do you feel T&T went wrong and in the future how do you feel we can prevent these sort of things from happening to us. And, which players you felt should have been there with you guys?
JG: We were definitely coming off a successful run, but I think personally that when some players who helped us win those previous games were excluded from the team the chemistry changed drastically. The reality is football is a team sport and we were not playing as one unit, a lot of responsibilities were placed on a few players and the others needed to step up but were still reliant on a certain bunch. I think we could have used a fit Robert Primus and the experienced of Khaleem Hyland and Glenroy Samuel.
What would you say is your proudest and worst moments on the field?
JG: My proudest thus far would be scoring against Mexico in Guadalajara and my worst would be that horrific defeat to Mexico.
Who were some of the best players you've played with and against?
JG: While playing in Germany I played against players like Mario Gomez, Jens Lehman and Samir Khedira, they were impressive. Locally, I like playing with Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino just to name a few.
If you had to do it all again, what would you change?
JG: I would not have left Germany without securing a next team.
You played under a few coaches well (Jamaal Shabazz, Russell Latapy, Francisco Maturana, Angus Eve, Zoran Vranes, your coach in Germany and at El Dorado, etc,) - Who do you feel really helped you with your game and, you liked playing for?
JG: All have helped me to improve and develop my game, however, I believe Trevor Spicer my coach at El Dorado and Zoran Vranes have been the most influential.
How was the experience at the 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Championship in Egypt. And I believe the team we had there with the inclusion of English-born Jake Thomson was pretty decent. Were you surprised T&T did make it out of their group?
JG: The experience was well appreciated and it was indeed surprising that we did not make it out of the group stage.
You have played with many young talented T&T players and if you have to pick 7/8 players you feel are capable of playing in the top leagues, who would they be and why?
JG: Like I mentioned previously; Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones, Nuru Muhammed, Glenroy Samuel, Marcus Joseph, Shahdon Winchester, Sheldon Bateau and Jomal Williams. They all have God given abilities and strong work ethic.
Now that Caledonia AIA will be playing in the 2012 CONCACAF Champions League and with your experience playing at that level. What can we expect to see from Jamal Gay. And how is Caledonia taking this tournament. Can you see them making it out of the group; give us your opinion on how you feel they will get on.
JG: As a striker I would like to score a lot more goals. Caledonia is approaching this tournament as we have done for all tournaments throughout last season. We have been exceedingly successful in previous games due to the hard work and professionalism by both players and staff.
In your humble opinion and, experience off playing aboard. What do you feel is missing from T&T football, its players and the local League?
JG: Firstly, I think T&T does not see football as a avenue that can be readily marketed, hence the lack of sponsorship. The unity and support that was experienced during the 2006 World Cup campaign has deteriorated. We need more togetherness amongst the football fraternity/hierarchy. Everyone is studying individual and short term benefits instead of group and long term benefits.
Do you get any "ole talk" about your last name (chuckling).....
JG: Sometimes (laugh out loud). But my name has become synonymous with local football, its going to eventually become a household name. lol.
What do you feel is your strength on the field and what do you feel you need to work on to better yourself as a player?
JG: I can play very well with my back against the goal. One of my strengths is using my height and strength to get behind defenders. I think I could work on my control of the ball; I'm working on that currently.
Who is your favorite team of all times and why?
JG: Everybody who knows me knows of my love for ARSENAL. I love the coach, the style of football they play, especially in the era of Thierry Henry.
Have you ever visited the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) and if so, what are your thoughts and what do you feel we can do more to keep you returning for frequent visits?
JG: From time to time I check out the site, it’s the only local sport website that is update with professional football both local and international, kudos to you all; I wish you all were advertised. I think it always good to hear different point of views but as human beings, users will always have there favorites and criticism is sometimes a bit too harsh. At times however, criticism is necessary for development and personal growth. Thank very much for the interview, God Bless you all, thanks for the support.
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