Wed, Jul

He’s one of the eye catching ones coming out of the recent Trinidad and Tobago Under 16 campaign at the CFU Youth Cup. And now, despite being forced to miss part of the tournament through injury, young midfielder Leston Paul is hoping to make a name for himself in the national kit.

Paul was born and grew up in Mayaro and has his ambitions set on moving on from kicking ball on the sandy beaches to representing this country at the highest level.

Several of the players he would have seen carrying the nation’s hopes at the 2006 World Cup would have had a similar upbringing to him, particularly Scottish-based striker Collin Samuel but Paul cannot recall seeing much of them in the past, particularly Russell Latapy. He can only go by what he has heard and what he would have seen during the final stages of T&T’s qualifying campaign. Surely that is something he will want to relive, particularly as there is so much local television stations around today and so many DVDs on display.

Current US College based player Ryan Stewart is one who Paul’s commends for showing him a bit of the game and he knows a thing or two about Jerren Nixon, particularly because he returned to shed some light on North East Stars after playing the game for much of his professional career in Europe.

“Jerren Nixon is my favourite local player and that’s because I was able to  see him a lot in the Pro League playing for Stars, I didn’t know too much about him before that. I also know Ryan Stewart pretty well because he taught me a lot about passing and controlling the ball,” Paul told TTFF Media.

“Zinedine Zidane is my favourite international player and I like Dwight Yorke from the national team. I try to compare myself to Ronaldinho. I know a lot about Latapy because he did some good stuff for us this time but I haven’t had the chance to know more about him in the past. Players my age haven’t had the chance to see much of him on television. It would be good if we can see what he and other past players did on TV, you know like old matches and goal highlights and so. A lot of other people always talk about them but we in this age group were not around to know much at that time,” Paul added, sounding easily excited about the chance to taste more of the action, even if in delayed fashion.

Today he can easily see a lot of European football on cable television which is a norm for him in the morning period as he gets off his bed.

“Normally  I get up at six, thank God for the day, then take a jog on the beach and play some ball with friends, passing and trapping the ball. I like to take in some of the football on TV as well and it’s basically the same in the evening,” the ex-North Eastern College and current St Mary’s College student says.

And what about training, maybe with a club? Paul says even though he has been attached to the Defence Force set up, the distance has prevented him from undergoing a regular training programme. “I go at times but it’s difficult because of the distance so I depend on the football we have up here and then of course when the national team is in training I get to be with them,” he adds.

Certainly, talent like Paul and others would benefit more if further investment can be made in them to train under better conditions, even with living facilities. This is the type of talent the stake holders can ensure is well nurtured particularly if those stake holders intend to follow up on the success of the “Soca Warriors”.

“It’s been a good experience with the Under 16 team. The competition was of a higher standard this year. It helped to show us what the international experience is like and what we can expect when we get to the next level,” Paul commented on the experience of the recent CFU Under 16 Youth Cup in which T&T defeated Jamaica 2-0 to claim third place.

“I think I got better since the last tournament (in 2005) and the coach (Anton Corneal) showed is stuff that we didn’t know about before and this has helped our football. I was very disappointed when the injury put me out of the second round but now I know how to recover well and I will be trying to get back to full strength.”

And what’s on his Christmas wish-list? Something that may come some months later!

“I hope that we can go on to do well in the qualifiers next year and qualify for the Under 17 World Cup. I also want to make it on to the senior national team and make a positive contribution,” Paul concluded.