Of course I love football. It’s like a gift. Growing up I played cricket, tennis, all different sports. The sport I played best was football. It’s the sport I love.”
Leston Paul may be a football whiz, but he still has trouble mastering the latest version of Fifa World Cup on PlayStation Three. The T&T Football Federation’s (TTFF) 2007 male Under-17 Youth Footballer of the Year, admitted that as much as he loved the game, his efforts on the field had surpassed anything that happened behind the electronic game consul.
He added: “Of course I love football. It’s like a gift. Growing up I played cricket, tennis, all different sports. The sport I played best was football. It’s the sport I love.”
The award Paul took home at the TTFF’s annual ceremony, held at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, a couple months ago, was not his first high-profile accolade for quality sportsmanship.
In fact, it was his second consecutive award.
Making his mark during the Fifa 2007 Under-17 World Cup in Korea earned Paul, 18, the latest trophy.
“Coming from the countryside in a country where almost everybody plays football, I was the one chosen. I’m very proud of myself. Truly, I thought I deserved it, looking (back) at my performance on the field overall,” he said.
Using lessons learnt from the sport, continued to work to his advantage.
This utility player, who loves the central-midfield position, proudly declared that football taught him things which he now applied in his daily life.
Paul said: “It’s teaching me about discipline and the path I have to take and do what’s best for me. In the game of football, you have to be disciplined. Football teaches you about sportsmanship and with that comes respect.”
Training at Sunderland
Earlier this year, Paul was called up for national duty with the senior football team.
Around that time, he was offered a one-week trial at United Kingdom-based professional club Sunderland. He accepted the latter offer.
He was one of many who trained with the club’s U-18 squad during that period hoping to secure a reserve position.
Paul returned to T&T fascinated by his short, but sweet experience, which he described as “eye opening”.
“It was good to see the Caribbean guys could compete at the international level. The English teams have all the facilities. That’s their advantage. We have the talent.” he said.
“I’ve learnt that I must have the mind-set and the ability to work hard in order to make it out there.” he added.
“Meeting Kenwyne Jones, Carlos Edwards and Dwight Yorke was an honour knowing that they are my countrymen. Everywhere we went people were talking about Kenwyne Jones. That made me proud,” he said.
He’s keeping his fingers crossed that he’d get the nod from Sunderland’s technical team to return to the club.
Meanwhile, he awaits his CXC results.
“If professional football does not work out, I have plans for my education I want to be an engineer. I have not decided on the specialty,” he disclosed.
Guided by faith
Originally from Mayaro, Paul describes himself as a disciplined, caring, God fearing young man.
The only boy and youngest of three children, he has never been bereft of love and family support, which he said is unconditional.
Paul considered his level of growth in football over the past eight years was “big.”
The modest national U-20 player, who came through the ranks from his days as a player attached to the national under-15 squad, considered himself fortunate to have achieved so much in such a short time.
Coming up through the ranks gives Paul the feeling of worth and he’s convinced his accomplishments were linked to his beliefs.
“Call on God for everything; he will help you. Always believe in God. Trust in God in everything you do. Put God first,” said Paul.
As steeped as he is in football, Paul knows he can’t get away from one question: Are you related to celebrated local musician Leston Paul?
“No! People always want to know if we are related. There’s no relation. I’m not into music in that way,” he laughed, adding “I do love gospel and R&B.”
No place like home
Returning to Mayaro puts him in a state of complete relaxation.
There, he would meet and share the company of his closest friends.
It seems they are budding comedians because they always make Paul laugh.