In the past not many American-born players ever got the opportunity to represent Trinidad and Tobago on the football field. However, one of T&T's latest imports Andre Fortune, feels fortunate to have been given the chance to play for a country he so dearly admires and loves.
The hard-nose midfielder is not short of skill and technique and has rightfully claimed a permanent spot on the Junior Warriors team. His place on the team came at the expense of the well talked about Matthew Woo-Ling, a player who is regarded as one of the better youth midfielders currently based in T&T.
Current TTFF Technical Director Anton Corneal lived in High Point, North Carolina which is just about 90 miles away from Fortune's home and he has kept tabs on the player's progress which eventually led to a T&T call-up.
In 2009 Andre was invited to play with Trinidad's SKHY FC in the Dallas Cup. He was invited by Club owner and current TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene. Andre was instrumental in helping them win their first game. Current U-17 captain Brendon Creed was also on the team.
Andre meanwhile brings a lot to the table for T&T’s Junior Warriors. He can make tackles, his passing is superb, he makes himself available at all times and can strike the ball from long distances; hence the reason he finished as T&T's top goal scorer in the recently concluded U-17 Youth World Cup qualifiers in Panama.
One of his goals will always be remembered by many T&T fans and despite Brent Sam's spectacular free-kick against Costa Rica it was Fortune who really got things going for T&T. His 33rd minute goal seemed to have shocked the Costa Ricans as T&T ran away 2-0 winners. The victory was the first for any T&T team over Costa Rica in competition since the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup when goals by Arnold Dwarika and Mickey Trotman sent T&T into the semifinals. T&T had never beaten Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier at any level until that fateful day.
After T&T eliminated the Junior Ticos they qualified for the quarterfinals where they had to play the host and if Panama had done their homework they would have known that Fortune was the danger-man on the team. So said, so done, it happened again, the young starlet managed to sneak in and score an almost identical goal that gave T&T a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately though, T&T lost 4-2 against Panama and was eliminated from the tournament in the process.
The talented midfielder is not letting the ball out of his sight though and still feels that he has a long way to go. He told the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) that he felt a joy in his heart when he scored for T&T that he still cannot get over, but he is not letting it go to his head.
Fortune calls T&T his second home and one of his favorite places in the world that he likes to visit. He loves the food, the climate and the culture. He is also very grateful to be given the chance to play for T&T and always cherishes his time with the team.
Fortune has always been encouraged to play football by his family from a tender age. He views his dad (Andre Sr.) especially as the one who has played a major role in his life and helped him become the player he is today.
In early 2011 Andre was invited to train with the United States U-15 team and was also part of the U.S. U-15 Academy League. At age eleven he was spotted by former Tottenham Hotspurs player Steve Archibald while he was in the U.S on business. Archibald was so impressed by what he saw, that it led to Fortune being given the opportunity to spend two weeks at European giants FC Barcelona’s Football Academy. In August 2011 Andre was also invited to train with Manchester City where he suffered a fractured leg in his third scrimmage game with City's U-15 team.
The Dre experiment.
1. Andre, prior to playing for the Trinidad and Tobago National Under 17 football team, did you ever visit Trinidad and Tobago? If yes, how was your visit and what was your general impression of the country?
AF: Yes. As I grew up, my parents made a strong effort to ensure that I understood the culture and the country. I visited Trinidad & Tobago around 7 or 8 times prior to travelling for the national team. It has always been a place that I enjoy visiting because of the weather, food and the people. It is by far my favorite place to be. I like to think of it as my second home.
2. Was it hard for you to adjust to your new teammates, coach and country, if so to speak?
AF: It was not too difficult simply because I grew up as a part of the culture and I have been used to the accent for a while. Because I had been able to travel to the country before, I was fairly accustomed to the customs. My teammates and coaches welcomed me to the team and were very friendly, which also made for a reasonable transition.
3 Who on the current U-17 team do you admire the most as a player and why?
AF: One player that I have grown to admire over my time with the team is Shannon Gomez. His professionalism on and off the field is truly remarkable to me. He is one of the few guys that you will always find doing everything to the best of his ability, with no complaints. I have been able to learn from everyone on the team, but I think I learned the most valuable information from him.
4. You finished the recently concluded U-17 World Championship Qualifiers in Panama as T&T's top goal scorer. You seem to be heading in the direction of being another high scoring midfielder. You also displayed a lot of grit in your game as well. Describe the feeling after scoring those goals and what made you take those outside shots.
AF: Talking to my dad after the Canada game and a couple of the coaches during training the day before the Costa Rica game, I was reminded of a couple opportunities to shoot that I had not taken. This caused me to be keener in taking advantage of any space I had around the box to shoot. A lot went through my mind as I scored both goals, but the most prominent thought at that moment was the fact that I scored an important goal in an important international game while representing myself, my family and my country. I had even envisioned one of the many times my dad and I were out training on a local field by my house working on finishing with both feet. It was a mixed moment of happiness and disbelief. Up to two years ago, I can remember watching U-17 tournaments on the television and I couldn't imagine being able to represent a national team, yet alone scoring goals. They are moments I will never forget.
5. If the U.S. U-20 team comes knocking on your door will you consider playing for them, or can we look forward to seeing you suit up for the T&T U-20 team in the future?
AF: I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with the T&T U-17 team and greatly look forward to representing a national team for Trinidad & Tobago again. However, I cannot take my participation in the previous team for granted and assume I am in the plans of the coach for the U-20 team. With that said, I would love to play for Trinidad & Tobago again.
6. T&T played the U.S. National U-17 team in Florida in preparation for the qualifiers in Panama and I assume you played both games (4-0 L and 2-2 T). Was it hard to play against your country of birth and possibly some of your former teammates? As you may already know, the U.S team did not qualify for the finals either, were you surprised?
AF: There was no difficulty in playing against them for me. It was similar to playing against some of them at the club level, but this was just on a higher level with more at stake. I made a decision to represent Trinidad & Tobago and that is where my mind was during the game. Knowing some of my opponents had no effect during the game, given that it was a competitive international friendly. In preparation for the tournament, I believe everyone viewed the U.S. as a powerful team, but in football, as in every other sport, the games have to be played and anything can happen. It was not the expected result for most, but it happens.
7. Playing at the international level is a totally different experience from playing in a school league or for a club academy. What exactly did you learn and would you say that your game has improved as a result of this experience?
AF: Comparing the international level to my past experiences, it is a lot faster and generally has an extra value, or passion, since everyone is representing his/her country. I had never played in such an atmosphere before, surrounded by that many fans and media. It supported the idea of having to block out anything from the side and staying focused to accomplish the task at hand.
8. Are you currently attached to any club academy and what school do you go to?
AF: I am currently playing for CASL Chelsea Academy based in Raleigh, North Carolina while attending Needham B. Broughton High School, also in Raleigh, North Carolina.
9. Who would you say is responsible for helping you to be the player you are today?
AF: There are many people that have made contributions to me as I have been developing in the game, such as my extended family (grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts), coaches and family friends; but those mainly responsible are my parents and my younger brother. They have been heavily involved with my football from the beginning and have always supported me in my aspirations. I've spent countless hours with my dad and brother on the field, occasionally joined by my mom, to help better me as a player. My dad has invested a lot of his time and energy in making my brother and I better players, and my brother has used that to also push me and keep me on my toes so I can keep improving. Despite the fact that my mother has not played football, she still has an extensive knowledge and is always offering specific, unbiased information on how I am performing and where I need to improve. My parents' influence has kept me relatively on track and has been worth a lot to me. I may not thank them enough for it, but they are heavily responsible and I am thankful and grateful for all of their hard work to help me get towards where I want to be.
10. What are your future plans as far as football (soccer) goes? Do you have aspirations to play in Europe one day?
AF: As you know, I have been blessed with the opportunity to represent T&T in the 2013 CONCACAF under 17 World Cup qualifiers. With the talent that God has given me, if I keep working hard who knows what may happen in the future. If by the grace of God, and with the support of my family and others , I do make it as a professional footballer, it would be a dream come true.
11. Who would you say is your idol and which player/s do you admire the most? Which team is your favorite, both internationally and at club level?
AF: My favorite players are probably Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Neymar. I really admire their dribbling abilities and ability to pick a pass while still being considered as goal scoring midfielders. At the club level I am a huge supporter of FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC. Internationally, I like Spain and Brazil, and naturally support Trinidad & Tobago whenever they (we) play.
12. The 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup will be hosted in the USA. Are you planning on making any trips to support T&T? And have you ever seen the T&T senior team play? Tell us a bit about the T&T games or players you like.
AF: Because of where the games are, there are no current plans to see the team play, but I would love the opportunity to go and support. I was fortunate enough to travel to Germany in 2006 for the World Cup and watch all three of the games the senior team participated in. It was one of the first experiences I had watching live games and it kept me fully entertained throughout. I was entertained by the team on the field and the enthusiasm of the fans. I met players like Shaka Hislop, Avery John, Marvin Andrews, Brent Sancho and Keon Daniel when I was younger, so naturally I have supported them in their endeavors, but I make an effort to follow as many players as I can.
13. Have you ever visited the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) and if yes, what can we do to help make your visit more frequent?
AF: I have been on the website a couple of times when I am free just to catch up on any news on the teams. As with many people, I'm sure I would visit a mobile app more often.
14. To all the fans out there who follow you, would you like to say something to them?
AF: I think I can speak for the team and the staff in saying thank you for the support. Everyone on the team appreciates it and it helps us to move forward. We understand that there are some disappointments because we were unable to qualify, but hopefully we can try again in the future. In every prayer, we thank God for each other, our families and the people at home. The support is very important to us and we hope it can continue.
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