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16
Sat, Dec

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As long as the sport football has existed, goal scorers and goal creators have always been the most popular players.

Ask any child, teenager or adult for that matter, who their favourite footballer is and 99 times out of a 100, they will either call the name of a midfielder or a forward.

There are also a fair share of youngsters wanting to become goalkeepers. Those are the ones who enjoy diving through the air, rolling around and getting dirty, which goalies are required to do.

The plain and simple truth of the matter though is the so-called “flair players” get all the praise and, more often than not, win all the awards.

It therefore takes a very special defender to hold everyone’s attention. Sheldon Bateau is such a defender. At six feet, three inches tall, this solid 17-year-old sweeper back is an intimidating figure for anyone to come up against.

Just ask his rival attackers in the Secondary Schools Football League. They know only too well just how dominant the Fatima College captain is when called upon to do his duties in the backline.

As a matter of fact, one might even find it humorous how frequent the statement “this damn Bateau again” leaves the mouths of those supporting teams playing against Fatima. Too often for the opposition’s liking, surely.

This dominance arises from his uncompromising nature, his strength in the air and on the ground, his speed and how well he reads the game. Yes, he is the total package.

He too admits that as a little boy he wanted to be a striker, the guy who scores all the goals, but after trying his hand at defending a few times he realised what his true calling was.

Built in the mould of a Fabio Cannavaro, Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning defender and that year’s “Fifa World Player of the Year”, Bateau knows what success in the schools league feels like. As a 15-year-old, he was part of the Fatima team which won both the North and National Intercol titles in 2005.

In this, his final year playing for Fatima, the Form Six student would have liked nothing more than to lead his team to a title but was unable to do so as Fatima were pipped to the North Zone league crown by archrivals Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive, and was ousted from the Intercol competition at the semifinal stage by St Anthony’s College last week.

“It really hurts to lose the league, but I can’t complain because I know it was our fault. We missed too many chances to take control earlier in the season and we paid for it,” Bateau said.

As of next year, football enthusiasts can look forward to seeing him in the green and black of T&T Pro League outfit San Juan Jabloteh. If he has his way though, he will also be clad in the red, white and black of the Soca Warriors – something his coach at Fatima, Errol Mc Farlane, strongly believes is a possibility in the near future.

“He’s willing to learn, he plays hard and he also reads the game extremely well,” said McFarlane. “I’ve worked with him since he was very young and I’m confident that he has what it takes to go far.

“It’s difficult to say what is the best thing about Sheldon because there are so many good things. He’s an allround good player and he should end up in the national senior team some day,” Mc Farlane added.

Making the step up to the full national team would certainly be a natural progression for Bateau, as he has represented T&T at every age group since the age of 14.

He was also part of the T&T team which qualified for last year’s Under-17 World Cup in South Korea. This, to him, is his greatest achievement as a footballer to date.

It was however bittersweet for the St Ann’s native, as T&T lost all three of its group matches against Germany, Ghana and Columbia.

“The World Cup showed me how different the levels of play are between us and the other countries are. We were still playing school football when they were playing at a professional level. But we can learn a lot from it,” he said.

In 10 years, Bateau sees himself playing in one of Europe’s top leagues. His dream is to emulate the man whom he rates as the best defender in the world currently – Rio Ferdinand, by one day playing for English Premiership and European Champions League holders, Manchester United.

With Premiership clubs already expressing an interest in the youngster, who is to say that Bateau’s dreams won’t soon become a reality.

Who knows? One day Trinbagonians might turn on their televisions and see him lining up alongside Ferdinand and Ferdinand’s teammate, Portuguese goalscoring ace Christiano Ronaldo, who happens to be Bateau’s favourite player. Surprise, surprise.