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From making his Trinidad & Tobago debut in a World Cup Qualifier to playing in the UEFA Europa League with the Netherlands’ AZ Alkmaar, Levi Garcia has had a busy 2016. He is a rising prospect and a potential CONCACAF star, who has eyes on a long and rewarding career. The 19-year-old took some time to speak with about his young career and his future endeavours.

When did you start to play football?
I started to play football when I was 6 years old. Since I was very young, I always liked football. It is my favorite sport. Growing up, football was on my mind all the time and it was clear that is what I wanted to do with my life.

You made your senior debut earlier this year at just 18-years-old, scoring two goals in a 3-2 win over St. Vincent & the Grenadines. How did it feel to be the youngest-ever Trinidadian to play in a World Cup qualifier?
It was a wonderful feeling for me. It is a moment I will never forget. To even score two goals on my debut and help my country secure an important three points in the campaign was the best thing of that day. It gave us the momentum to qualify for the Hexagonal Round of World Cup Qualifying. Not many teenagers get this opportunity, so I was grateful for it. 

Are there any footballers to whom you look for inspiration?
I look up to Neymar. He is a world class football player. He works very hard and you can see how his hard work pays off for club and country. He is always committed and is still quite young. As it relates to Trinidad & Tobago, I look up to Ataulla Guerra, who played for Trinidad in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Dwight Yorke. Yorke put Trinidad & Tobago football on the map by winning English Premier League and Champions League titles with Manchester United. He is a hero for our country.

Do you have any memories of Trinidad & Tobago’s participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup?
I was about eight-years-old at the time. There was a lot of hype in Trinidad & Tobago. There were smiling faces everywhere. The twin island really united from this tournament. Arguably, it was one of our best sporting memories. As I am a professional now, one of my aims is to help Trinidad & Tobago qualify for the World Cup. I hope it is 2018.

How are you enjoying your football with AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands?
I am thoroughly enjoying my football with AZ Alkmaar. I am learning something new every day and I feel the Netherlands is a good place to develop young talent. I am grateful for this opportunity and I feel it has helped me develop technically, as well as improve on my crosses as a winger.

Your club AZ Alkmaar will play Lyon in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 32 in February. How do you rate your team’s chances of progressing in this tournament?
I am very confident in my team’s ability to do well in this competition. We have good team chemistry with quality players. We want to go all the way. By finishing fourth in the league last season, we showed we are no pushovers. Now we want to prove that we can do well in Europe.

Would you say the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Jamaica was a turning point in your young career?
It was a turning point as it gave me the opportunity to trial in the Netherlands. Despite not qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, I am happy I did my best in that tournament to land myself a pro deal in Europe. It was one of my dreams to play overseas and to accomplish that was a success for me.

What is your ultimate goal as a professional football player?
My ultimate goal is to be the best footballer I can be, be a good motivator, as well as be a good influence on youths and the younger generation of footballers.

What advice do you have for young players who aspire to become professional football players?
All I can say is to never give up. It doesn’t matter the situation, put God first and go get it. Everything will fall into place in time, so once you work hard you shall reap your rewards.

Outside of football what do you like to do for fun?
Outside of playing football, I enjoy spending time with my family. This is the best thing to do during my down time from football. In addition, I enjoy playing musical instruments. As far as other sports are concerned, I like watching cricket, track and field and basketball.