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Offline Tallman

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Learning on the job...Shaka thriving at ESPN
« on: February 25, 2011, 05:31:09 AM »
Learning on the job...Shaka thriving at ESPN
T&T Express


Express sports editor Marlon Miller was a guest of ESPN for the second annual Super Bowl at Sea weekend earlier this month. Among the ESPN presenters he interviewed were Verron Haynes, Shaka Hislop and Tommy Smyth. The second of those interviews appears below.

SHAKA HISLOP had a choice of job opportunities when he hung up his boots following an outstanding career between the uprights, the highlight of which was playing for Trinidad and Tobago at the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany.

He could have even pursued work as a rocket scientist, having spent a summer internship at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, while studying for a degree in mechanical engineering at Howard University, from where he graduated in 1992.

Instead, after his final playing stint with Major League Soccer (MLS) club FC Dallas in 2007, he had packed all his belongings and was about to head back home to T&T from the United States with his wife and five children to hold discussions with the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

Then, out of the blue, he got a call from Steve Palese, a producer at ESPN, and "the rest is history as they say", Hislop joked as he recalled how he ended up as a well-respected soccer analyst at the world's premier sports network.

"Steve had seen me doing (post-game and other) interviews and felt I handled myself well."

Having started on January 1, 2008, he is now in his fourth year at ESPN, appearing throughout the week on the Soccernet Press Pass show and doing match broadcasts.

And Hislop, who celebrated his 42nd birthday last Tuesday, has no hesitation in telling you that he thinks he may have the best job in the world.

"Yes it is," he said after taping a segment for Press Pass aboard Navigator of the Seas during the Super Bowl at Sea weekend, adding that it "keeps him involved in the game" and he can "appreciate a different side of the game".

"It's a lot of fun...we have a good group of guys, a good chemistry."

Asked how much he enjoys it, he replied: "More than I would have ever hoped!"

But while Hislop thrives in his post-playing career, he looks on in disappointment at the state of the game here in T&T, with the national team having regressed instead of moving on after the highs of Germany, where we were the smallest country to ever make it to the World Cup.

"I think it's really disappointing, in a sense, depressing," he said, the Soca Warriors having missed by a mile in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, then suffering the ignominy of even failing to finish in the top-four at the Caribbean Cup Finals last December, thus failing to make it to the CONCACAF Gold Cup yet again, the second time since Germany.

"We did not learn anything from 2006," stated Hislop, lamenting that "we never see past the next World Cup" and pay little or no attention to improving football's infrastructure or concentrating on the grassroots of the game.

"...because we're far too shortsighted," he added, pointing out that Trinidad and Tobago have a "small player pool...we can't afford to drop the ball in any aspect", what with claims of blacklisting of certain players by the T&T Football Federation (TTFF) after some of the Warriors went to court in an attempt to share in the millions of dollars generated by their qualifying for the World Cup, and which they claim was promised to them by the Federation's special adviser Jack Warner, now a Government minister.

Hislop has played a critical role in the pursuit of what the players think is rightfully theirs and although they have been frustrated at almost every turn by the delaying tactics of the TTFF, he is determined to see it out. The latest is that a High Court judge, who previously ruled in the players' favour, has been examining the Federation's books and could give a decision anytime soon on how much they should be paid.

Another issue which is not to his liking is the treatment of national coach Russell Latapy, with whom Hislop played for and against for many years, including being teammates during the 2006 World Cup campaign.

Latapy, who replaced Francisco Maturana halfway through the final round of qualifying for South Africa, has been given the boot and the TTFF is now shopping around for his replacement.

"I'm biased towards Russell," Hislop admits, reminding that Latapy is the first of their generation of T&T players, who made their name as professionals on foreign soil, to go into coaching.

"Russell was the first to do that, to make that transition" but he feels Latapy has not been given a fair shake by the local football authorities.

"I would have liked to see Russell be given a longer time...have gotten more support, at the helm of the national squad, after having come in under the gun with the dream of going to South Africa turning into a nightmare.

"There was never any real stability, never any real long-term focus as far as Russell goes and I don't think that's an easy environment to work in.

"I don't think he got the best out of the team and I don't think as a nation we got the best out of Russell as a coach," said Hislop, agreeing that Latapy was thrown in at the deep end.

"Yeah, no question," he stated, but adding, based on conversations he had with his colleague, that "Russell felt he was prepared for it".

"I felt he was the right man," but no matter who you are, "he didn't get the support from the administration to be effective. He never got the support and as a result I think he struggled."

And now Hislop predicts all the emphasis will be on making it to Brazil 2014, "and again, little mind will be paid to 2018 or 2022" and facing the fact that "I just don't think we have the players right now to see us qualify, and that is because of the neglect our entire football infrastructure has had to endure".

"I'm always optimistic because I'm a fan...I'm a fan first and foremost of Trinidad and Tobago football, so I'm always optimistic, but sometimes you have to temper your optimism with realism and the realist in me is saying it's a shot in the dark and it's not going to be easy, because I don't think we have the players that we did in 2006."

What is far more assured is Hislop's place at ESPN, where he has grown on the job from being a rookie without any formal broadcast training and is now an authoritative voice in international football, and he hopes to be there for a long time to come.

"I'd love to," he stressed. "It's great. It's a lot of fun and I feel as though I'm growing with it. I just kind of fell on my feet as it were. I'm involved in the game at the highest level, I'm involved in bringing sport to the Caribbean. It's ticking all the right boxes and I don't have a complaint.

"As long as they're happy to have me, I'm happy to stay."
The Conquering Lion of Judah shall break every chain.

Offline weary1969

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Re: Learning on the job...Shaka thriving at ESPN
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 07:10:05 AM »
Happy Belated Birthday
Today you're the dog, tomorrow you're the hydrant - so be good to others - it comes back!"

Offline kounty

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Re: Learning on the job...Shaka thriving at ESPN
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2011, 07:22:32 AM »
well said Shaka.  except for the RL part  :D

Offline dreamer

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Re: Learning on the job...Shaka thriving at ESPN
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2011, 11:32:09 AM »
Very well done Shaka. You're making a great contribution and your heart is clean. You have a powerful pulpit to speak truth to power too and you are doing it well .... and responsibly too, so that an international audience can hear ..... and that really matters when dictator-like characters exploit an ignorant "population" in their cocoon of powerlessness.
Supportin' de Warriors right tru.

Offline Mango Chow!

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Re: Learning on the job...Shaka thriving at ESPN
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 11:21:04 PM »
Very well done Shaka. You're making a great contribution and your heart is clean. You have a powerful pulpit to speak truth to power too and you are doing it well .... and responsibly too, so that an international audience can hear ..... and that really matters when dictator-like characters exploit an ignorant "population" in their cocoon of powerlessness.

  Excellent post, Dreamer.  Very well said and all very true, especially the last sentence. :beermug:
   
« Last Edit: February 26, 2011, 11:24:20 PM by Mango Chow! »


Not because a man ears long and he teet' long dat it make him a Jackass!