“When it came to the physical aspect of the game, I used to cap out. I didn’t like training. I was a fat boy.”
Che Benny is brutally honest with himself and that honesty is a major part of the reason he has been able to achieve all that he has as a 16-year-old footballer with a promising future, such as winning the FLOW Ultimate Football Experience recently which earned him and one other young footballer a trip to the famed Old Trafford Stadium in England, home of his favourite club team, Manchester United.
Standing at five feet and four inches and weighing in at 145 pounds, which is relatively small for his age, Benny’s diminutive stature is not the only reason he has already gained comparison to one of T&T’s all-time greats, “The Little Magician”, Russell Latapy. What Benny lacks in size, he makes up for in tenacity and self-belief. And if you have not ever had the chance to see him play, he more than makes up for his size in skill and ability as well.
“They say I still have growth in me but I want them to underestimate my size. I want to show them that you don’t have to be a big player to be a skillful and talented player. When I step on to the field they must fear me as a small player.”
Benny’s story both on and off the field is littered with similar anecdotes to his transfer from Tranquility Government School to St Anthony’s College in 2015 and of how he persevered to overcome some personal setbacks.
He told Guardian Media Sports, “One day we played against St Anthony’s and we gave them six. A lot of people were talking about me and Haile Beckles and we asked Mr (Nigel) Grosvenor to take us to St Anthony’s because since primary school I wanted to come St Anthony’s. Before I got in, a guy named Iggy brought me down to train and before the session started I put the ball down at half line, and hit one and it just skimmed off the crossbar. Mr Grosvenor asked me to do it again and I did it again and that was it.”
Even then however, it was not all smooth since the clinical left-footer was condemned to the Tigers’ bench for his first season in St Anthony’s colours because of his size. Benny made it his mission to prove his coaches and any other doubters wrong and by the time the 2016 season came around, his name was all on the lips of football fans due to his displays with the national Under-17 team during the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) preliminary tournament hosted in T&T. That newfound popularity was something which he had anticipated well beforehand.
He said, “There is a guy living in my area they call him ‘Millie Boy’ but his name is Jerome Joseph and he is an ex-national player. One day when I was playing in the road he spoke to me and he said ‘Che one day you are going to represent.’ I took that with me and I carried it. And when I made it to the national team, I didn’t play the first game but I said I would get my opportunity.
“The next game we were down 2-nil and Russell Latapy called on me and after that all I heard was ‘Che Benny is the next big thing in T&T’. And I’m able to live up to it.”
The resident of Belmont and former student of St Margaret’s Boys’ RC School, Benny showed promise as a two year old when his parents noticed his penchant for football. From those early days to now, he has always been hailed as a promising talent in his community which wants nothing more than to see him fulfill his potential. So much so that the small neighbourhood has even afford the eldest of five brothers, special privileges.
“When I can’t go down to the Queen’s Park Savannah to train on my own, I have these tall cones I use to block the street so that cars wouldn’t pass and I just train on my street. And they understand, they understand. They do a lot for me,” he said.
“My uncle, my mom, the whole community is just on my side because they know I have opportunities coming and I am very excited because I know that when I reach the international level, I will be able to help a lot of people around the community and my family also.”
Benny is just as bold and straightforward in his style of play as he is when it comes to his intentions to conquer the football world.
In fact, he stated without any doubt in his mind that the on-going Pro League season and the Secondary School’s Football season to come in September could be his last, as he hopes to propel himself into European football and into the senior national team by next year, stating boldly: “I have to keep going and I know I will keep getting stronger everyday and I know from next year I will be on the senior team.
Dennis Lawrence called me about two weeks ago and told me me just keep my eyes open and keep on training hard because he has a surprise coming.“It could be this year too.” he said.