Thu, May

Youth team midfielder De Leon lauds impact of Eve, Nakhid.

UNIVERSITY OF Alabama at Birmingham midfielder Curtis De Leon is goal-bound on securing his second Trinidad and Tobago team call-up ahead of the 2022 Concacaf Men’s Championships in Honduras.

Having previously represented T&T at the Under-17 level, under then coach Stern John, the United States-born player is now on the hunt for a spot in the Under-20 squad.

De Leon is part of a 39-member group of footballers currently in training at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, under the guidance of coach Angus Eve. After the camp, 24 footballers will be selected to go into a live-in camp abroad ahead of the June 18-July 3 tourney.

T&T are in Group F alongside regional powerhouse Mexico, Haiti and Suriname. Three teams in each group advance to the round of 16.

The top four teams will earn a spot at the 2023 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia and the two finalists will qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

De Leon has been working assiduously to make the cut.

Reflecting on the camp, he said, “It’s been a great experience. Coach Angus is a bit different from coach Stern (John), who I was able to play under in 2019. I like football, I like the guys here. It’s high intensity when we come to training. Everybody has the right mindset so it’s a great experience to be a part of.

“We have a really good group here. I’m not focused on what the opposition has in their camps. I know if we go out there and play to the best of our ability we can go on to the knockout stages and progress from there. The kind of heart this team has, we can go all the way as long as we keep playing our game and trusting our coach.”

De Leon has played several matches for North Carolina FC and believes his experience in the US has greatly assisted his development as a young player coming through the ranks.

He also credited former national captain and midfielder David Nakhid, who contributed to his athletic growth through the David Nakhid International Football Academy.

“All of those experiences have taught me different things. University has taught me how to play with bigger guys that are faster and stronger, how to hold the ball up and make quicker decisions.

“Coach Nakhid helped me build confidence and learn how to create, dribble and be a real attacking threat. North Carolina FC has been my home and that’s where I’ve been playing for the last couple years. They have helped me to shape the player that I am today,” he added.

De Leon, the son of Trinidadian parents, plays division one football at Alabama.

De Leon however, called on fellow national players to capitalise on the forthcoming competition and use it as a platform to showcase their talent to the world.

I believe (to rep T&T) it’s a huge opportunity. When we play on an international stage, we’re being looked at by anyone possible. I’m seeing, I’m training, there’s a lot of guys and talent here that could be playing university and pro, but I don’t know why (they’re not).

“This is an opportunity for coaches, clubs and universities to get a look at T&T players and show what we can do.

“Last time I was here, I felt like I wasn’t strong and quick enough because everybody was bigger and faster than me. Those experiences helped me to sharpen my game to the point where none of that matters. I’ll be able to play my game and help the team, if selected, in the way that I can and know how to do,” he closed.

The U20s have played a few teams in the Ascension League in practice matches including Cunupia FC, AC Port of Spain and Terminix La Horquetta Rangers. T&T will tackle other teams at the pre-tournament overseas camp which will include two international teams and a club team.

WATCH De Leon aims to make Final Trinidad and Tobago U-20 Cut