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Sat, Apr

(From left to right): T&T under-20 men’s football team coach Brian Haynes and goalkeepers Ailan Panton, Makaya Taylor and Brian Gafiuk. Photo courtesy TTFA media. -
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At 15, goalkeeper Makaya Taylor is the youngest member of Trinidad and Tobago's 21-man squad for this month's Concacaf men's U-20 championship qualifiers which will be held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo.

Born to a Tobago father and a German mother, Taylor has lofty dreams of playing professional football in Europe and he could get his chance to show his worth to local fans when T&T contest group D of the qualifiers against Canada, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Taylor is one of three goalkeepers in coach Brian Haynes' squad alongside the foreign-based pair of Brian Gafiuk and Ailan Panton.

Taylor said working with goalkeeper Jefferson George and his fellow custodians has been amazing, as they "have really helped me improve my standards."

Taylor had a recent training stint with German club Hertha Berlin, but it was curtailed due to injury. The goalkeeper impressed in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) with Speyside Secondary last season, and he has already been scooped up by 2023 national intercol champions Presentation College (San Fernando) for the next school season.

Taylor said he fell in love with the goalkeeping craft as a child, and he enjoyed playing the sport for fun in his earliest years. Now, if he has it his way, he will soon be making another meaningful journey to his mother's homeland.

"I have been going to Germany my whole life. Every summer since I was born, I would travel to Germany in the summertime. And from there, I would go on the community fields and play football," Taylor told TT Football Association (TTFA) media.

"Right now, I am looking to go on trial with clubs in Germany. I really want to play professionally in Europe. That is my dream – being a professional footballer."

Taylor has given himself a high standard to follow, as his favourite goalkeeper is 11-time German Bundesliga winner and World Cup winner, Manuel Neuer.

"The first goalkeeper I really looked up to is (Manuel) Neuer. I love his playing style and his use of his feet. I like the sweeper-keeper style."

In the immediate future, should he get the opportunity between the sticks, Taylor will try and help the young Soca Warriors advance to the Concacaf under-20 championship later this year. Only the group winner will advance from the qualifiers and T&T will have little room for error.

"I think we have a chance of making it out of the group stage. I have total confidence in the squad," Taylor said. "The key is obviously teamwork. We have to work as a team and keep the spirit high.

"It is a pleasure playing with the under-20 national team and I never expected to be here this soon in my life."

T&T open their campaign from 7 pm on Friday against SVG, before playing Dominica and Canada on February 25 and 27 respectively.