Ryan Telfer’s recent pair of appearances for Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Nations League was a homecoming of sorts for the York9 FC midfielder.
Telfer made history this past international break when he became the first CPL player to score an international goal when he tucked one in for Trinidad and Tobago in a 2-2 draw with Martinique at home. (Ex-Forge FC loanee Emery Welshman scored for Guyana, but that was before the CPL season kicked off.)
It was a special moment for Telfer, who was born in Canada, but was raised in Trinidad, living in the central region of the country, and playing his football, for club and school, in the capital of Port of Spain.
“I played for Skhy FC, a small club, but they base themselves as an academy,” Telfer told CanPL.ca. “The whole environment was more focused on helping players in their technical abilities and whatnot, that’s what they really focus on, that’s what really helped me in what my game is today. I also went to Fatima College, one of the most prestigious boys’ schools, secondary schools in Trinidad. I played there as well. They were one of the top teams.”
It was there he learned to love the game.
“In Trinidad and Tobago there is only two sports growing up: either cricket or football, and football was the major one,” Telfer stated. “My dad used to play soccer as well, he was always around (the game), always playing football.”
He added: “There was always a football around the house, gradually I started picking up the sport. And so, in time, having friends who played as well, just in the streets, that’s where I truly learned to love the game for what it is. I really enjoyed the times where you’re able to pick up a ball and you make friends so easily. And having family and friends supporting the game and playing, it made me want to play more.”
When Telfer was called into the national team by coach Dennis Lawrence, it was as though he was reuniting with old friends.
“I went to school with Sheldon Bateau, he was the captain, Adrian Foncette. Those two guys I went to school with at Fatima College,” Telfer explained. “(Kevin) Molino was always a name when I was growing up, one of the top prospect players. Joevin Jones, Leston Paul, names that were around the time when I was there, hearing about these guys, these guys are really good.
“Being able to share the field with them was really humbling experience.”
As a group, the Soca Warriors aim to bring their nation back to the highest echelons on the international game: The World Cup, just as some of the greats have in the past. The country’s lone appearance came in 2006 when it bowed out in the group stage.
“You aspired to be one of those guys. Shaka Hislop being able to go to the Premiership, as well as Dwight (Yorke) and his time at Manchester United, the things they did there. They represented the flag of Trinidad and Tobago,” Telfer said. “As a kid, looking at these guys play, you wanted to do that same thing, to put your country on the map as well.
“Coming from a small country in the Caribbean you don’t really hear much of guys going to Europe and making a name for themselves. I was part of that generation that really looked towards these guys, especially during World Cup qualification in 2006. That changed everything for a whole lot of people. They made the dream look believable, a future that everyone in my generation really looked forward to and that’s what we’re trying to pursue now.”
Having shared the spoils against Martinique, Trinidad will face Honduras in October and November in Group C of the Concacaf Nations League to determine who moves on to the finals in June 2020.
With seven goals in 26 league and cup appearances while on loan at York9 from TFC, Telfer credits the CPL for giving him the platform to excel: “That’s what has been flourishing for me at York9, realizing that potential and stepping up to the plate.”
His parents, both “born and bred” in Trinidad and Tobago, regularly watch him at York Lions Stadium, but were unable to be at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, though he did have a supporter’s section.
“They come to see me play football up here,” Telfer laughed. “I guess they didn’t see this coming, where I would be called to Trinidad and having to go back there. They missed the first game of me playing for Trinidad and Tobago.
“Those were my uncles, my brother; family and friends supporting me there.”
The one in the TFC shirt was his brother.
And as for that goal.
“You know me, hardly any celebration at all,” Telfer quipped. “There was a rebound in the box, it was a 50-50 chance, was of those where you had to get there first to have a sniff at goal. Fortunately, I got there first and it went in.”