Trinidad and Tobago senior team captain Khaleem Hyland is anticipating a return to leading the national team, and says he is relieved that the recent suspension of this country from all international football has been lifted by FIFA.
“Everyone needs to come on board and we need to start from now knowing that the suspension is lifted. The normalisation committee is in charge and everyone involved needs to give the NC the fullest support and respect in order for us to do this for the country, thinking of the future generations,” said Saudi Arabia-based Hyland.
The midfielder who once played in the UEFA Champions League for Belgium club Racing Genk, stresses the importance of stakeholders putting the development of the local game above everything.
“It is important that we know at this time the path forward with FIFA assisting in overseeing our football. Right now the normalisation committee is in charge. I have had good conversations with the chairman Robert Hadad on things we need to work on and how we can work together to achieve this,” said Hyland.
“I haven’t met him (Hadad) in person as yet but we have had some great conversations over video calls and he seems like a person who wants to improve the state of our football and a great guy. All the stakeholders need to come together as one to put Trinidad and Tobago’s football back on the map and back to a respectable position. From partners, fans, coaches and players, we all really need to pull together and play our part,” says the former Jabloteh man.
He intends to do his part once called upon.
“It is always a pleasure and honour to represent Trinidad and Tobago and a dream come true to not only play but to captain the national team. For me as a player it is just about being able to give back everything and share my knowledge and experiences that I inherited from the older ones who I rubbed shoulders with both at home and abroad. Once I am still in good shape and strong minded I will always be available to play and contribute to my country.”
Touching on the late Diego Maradona’s influence on him, Hyland speaks of the occasion which saw him and the rest of the T&T line-up being able to take the field at the famous Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti – better known as the Monumental. It is one of South America’s three great stadiums along with the Maracana in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and the Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay and has hosted some of the Argentinian national team’s most memorable games and provided a suitably dramatic setting for the opening match and the final of the 1978 FIFA World Cup won by the hosts.
“For me it was great to play against Argentina just before the 2014 World Cup at a stadium where Maradona’s presence was strong so many times as a player and head coach of Argentina. The biggest players in the world played at that venue and played against us in that game. One of the world’s best Lionel Messi is an understudy of Maradona and we had that opportunity to take the field alongside him.
“In my life I didn’t see a lot of Maradona ‘live’ but I’ve always watched so many clips of him and his influence was massive. Playing against Messi was like playing against Maradona in many ways because of their similarities but of course Maradona is Maradona and we will never see someone like him again,” said Hyland.