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FORMER TT football team goalkeeper Shaka Hislop is urging youngsters, especially those involved in sport, to follow their passion.

The 50-year-old, who currently works as a football analyst with cable network ESPN, was recently named as an ambassador for the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL).

Hislop is a father of five – Maalana 22 (a dancer), Khazia 20 (a gymnast), Talia 17, Nia 15 and Luca 11 (who all play football competitively).

During a recent interview, Hislop said, “I just wanted my kids to be involved in some sort of activity. I didn’t try to steer them one way or the other, I just let them find their own passion.

“I felt, more so than anything else, the messages I would like to see being given to kids, to follow your passion, whatever that may be, and to do with confidence,” he added. “The fact that three of them went into soccer (was) all the more fulfilling for me, in that I could play a more active part in their own learning and development in the game which I couldn’t see with my daughters who dance and who did gymnastics.”

Asked if he guided his last three children into football, the ex-Newcastle and West Ham goalie replied, “They went into it entirely on their own accord. I let them choose what sport or what activity they enjoyed most, and that was entirely their decision.”

One decision Hislop will not make is what country his children represent. His daughters were all born in England while his son was born in the United States, where they all now reside.

“That’s a decision that I would leave entirely up to them,” Hislop said. “My daughter (Khazia), she did compete for T&T at the highest level. She picked up an elbow injury and found herself out of that elite or international level.

“That was entirely her decision as to what country she wanted to compete and what flag she wanted to compete under. My wife (Desha) and I, though we’re both Trinbagonians, we aren’t going to steer them one way or the other.”

Hislop has been outspoken on the topic of racism in the sport, and has actively been involved with the body Show Racism the Red Card.

“I’ve been the founding patron and that has been going since 1996. I continue to serve as honorary president.”

About his work with ESPN, he said, “I’ve been doing (that) since 2008 and I’ve enjoyed every moment. I enjoy talking about the game, I think we have a good cast and we have a good understanding and camaraderie between us. That makes it a whole lot easier.”

Hislop is hopeful that more T&T footballers can explore their options in the North American circuit.

“It continues to be a viable alternative,” he said. “You can also come through the secondary school level (in T&T) to get into college football. I played because I enjoyed the game. I didn’t think I would have ever played professional, that came as I grew and developed.

“That’s what I would continue to encourage everybody who plays, play because you enjoy it and you’ll see where your talent takes you. Don’t focus on what one person is doing because that’s an entirely different story, they have their own unique path.”

What is his wish for T&T football in 2019? He responded, “My only hope is to see us compete at the highest level. I want to see us compete and continue to develop at every level, in particular the youth level.

“We’ve not had a whole lot to brag about. I’m an ex-player but I’ll always be a fan. The fan in me just wants something to cheer about which I don’t think we’ve had an awful lot of late.”