DIRECTV North East Star's 20 year old striker, Kaydion Gabriel's amazing meteoric rise from the streets of Morvant to the national Olympic football squad in 18 months should be an example to every young footballer said North East Stars C.E.O. Brent Sancho.
"This is absolute confirmation that hard work and dedication does achieve results" said the former national World Cup player. Gabriel, better known as "Drogba" by his team mates, was selected this week by coach Angus Eve for the national under 23 squad which will compete in the Olympic football qualifying matches in Dominica on the 21st and 23rd of July.
The 18 man squad also includes North East Stars young player of the year, Jeromie Williams. Williams, or "Butters" to his team mates is another product of the Stars scouting and development. "Butters is from Tobago and we were delighted that he was prepared to move up to Sangre Grande to learn his trade." said Sancho.
Director of Football, Kevin Jeffrey said "Theres nothing so rewarding as seeing talent develop before your eyes, and I must admit, I take a lot of pride in the fact that some of my knowledge and experience has in some way contributed to these boys development."
Jeffrey said the unique blend at North East Stars undoubtedly had a part in helping the players break through into professional football. "Both Drogba and Butters were training alongside players who have achieved all over the world. Errol McFarlane played in Lebanon as well as Iceland, Tiger Fitzpatrick played in the USA, as did myself, Sean Fraser played in Brazil, Arnold Dwarika and Kevaughan Connell played in China, as did Gary Glasgow, and, of course, Sancho played in Finland, USA, England & Scotland.
We also have national squad players such as Anton & Glenton Wolfe and Akiel Guevera. Added to that we have our Head Coach, Shurland David who was also a national team player. With that kind of depth of experience, players can only benefit"
Gabriel, however, also contributes his achievements to the family atmosphere at the club. " North East is definitely one big family. The club actually cares about you as a person, not just a footballer. When I signed my first contact at 18, the club arranged for one of our sponsors, Sports & Games to present me with a $1,000 pair of boots." Gabriel made special mention of Brent Sancho. " Sanch kind of adopted me when I first joined the club.
He moved me into his house and it was then that I began to realise that professional football is not just about kicking a ball, its about your attitude. I want to be the best I can, and to do that I need to make some sacrifices.
I need to focus every part of my life, from eating habits to sleeping patterns. Sanch & Jeffers (Kevin Jeffrey) really helped my mental attitude adjust from a fete match player to a professional"
Gabriel was recommended to Sancho by a friend in Belmont. "He told me Drogba had great potential. I went to watch him and I could see he had a lot to offer. I invited him to play with my fete match team, VFI."
There he got a chance to play alongside the likes of Stern John, Darin Lewis and Leslie Fitzpatrick, and it was soon clear that he was North East Stars material. "Once we signed him to the club, I moved him into my house as I wanted to give him a sense of stepping up from his old life to professionalism."
"It was a shock when I was told that instead of paying rent I had to clean Sanchs' boots, cook and keep the house tidy" Gabriel laughed. "In England, all youth players work an apprenticeship period which involves a strict regime designed to develop personality, independence and professionalism." said Operations Director, Kevin Harrison.
"They are first at the training ground and last to leave, and one of their jobs is to clean the senior players boots! Developing a players inner strength is an essential part of producing players who can perform at higher levels "
"I just developed my own version of that for Drogba" said Sancho. "Learning to look after yourself is vital if you want to play football overseas. Once you move to a strange country, where perhaps you don't speak the language, you only have yourself to rely on. It is essential to be able to cook for yourself and keep your home and clothes clean. One of the common reasons players fail overseas is home sickness."
Head Coach, Shurland David said "I'm so pleased for the boys. They're nice lads with great attitudes. They love to train and always give 100%. I think everyone at North East shares the pride in their achievements and looks forward to their progression to the senior team. As a coach, there is nothing more rewarding than to see young players achieve at an international level."
DIRECTV General Manager, Bernard Pantin said "This is why we invested heavily in football, and specifically, North East Stars. Our stated aim was to see players from DIRECTV North East Stars play in the 2014 world cup in Brazil. Although we may not be able to directly influence the national teams performance, we can at least provide Mr Pfister with the tools to do the job."
Pantin continued "North Easts team, including President Darryl Mahabir, are passionate about youth development, which is also a major passion of mine. I am delighted that both Drogba and Butters have made the squad and I'm also proud that DIRECTV played a part in their achievements."
T&T play Netherlands Antilles on 21st July, then play Dominica two days later. The winner of the group proceeds to the next group stage from which two teams qualify for the 8 team CONCACAF finals next year.
"I would love us to qualify and compete in London" said Gabriel "Aside from playing in the Olympics, I'd love to visit England, which I've heard so much about from Brent and Kevin (Harrison). I just hope I can do my best to help us get there"