“Whenever I had a ball at my feet nothing else in the world mattered, it was my escape. Now that I have grown older football has become my purpose, something I would do to clear my mind, something to put a smile on my face, on the faces of people of my country.”
Arin King — A shoulder fake. So that was the tactic T&T Women’s footballer, Arin King used in the 2015 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against the US last October which issued ecstatic screams from fans.
“You just drop your shoulder to deceive the player you are going in one direction and then push the ball the opposite direction, the 24-year-old 2015 Trinidad and Tobago’s Women’s Football Association Player of Year explains to me.
I laugh as she smiles modestly. It’s that simple for her. We are chatting lightly, a few days after she graced the stage as the Women’s Football nominee for the 2015 First Citizens’ Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards Ceremony at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) last Friday.
The shy Canada-born defender with Trinidadian parentage (her mother is Trinidadian) is smiling and soaking in her achievement despite her team’s recent World Cup misfortune. Last year a 1-0 loss to Ecuador on local soil denied the Women Soca Warriors a debut showing at the 2015 FIFA Women’s Football World Cup in Canada.
King and her team mates (Kennya Cordner, Maylee Attin-Johnson, Kimika Forbes and the rest of the ensemble) worked tirelessly plying their boots on local and foreign soil, earning with each game a greater respect by T&T and international fans. But in sport anything can happen and this time wasn’t T&T’s time for a World Cup appearance. The players know this reality all too well; especially King who believes that in failure life and football go on.
“I know the intricacies of competition, you win some and lose some. But sport has taught me so many lessons — discipline, integrity, professionalism,” she informs. Our impromptu interview (her stay in T&T is short but sweet) translates expectedly into football language — pure dribbles, passes and headers.
Her balling back story is revealed. Born and raised in Pickering, Canada, a city outside Toronto, a young girl, part Canadian/part Trini dreams of becoming a football legend and begins her journey from the day she could walk and talk.
At the tender age of five she would kick her first ball and by age nine she would be scoring goals for her first club team, Pickering Power coached by Lorraine Clarke.”What made you chose football as a sport?” I ask, I eager to dig deeper into her passion. To be honest I came home one day from school when I was five years old with a flyer and told my parents that I wanted to play football. Surprisingly, they allowed me. Back then it wasn’t a popular sport for women. From the minute I laced up my first pair of cleats, I knew that my life would change. The rest became history. As I grew older I truly fell in love with the game,” King recalls. “I remember my first game like if it were yesterday. I was tall for my age and I was quick. Dribbling was my forte. From sideline to sideline, passing one player, passing a next and goal! I was young though, I scored in my own goal post, I couldn’t distinguish between the two,” the former T&T Under 17 player adds.
I remember her moves from the World Cup qualifiers last year in Dallas. She dribbled from sideline to sideline, clearing the path for her midfielders and kicking powerfully to reach her penetrating strikers to score chances for Trinidad and Tobago. These games are fresh in her memory too.
“The atmosphere was electric. While the Ecuador game climax stood out most for many of my team mates, my most memorable was for the World Cup crusade was the USA game. To play one of the best teams in the world and lose 1-0 was a breakthrough for our women’s programme. I’ve never played a game where for 90 minutes every one of my team mates poured their heart and soul into a game. Pass the ball, tackle, woman. I remember every yell, every shout. We may have lost the game but we won in many ways. I am extremely proud to have represented my national colours,” she said before adding.”We showed the world that we have talent and can perform on any stage!” the part-time resident of Woodbrook states proudly.
Her account is passionate. Perhaps just as passionate as local sporting icons Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke when they shined for T&T...And so we talk some more football about her short stay on the Canada National U17 team in 2007, her bronze medal with Ontario at the 2007 BMO Financial Group U16 Girls National All Star Championship.
Her choice to play for T&T and not Canada (her annual visits to her family home in Woodbrook is enough to make her crave anything Trini including football, her first game for T&T for an Under 17 CONCACAF World Cup qualifier, her college football stints with the University of Toronto where she studied biology and her injuries which come a dime a dozen in a contact sport.
“Right now I am trying to bounce back from the Ecuador game where I sustained a partial tear in both my MCL and meniscus (knee injuries). I am currently doing strength work and rehab!
“How did it feel capturing the elite 2015 Player of the Year Award? I inquire as she humbly expresses much gratitude to fans, fellow players and coaches for the love and support. The sturdy defender is indeed overwhelmed by the golden feat but at the same time she acknowledges that her sport is a team sport and in as much as she may have impressed some by her own skills, the victory really lies with the team.
The T&T Women Soca Warriors — scenes of the Ecuador game come into my mind but enough on football. Who is Arin King off the field?
The answer astonishes me as she says with pride, “A firefighter.”
“I just recently graduated from Centennial College, Canada where I obtained my certificate for Pre-Service Firefighting. I chose firefighting because it represents courage, compassion and service. Also, to be a firefighter is to be part of a family, they are like your crew.”
“Like your team mates on the football team? I interject, to which she affirms. I see certain qualities illuminate in the shy but composed young woman. She is a team player, she is a people person, and she is one who craves a challenge. “I love to push myself and venture into unchartered territories. Firefighting and football are male dominated arenas, in both realms women are just as capable as men, just because we aren’t as strong doesn’t mean that we are not as deserving,” she declares.
I learn some more facts about Arin King. She has an older sister, she is a true beach aficionado and Caribbean woman (loves Carnival and anything West Indian) and she promises to become an expert cook of all international dishes very soon.
“What is your next step football wise, firefighting wise? It’s my final question before I wrap up the soccer queen’s interview.
“Five years from now I see myself having played in a World Cup, having established a great football resume with a women’s professional team and of course starting a career as a firefighter,” King states.
To conclude however, she adds one more statement. “Have you ever heard the term “eat, sleep, breathe football”? Well these words are my reality. People don’t realise the vision and potential women bring to the pitch. We suffer with lack of funding and preparation because of it. I hope that one of these days my efforts and those of my team mates remove these obstacles. Oh and we will make it to the World Cup the next time around!” she states with strong confidence.