The FIFA World Cup is considered the crown of all sporting accolades. Trinidad and Tobago women Soca Warriors will be one step closer to that prestigious award if they are victorious in their game against Ecuador in the second-leg World Cup playoff at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on December 2.
Right winger Ahkeela Darcel Mollon, one of this country’s most decorated and seasoned female football stars, said her team are currently undergoing the intense preparations ahead of this clash. The 29-year old Longdenville, Chaguanas, resident says she has had a strong spirit of athleticism from birth.
“I grew up with guys,” the soft spoken goalkeeper assassin tells Woman's Weekly. “At that time, my grandmother had 15 grandchildren and I was the only girl in the crew. The boys used to call me ‘Mother’ because I was the only female among them. I never grew up playing with dolls and being around these guys, I had to learn fast. Growing up around a sport-dominated family, I played football and cricket but football was my passion. Technically, I had no choice (to play sports). I had to be athletic, because if I had to roll with ‘the crew’, I had to keep up. And keeping up with them was being able to be involved in sports.”
“With our good performance at the Concacaf, we opened a few eyes and made people aware that Trinidad and Tobago had so much young female football talent. Now we’ve seen more people come on board to sponsor our games and I think football, especially for women, has a bright future. The talent pool is certainly there, it’s just the investments, and now that people are willing to come on board because they see the hard work and dedication of these players. The resources for us needs a bit of improvement and that’s what the game needs to be further promoted and funded. If it’s God’s will, come December 2 if we qualify, it will continue to add to growth of women’s football in TT.”
The Kvarnsveden IK Women (Swedish Division One) representative has a lengthy history of both local and international appearances and is one of the squad’s most experienced players. Mollon represented Holy Faith Convent, Couva, in the Secondary Schools Girls’ Football League. She joined Doc’s Khelwalas Football Club in 1999, followed by her first country appearance for the national Under-17 team at the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Championships one year later. Since her berth as a national player, Mollon has continued to excel, playing in Iceland and Sweden and only recently teaming up with local football club, Central FC.
"Ahkeela is the ideal 12th warrior. She embodies both the spirit and emotion required for a warrior. It’s not a coincidence she even sports the number 12.
"Mollon's international experience, family backing and our company's support has afforded her the comfort to positively impact the national team," says her manager Narada Wilson of the Brazil Link.
With over 17 years experience on the field of play, the dreadlocked athlete admits that the years of physical play in varying climates may have taken a minor toll on her. But she remains undeterred.
“Well at some point your body will take a turn. In Sweden, all the games I played in were on artificial turf. However, years of European football and a lot of jumping and thumping, your body tends to take a beating. For me though, my body has withstood the test of time thus far, and I’m happy with my physical capabilities over the years. I feel like 19.
“Fitness was the core among the guys, so football has helped me all round, looking younger as well. I’m 29, so I may have another World Cup in me if I continue feeling so young.”
Mollon admits that while all looks good on paper and on the field, it is indeed a tough job representing TT on the international scenes, especially as a woman. The quick-footed player credits her stern foundation of spirituality for being able to observe, assess, evaluate situations where her principles may be compromised.
“Staying focused is tough sometimes. When you go abroad, you have to adapt to different lifestyles, different cultures and especially weather. You miss your family and friends a lot. If you’re not grounded, and I’m a very spiritual person, then you tend to lose focus.
“When in foreign countries, there’s nothing out there for you but the game. Following bad company, getting tired, is all a part of it, because sometimes it’s you alone out there. And when you lose focus, it’s hard to retain.”
She laments the pressing player-related issues that she believes are being sidelined. She says several women of the senior team are yet to be employed in TT, even though they are qualified and experienced.
“We need to promote more senior footballers getting involved on a wider scale. One of the hardest things coming back home is a lot of us have received scholarships going abroad and coming back home and not having opportunities to find jobs.
“It is really hard on us. It’s disturbing to see that I’m playing with the national team since 14 and I remember people telling me to ‘go out there, get your education’, but when you return home it’s a different story.”
Despite this, the holder of a Psychology degree wants to give back to TT for helping her build her professional career. She plans to coach or to counsel troubled youth.
“I think we need some of the more experienced females to get back into the game and spread their knowledge, especially the ones was competed abroad. I’d like to see more of them come back home and share their experience through coaching, grassroots programmes and such.”
“Pertaining to life after football, I’d like work with youths. I have a passion for youth. I love coaching, I think I’ll be a better coach one day than a player. I love coaching at the youth level. Getting into the minds and the psyche of young players, I believe I can do well.
“Being a player is one experience, how the body and mind works is another. And this was why I actually did psychology; to incorporate this into football. My dream job would be working at Youth Training Centre (YTC), girls or boys. I can provide good counselling and believe I can play an integral role into our nation’s youth.
“I won’t go anywhere, I love Trinidad and will share my skills and experience right here. I have to come back and give back. We need to fix our own backyard first before we give away our talents on the international stage. The local people and young girls should not suffer. God thinks about everybody. We need to give back,” she concludes.