FC Bellevue girls soccer player Annika Daniel competed in the most prestigious soccer tournament of her life this past summer.
Annika, 13, competed on the Trinidad and Tobago girls U-15 National team in the CONCACAF National Soccer Tournament this past August in Orlando, Florida. Trinidad and Tobago played four games in the tourney, registering a victory against the Dominican Republic but suffered defeats to Haiti, Mexico and the United States.
In Trinidad and Tobago’s lone 4-0 victory, Annika scored the first goal of the game in the second minute of play. Her father Sheldon said he went completely bonkers watching his daughter record a goal for her country.
“I lost all composure when she scored the goal,” Sheldon said. “It was pretty cool. I have seen her score countless times but never at this level. I was streaming it live on Facebook at the time with the iPad. I was so proud of her. It was the perfect script for her and us as a family.”
Sheldon said Annika’s game has transformed since returning in late summer from Nationals in Florida.
“With every difficultly in life, there is an opportunity for growth. I have seen the growth in her from the time she left there to now. She has came back to play for her club team and you can see the difference in her game and the maturity on the field. It is just the way she carries herself, handles herself and the communication with the other girls on the team. I think it was worth it,” Sheldon said with a smile about Annika competing at nationals. “She has played at the highest level at the age of 13. I told she’s already done more than I have ever done in soccer. It is really great as a father to see not only from the sporting aspect, but to see your kids growing up, going along the right path and doing the right things.”
Annika, who played midfielder at the tournament, was thankful she was selected to the Trinidad and Tobago national team.
“It was great knowing I got to represent my country. It is not something a lot of people get to do,” Annika said.
Sheldon said his mother (Annika’s grandmother), who passed away earlier this year, represented Trinidad and Tobago when she was 16 years old on the National Senior Field Hockey team.
“If my mom was here she would be the proudest person in the world,” Sheldon said. “It was an amazing opportunity for Annika and I felt very privileged she got the chance to do it.”
Before Annika competed in nationals, she put in a solid three weeks of preparation to ensure she would be ready for the top-notch competition she would face. She trained in Virginia for one week before flying to Trinidad and Tobago to train with her national team for two weeks prior to the tournament in Orlando. Sheldon said Annika trained three times a day for the full week in Virginia before leaving for Trinidad and Tobago.
“By the time I got to Florida, I was used to the climate,” Annika said. “The hardest thing (at nationals) was the speed of play and the skill of the teams we were playing against.”