Youth football seems to be in safe hands in T&T despite the perception it has been dying.
Shaka Hislop, a former St Mary' College goalkeeper who went on to become a professional player for Newcastle United in the English Premiership, and other EPL clubs, made the statement in an interview on the CNC3 TV Morning Brew programme on Monday.
Hislop, 50, who had meetings with President of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) William Wallace on ways he can play a more integral role in a tournament that has helped him with his athletic and academic prowess, said we have the talent to compete internationally without a doubt.
"We have the talent and this has been a criticism of our youth football, that the kids aren't good enough, and that the development that we afford them isn't what it used to be," Hislop said.
He noted, "Just given what I saw at the weekend between Naparima and Presentation College at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, I believe the talent is even more than what I experienced, and I came through secondary schools at a time when there were the likes of Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy. I think they do have that kind of talent. What they have now is a platform to showcase that talent."
Hislop also added, "What I also recognise in our football in looking at the NCAA College soccer in the US, is that technically, our young players are far more advanced than the older players there. We now have to find channels to move our players, not just from Secondary schools to the professional ranks, but it may take different steps."
According to Hislop, who is an ESPN football analyst and commentator, "I don't think I could have moved from CIC to a professional set-up. I needed the experience, discipline and the maturity that came with my college years. We need to find stepping stones for each of our individuals. I don't think we have served the young men and women, as their talent deserved."
The SSFL kicks off tomorrow with a mouth-watering contest between triple crown winners Naparima College and St Mary's from 4 pm at Lewis Street in San Fernando in the Premier Division.
Hislop, who is the League's Ambassador, also met with the captains of all the Premier Division teams at a function at the HYATT hotel in Port-of-Spain yesterday.