Former national Under-17 coach Sean Cooper said he has no regrets over snubbing then 14 year old Shaq Moore who now plies his trade in La Liga against global stars such as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Shaq, now 21, was born in the US to Tobagonian parents Wendell and Michelle Goddard-Moore who migrated to the United States several years ago.
Shaq, who playd with Levante, is believed to be the first player with TT roots to play in Spain’s top flight – one of the best football leagues in the world.
The defender has switched allegiances though and has captained the US Under-17 team and played for their Under-20s. He made his fourth appearance for the Levante senior team in a 5-0 loss to Spanish powerhouse Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
As a 14-year-old, the talented player returned to TT to try out for the national Under-15 team that was preparing for the upcoming Under-17 World Cup cycle, but he did not make the cut.
Cooper, who was the coach of the national youth team at the time, said he saw the talent in Shaq but felt he was too frail in stature to make an impact.
“He came as a 13-year-old on the Under-17 team so he was a bit young then but had some potential. When he came, physically he was a bit small compared to the other guys. At 13, he definitely would not have made the team then,” Cooper said.
Asked if he believes TT could convince Shaq to reconsider playing for his parents’ country, Cooper said those chances are slim to none.
“I don’t think so, because we had other youngsters playing for our youth teams (who switched allegiances). I think Aaron Maund was one who went to the World Cup with our Under-17 team and then when approached to go with the Under-20 team, he chose to go with the US team. I think when the boys get a little older and they live and they get in the system up there, they will tend to gravitate to the US when they get the opportunity at a senior level.”
Shaq, a right-back with Levante, returned to the US and continued working on his game under the guidance of his father and some TT coaching colleagues who resided in their Georgia neighbourhood. He was also a member of the Lauderhill Youth Programme in Ft Lauderdale.
As his progress continued, Shaq received an invitation based on the recommendation of the youth programme’s directors, to try out for the US Under-17 residency programme, in Florida, and was successful. He later represented and was named captain of the US squad in the CONCACAF Under-17 championships in Panama. He was selected for the Under 20s that participated in the Under-20 CONCACAF Championships in Jamaica 2015. The US won the championships and defeated TT in the process to qualify for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup finals in New Zealand in 2015.
As Shaq continued to develop, his manager and agent Paul Maye was successful in arranging for him to play in a tournament in Manchester, England. There were a number of scouts from English Premiership League teams interested but work permit issues were a challenge. His agent then decided to take his charge to Spain and the rest is history.
After approximately one year in Levante, he is now in contention to be a regular on the first string team as he continues to develop his craft. Shaq’s father had an illustrious football career. He was one of the standouts with Dwight Yorke, Rensl Dillon, Colvin Hutchinson and others, who, under the guidance of coach Bertille St Clair, made Signal Hill Secondary a force in national football. He had stints with the national senior and youth teams.