NATIONAL central midfielder Neveal Hackshaw believes sport is the answer for youths to escape many of the ills plaguing society.
Hackshaw is one of the mainstays under current TT men's football coach Angus Eve as he is a usual starter for him while clocking hefty minutes. The 28 year old has already recorded 28 caps since his debut in 2015 against Haiti at 19 years old.
The former national youth player attended Arima North Secondary School, commonly known as “Compre,” which had included several exciting and promising players such as the late Marcus Gomez, Jesus Perez and Jomoul Francois
On the field, the La Horquetta-born Hackshaw wears his heart on his sleeves and is one of the team's emotional leaders.
Hackshaw has had stints playing defence, but his preferred position is central midfield. He is valuable to any coach because he portrays versatility in the centre of the park, whether as a pivot, ball winner, box-to-box player or attacking midfielder providing enticing crosses or defence-splitting passes.
Hackshaw considers his passing ability and presence in the air as his best qualities as a player.
He believes sport has not only helped elevate his standard of living but also brought out the best qualities in him. Similar to national teammate and fellow La Horquetta resident Nathaniel James, Hackshaw has a message for young people.
“Sport teaches you discipline, sportsmanship, respect – which will enhance your self-esteem and build confidence. With all these values, you will become a good role model in society.
"Youths, stay out of crime and stop wasting time on the streets,” he said in an interview with Newsday.
Hackshaw owes everything he has achieved thus far in his career to his loving and supportive family. “My mom and dad, I would like to thank them for always being there for me and always showing me love. To my little sister who is also playing football and look up to me, I love you also. To my big sister who supports me endlessly, I love you.”
The six-footer is not known for his goal-scoring capabilities, but his most memorable moment for the red, white and black is his first international goal for the senior team in 2022, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, in a Concacaf Nations League B match.
He vividly recalled, “My first goal was against Bahamas, it was a corner kicked from Noah Powder and I headed it into the goal. It was indeed a great feeling.” His goal proved to be the winner for the match and three days later, he got his second goal for the Soca Warriors away against St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The left-footer has been plying his trade as a professional footballer in the United States for eight years after leaving TT as a teenager. He describes his tenure in the US as great.
His first overseas team was Charleston Battery 2016-2018 (73 caps), followed by Indy Eleven 2019–2022 (88 caps, seven goals) and then Oakland Roots which competes in the USL Championship, the second tier of US soccer. On Saturday, Hackshaw scored a sensational overhead kick in the 90th minute to secure a crucial 2-2 draw for his team against Monterey Bay FC.
Hackshaw was an instrumental player for the national team earlier this month against Curacao and El Salvador in the opening fixtures in the Nations League Group A. TT defeated Curacao 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and then got past El Salvador 3-2 – the men's team's first-ever competitive win in that country.
Hackshaw will hopefully be suiting up for the Soca Warriors in Nations League action again next month as TT face Guatemala and Curaçao in the next international window. Having won their first two matches, they are currently top of Group A and are in a firm position to earn a spot in the final eight, and chance at qualifying for the 2024 Copa America – South America's premier , scheduled to be hosted in the US with six teams from Concacaf included.
But the Copa America is not the only tournament on Hackshaw's radar. He told Newsday, "I want to play in a World Cup. I think that's every footballer's dream and I want that dream to come true for me.”