Diminutive Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Hughtun Hector has lost the opportunity to play in his first CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a Vietnam league match for Hanoi T&T on April 3. Hanoi lost the fixture 1-0 away to Binh Duong.
Hector had a successful operation today but, according to Vietnam doctors, it will be another five to six months before the “Soca Warrior” is fully recovered. The prognosis means that the former W Connection midfielder and Vessigny Secondary schoolboy will miss the 2015 Gold Cup, which kicks off in the United States this July.
Hector, who has 22 full international caps with six goals, has never played in a Gold Cup after he missed the 2013 edition due to his then Vietnam employer Song Lam Nghe’s refusal to let him attend a pre-tournament training camp.
However, he has already turned his attention to the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts in November 2015.
“I really wanted to play in the Gold Cup but that can’t happen again,” Hector told Wired868. “Qualifying for the (Russia 2018) World Cup is the most important thing to me now… Everything went well (with my operation) and I’m not getting any pain. I just have to go six weeks with the cast on.
“I’m supposed to come home in two months time to work with the (Trinidad and Tobago) National Team’s doctors to see if I can fit and strong again for the World Cup qualifiers… They say it will take between five to six months to fully recover.”
Hector, 30, broke into Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart’s first squad last October and has been a fixture for the Warriors ever since. He debuted in the attacking midfield role, just behind the striker, but has been used primarily on the left flank where he steps inside to flood the midfield.
The Vietnam-based midfield ace started in five of the Warriors’ seven 2014 Caribbean Cup assignments including the final against Jamaica, which Trinidad and Tobago lost on penalties.
However, as the Vietnam league ends in September and does not restart until January 2016, Hector would not have played competitive football for eight months when the Warriors start their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in November at the penultimate group phase.
He hopes Hanoi T&T agree to loan him back to W Connection but is not certain it would happen.
“We will try our best to see if they will accept me going on loan with Connection because the (Vietnam) season finishes on September 15 (which might be after the local transfer window closes),” said Hector. “I will be (training) with Connection for sure.
“Hopefully there is a (national team) camp so that I can work with them and try to get back fully fit and get some matches. But I don’t know.”
At present, Hector is in the second season of a three-year contract with Hanoi. He was joined, last year, by compatriot, Daneil Cyrus, who lives in Hector’s apartment.
The results have been disappointing this season, though. Hanoi T&T have not finished lower than second in the last five years. But, after eight league matches, the Vietnam giants are in eighth place.
“To me, a big problem was we didn’t strengthen the team (much) last year while the other teams around us did,” said Hector. “I think we tried to use our youth players and they didn’t give as much as we thought.
“Also, only about two weeks before the league started, they brought in a rule that only two foreigners could play whereas it was three before. So one (of our foreign players) always has to sit out in every game.
“We have to try win our remainder of games and come strong next season.”
Hector, Cyrus and Argentine attacker Gonzalo Marronkle are the foreign players on Hanoi’s roster. The club plays a 4-1-4-1 system with a midfield sweeper and a lone striker.
Hector signed as an attacking midfielder but, midway through his first season, an injury created a vacancy in the holding midfield role and the Trinidadian was used there as a stop-gap measure. However, Hanoi quickly decided that his vision and passing accuracy made him irreplaceable in that position and he has operated as a Vietnam version of ‘Andrea Pirlo/Michael Carrick’ ever since.
Apart from their league exertions, Hanoi also competed in the 2015 Asian Champions League but did not get past the final Play Off round where they were routed 7-0 by Republic of Korea outfit, FC Seoul. Seoul is stuffed with Korea international players and also has imports from Brazil, Colombia and Spain who all played top flight football in their respective countries.
Hector hopes to play professionally in Europe or the United States’ MLS before he retires but accepts that his advanced age makes this unlikely. Connection remain close to his heart and he expects to return to the “Savonetta Boys” at some point. But he hopes his final club will be one that is even closer to home.
“For my last days, I want to play for my boyhood club which is (Point Fortin) Civic Centre,” said Hector. “I always have that in mind. If I don’t go anywhere else, I think Civic might be the last team I will play with.”
Hector is still anxious to extend his international career, though. He made his international debut at 24, under then head coach Russell Latapy, and within seconds of his introduction as a substitute he crossed for Kerry Baptiste to head home the final goal in a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw against Mexico at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Hector went on to play 15 times under Latapy and made five appearances under his successor, Otto Pfister, before, in late 2011, he joined Song Lam Nghe in Vietnam. In the following four years, Hector represented his country just 13 times.
“What is your international career going to look like when you have to fly for 30 hours and across several time zones every time you have to play for your country?” asked Hart, rhetorically, after Cyrus’ move to Vietnam last year.
Jetlag was not an issue for Hector during the 2014 Caribbean Cup tournament, which occurred during the playmaker’s off-season, and he proved himself to be indispensible to the Warriors. He hopes to wear the red, white and black strip for as long as possible.
“Hopefully I will win the Caribbean Cup next time around and qualify for the Gold Cup again,” said Hector. “I am trying my best to see how much games I can get in with the national team.
“The most important thing for me is qualifying for the (2018) World Cup. That is my number one objective right now.”