Former Shiva Boys Hindu College student Levi Garcia became the youngest Trinidad and Tobago player ever to play in the Europe top flight this morning when the 18 year old winger debuted for mid-table Eredivisie club, AZ Alkmaar, as they whipped Feyenoord 4-2 at home.
Garcia, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at under-17 and under-20 level, replaced another teenager, Dutchman Dabney dos Santos, in the 68th minute with AZ already 4-1 ahead.
Garcia, a fast, tricky winger who is efficient with either foot, turned 18 last November and is two months younger than Dwight Yorke was when he debuted for Aston Villa in the English top flight on 24 March 1990 against Crystal Palace.
Feyenoord were captained today by former Netherlands World Cup forward and Liverpool stand-out Dirk Kuyt and also included Netherlands international and ex-Southampton winger Eljero Elia.
AZ’s defence is shored up by ex-Aston Villa star and Netherlands World Cup player Ron Vlaar.
Garcia, who wore the number 28 shirt, did not make an impact on the result but fitted well in the affair, which was played at a frenetic pace.
In the 79th minute, the tricky winger had a penalty appeal turned down as he took on two Feyenoord defenders and appeared to be tripped inside the opposing 18 yard box.
And, minutes later, Garcia almost conjured up a shooting opportunity for a teammate in enemy territory, only to be thwarted by the assistant referee’s flag.
Garcia is only the second Trinidad and Tobago player to appear in the Eredivisie after former 2007 and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup forward Darryl Roberts, who represented Sparta Rotterdam in the 2007-08 season.
Garcia, whose brothers Nathaniel and Joshua Garcia were members of the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 and Under-16 squads respectively, made his senior debut at just 15 years old when he represented T&TEC FC in the Pro League under then coach Dexter Cyrus.
Central FC signed Garcia a year later, just before his impressive performances at the 2014 CFU Under-18 Caribbean Cup under coach Derek King, which changed the trajectory of his career.
Netherlands agent Humphry Nijman spotted Garcia and, along with his local assistant Dion Sosa, convinced the then 16 year old to attend trials in Europe.
It was love at first sight for AZ, who were then coached by Netherlands legend and former FIFA World Player of the Year, Marco Van Basten.
It took negotiations with then Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips and sport attorney and mediator Tyrone Marcus to agree a settlement with Central.
Garcia, who never played for the “Couva Sharks”, trained with a coaching academy run by ex-Trinidad and Tobago World Youth Cup player, Anthony Sherwood, and then represented Marabella Family Crisis Centre in the CNG National Super League (NSL) Premiership Division before AZ officially registered the starlet on his 18th birthday.
Two months later, the Trinidad and Tobago starlet began his professional career in Europe with a 22 minute cameo off the bench against a Feyenoord team that was third in the Eredivisie before kickoff.
Garcia was not the only Trinidad and Tobago player to celebrate a debut in the past week.
“Soca Warriors” captain Kenwyne Jones opened his account for United Arab Emirates club, Al Jazira, on Friday with a headed goal in a 1-1 Arabian Gulf League draw with Al-Sharjah.
It was Jones’ second outing for Al Jazira, since his loan move there from England Championship Division team, Cardiff City.
“It’s still a process to acclimatise to the club and the United Arab Emirates but this has been a solid start for me,” said Jones, via his PR agent. “The staff here at the club, my teammates, and everyone has been really great and welcoming.
“The fans really came out in their numbers to support tonight, which is always a great boost, and I’m hoping that this is just the beginning.”