Trinidad and Tobago international midfielder Khaleem Hyland will spend his foreseeable professional career in Saudi Arabia, as the 28-year-old midfielder announced a two-year deal with top flight club, Al-Faisaly—who are believed to hold an option for an additional year.
Hyland, a tigerish box-to-box midfielder with 71 international caps and four goals, spent his last nine years in Belgium at Zulte Waregem, KRC Genk and KVC Westerlo, after he headed for Europe as a teenager from San Juan Jabloteh.
He told the TTFA Media that he felt good about his move to Saudi Arabia—which is almost certainly a first in that nation for a Trinidad and Tobago player.
“It’s a new challenge for me at this stage of my career,” said Hyland. “I am 28 at the moment and with a lot of football left in me. But I felt the time was good and the opportunity came at the right time for me to move on from Belgium where I’ve had a wonderful nine, close to ten, years in my career.”
Soca Warriors defender Carlyle Mitchell is also on his way to Asia after agreeing a one-year deal with Indian club, East Bengal. The move will see Mitchell, who is just returning from injury, re-united with international teammate Willis Plaza, who hails from the same Pinto Road village.
“Playing in the I-League is a great opportunity for me, especially playing for a team like East Bengal,” said Mitchell, who represented South Korea second division team, Seoul E-Land, from 2015-16. “They have won three national football league titles in India, eight federation cups among other competitions. I am excited to have the chance to play a season with them along with my compatriot Willis Plaza…
“I have put a lot of work into my physical and mental recovery and I am ready to play football once again. Hopefully with a good training regime and a few games under my belt, I will be knocking on the doors of the national team for selection once again.”
Elsewhere, 18-year-old left-back Keston Julien is already in his second season with Slovakia club, AS Trencin, in Europe and looking forward to a UEFA Europa League Second Round qualifying match against Israel’s Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv on Thursday.
Julien, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at National Under-17 and Under-20 level, is also returning from injury but expects to start in the Europa tie.
“It was pretty challenging at first with the weather,” Julien told the TTFA Media. “It was minus 18 when I got here but I adapted after a couple weeks. I started playing six or seven games right away and then I dropped in form a bit so I was on the bench. [Then] I got back into the first team just before the end of the season.
“I didn’t play the last couple Europa games because of injury but I am fit again and in full training with the first team. I’m in the starting team for Thursday so I am looking forward to it because it’s a huge opportunity for us.”
Julien, who made his senior debut for W Connection at 16 before representing Jabloteh and then securing his move abroad, is anxious to make his senior international debut. He said he is growing up quickly in Slovakia.
“Every day it’s hard and intense work out here,” he said. “We train five days for the week with one day rest plus game day. In those five days, two days will be double sessions with gym work and so. It’s a lot tougher than anything I had ever experienced in Trinidad.
“You have to be ready every day… This experience is shaping me, I believe, into a better player. My ambition is to get into the national senior team…”