Rio Cardines signs pro deal with Palace, could end T&T’s 10-year Premiership absence

Versatile 18-year-old flanker Rio Cardines will aim to end Trinidad and Tobago’s decade-long absence from the England Premier League in the not-so-distant future, after the teenager agreed professional teams with Crystal Palace today.

The Premier Division club confirmed that Cardines, who joined the Palace Under-16 team in 2022, is now a full professional there—although they did not reveal any contract details.

Trinidad and Tobago teenager Rio Cardines signed a professional contract with England Premier Division team Crystal Palace on 3 July 2024.
Photo: Crystal Palace FC

Cardines represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Concacaf Under-17 Championship in 2023, while he represented the young Soca Warriors in the Concacaf Under-20 Qualifying Series earlier this year.

“It’s a great feeling to sign my first professional contract,” Cardines told the Crystal Palace Media. “I’m really happy, proud of myself—it’s been a long journey.”

Cardines’ journey to the Trinidad and Tobago national set-up was also an eventful one.

National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve has repeatedly suggested that the Trinidad and Tobago government change its citizenship laws to widen its talent pool to include children whose grandparents (rather than direct descendants) held the appropriate passports.

Trinidad and Tobago flanker Rio Cardines (right) runs at the Dominica defence during Concacaf U-20 Qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 25 February 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Arguably, Cardines’ situation suggests the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)—and its staff—need to learn how to operate better in the current system.

Cardines’ grandfather, Patrick Cardines, grew up in Oliver Street, Morvant before migrating. Patrick’s son, Colin Cardines, only held a British passport.

However, Colin, guided by attorney and cousin Jennifer Martin, successfully utilised 5.1 of the Citizenship of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Act, which states that:

The minister shall cause a child born outside of Trinidad and Tobago of a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago by descent to be granted a certificate of citizenship of Trinidad and Tobago upon receipt of the prescribed application made…

Trinidad and Tobago flanker Rio Cardines (left) is consoled by his father, Colin Cardines, after his team’s elimination from the 2024 Concacaf U-20 competition on the back of a 3-0 loss to Canada at the Hasely Crawford National Stadium on 27 February 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Colin was then able to get a Trinidad and Tobago passport for his son since Rio, crucially, was younger than 19 years old at the time.

Rio, according to the Citizenship Act, is unable to get a Trinidad and Tobago passport for his own future children, as neither he nor his father are citizens by descent.

However, Rio Cardines’ current status means that Trinidad and Tobago might be represented in the England Premiership again.

Former Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones represented Cardiff City in the England Premier Division in the 2013/14 season.
It is the last time that a Trinidad and Tobago footballer played in the English top flight competition.
Photo: BBC/ Getty

On Saturday 3 May 2014, Kenwyne Jones represented Cardiff City in a 3-0 loss away to Newcastle. It is the last time that a Soca Warriors player took the field at that level.

In the decade prior, Trinidad and Tobago players to take the field in England’s top flight included: Dwight Yorke, Clint Marcelle, Shaka Hislop, Stern John, Carlos Edwards, Jason Scotland, and Jlloyd Samuel.

Cardines can be next.

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4 comments

  1. Don’t forget Just Hoyte and Garvin Hoyte. They also played in the premier league

    • They did. But neither were Trinidad and Tobago players at the time.

      • I believe Justin Hoyte represented us once or twice….

        • Justin Hoyte played 17 times for Trinidad and Tobago. However, he was a lower league player at the time. He was an English player when he played in the Premier League.
          I did not say my list was exhaustive. But that is the reason I did not include either Hoyte brother.
          Everyone named in the story was listed as a Trinidad and Tobago player at the time they were playing in the England Premier League.

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