The Saint Lucia National Under-20 football team leaves the island on Wednesday 19 October, travelling to Curacao for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) age group finals in Curacao, the second step in their campaign to qualify for the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup.
Last weekend, the team welcomed captain Ryi Maryat back into the fold. A defensive midfielder, Ryi anchors the team tactically and psychologically. In one exchange, you can overhear two of the boys talking about how the team can play "the way we're supposed to" with the inclusion of their captain. Elsewhere, you hear how well-spoken he is, or what a good football brain he has. But as someone who characterises himself as one of the most serious players on the team, he lets none of it get to his head.
In 2015, Ryi was recognised as Saint Lucia's top high school student athlete, with the student and athlete aspects in balance. At the time, he expressed his desire to get a scholarship to a university or college in the United States, but as fortune would have it, he found himself closer to home. In August, Ryi left Micoud, where he also attended high school, to take up a sports scholarship at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill). He is studying accounting and training with the Cave Hill football team.
"The decision came about," he explains, by the fact that the scholarship was a chance for me to further my education, but more importantly give me an opportunity where I can enhance my football, and play and train on a more regular basis. The decision was difficult, but before I left Saint Luciam I found out that i would be capable of leaving school in Barbados, to come back and represent my country in World Cup Qualifiers. From the time that was confirmed, it was easy to go to Barbados. It's just been different adjusting, since I have to provide for my own rather than being with my family."
With the football season in Barbados not yet imminent, Ryi has been training with the Cave Hill squad, but he is delighted to be back with the national team. In Curacao, they face a real group of death, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba. Cuba and Haiti are almost certainly the top two teams in the Caribbean, and whereas Saint Lucia has fared relatively well of late against Trinidad and Tobago, they are tough opposition. The other group, by comparison, includes Curaçao, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Bermuda.
Ryi is actually one of the youngest players on Team Saint Lucia, turning 18 on the day of the opening match against Haiti, 22 October. He is keenly aware of the challenge that lies ahead of his unit, especially playing without United Kingdom-bound striker, Nyrone Winter. But he says that he has maintained close contact with his teammates, and he knows that they've been hewing close to his principal axiom: Hard work is the most important thing.
"What I've been hearing from the guys is that everyone has been putting in some serious work," he says. "And I'm happy for that. I expect that we go out there in Curaçao, and just... we have three tough games, no game is an easy game, three tough games, so we just go out there and do what we are capable of doing, fight for one another, put in the effort and God willing we get the results needed to go to the third round in Costa Rica."
Whatever the outcome of the CFU tournament, this bright young man from New Extension, Micoud is maintaining a great outlook, and he is poised to excel.