HOURS BEFORE he lost his life in a vehicular accident, Shahdon Winchester had gone on a night out with friends, including W Connection and Trinidad and Tobago teammate Neil Benjamin Jr.
“Benji’s father had a little bar. They went there, players, ex-players, all of them,” Earl Jean, head coach of the W Connection Club where Winchester grew up as an academy player, said yesterday.
“He dropped Jem (Gordon) home, in camp. Jem tell him ‘call me when you reach home’,” Jean recalled. “He said, ‘Nah. We have camp tomorrow. Ah will see you there’.”
Winchester, 27, was one of four persons who died yesterday morning in a fiery crash at 5.30 a.m. on the Solomon Hochoy Highway, near Gasparillo.
His Nissan Quashqai crashed into a T&TEC electricity pole, bringing down a transformer and sparking a fire that engulfed the vehicle in flames, killing all four occupants.
Winchester played locally for W Connection in the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League and overseas with Song Lam Nghe An (Vietnam), FF Jaro (Finland), Murcielagos (Mexico), Kapaz (Azerbaijan) and SJK (Finland).
He made his full international debut in June 2010 as an 18-year-old before making a further 22 appearances for the national team.
Winchester was prone to putting on weight when inactive, one of the reasons former national coach Dennis Lawrence did not use him much in recent times.
At W Connection, they were determined to have him ready in January for the new Pro League season.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), Shahdon had one of the best training sessions since he was back with us,” Jean stated. “He was making the effort.”
Jean described Winchester as a “special player” who came through W Connection’s academy as a five-year-old.
“Everybody liked Shahdon. We watched him (grow) from the academy for 20 years,” Jean said. “He had a good heart. Good soul. Humble. Respectful. Never disrespect nobody.”
‘He was in his prime’
Stuart Charles Fevrier was W Connection’s head coach for most of Winchester’s playing life, before passing the job to his assistant, Jean, earlier this year.
Fevrier yesterday remembered Winchester as a technically sound striker, good on the ground and in the air, and one of great potential, having been one of the youngest W Connection players to ever represent the club in the Concacaf Champions League, doing so as a 16-year-old.
Winchester was also a member of the Trinidad and Tobago national team that defeated the United States 2-1 in a 2017 World Cup qualifier, thus ending the USA’s chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He was a defender’s nightmare and combative for a small striker. It was Winchester who bullied American defender Omar Gonzales into causing an own goal that led to T&T’s opening goal in that victory over the Americans in Couva.
Winchester also scored against Mexico in the last World Cup qualifying campaign, under Lawrence.
“He was in his prime,” Fevrier said. “Remember too, that at a young age he got the opportunity to play in Europe. He went to Finland. Azerbaijan as well. For us it was a big loss because he was the captain of the team.”
‘Here today, gone tomorrow’
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, William Wallace, yesterday expressed condolences and shock upon hearing news of the player’s death.
“I am still in a deep state of shock and sadness. I managed Shahdon during my time with the senior team and what I experienced was a young man that was humble, well mannered, soft spoken and an individual with big dreams and ambitions,” Wallace said.
Likewise, T&T Pro League CEO, Julia Baptiste, was saddened, having seen Winchester just ten days earlier at a TT Pro League seminar.
“It’s difficult. Sometimes we feel this should not happen to young people,” Baptiste said. “It’s really difficult for me, as a mother myself. In this time of bereavement, I hope his mother is able to find peace and solace. Words may not be able to bring solace at this time. But hopefully, as time goes by.”
National team captain Khaleem Hyland also extended condolences on this passing of his teammate.
“I don’t know what to say. This is just a terrible way to lose a life and it’s even harder for us because Shahdon was one of us,” Hyland told TTFA Media from his base in Saudi Arabia.
Still recalling Winchester’s final training session, coach Jean said:
“It was hard to see somebody talk about him so well yesterday and in the morning time, you get a call and he is no more. Here today, gone tomorrow.”