Trinidad and Tobago’s Belgium-based defender Sheldon Bateau reached a milestone recently as he made his 100th appearance for Belgian Pro League club KV Mechelen in their 2-1 win over K Beerschot VA.
The St Ann’s-born former San Juan Jabloteh player was on the pitch for the full duration of the match, coming into the starting team following a short lay off due to injury. Bateau had made a return to the Mechelen first team earlier this year after being forced to look on from the sidelines for almost fourteen months.
His journey has been an admirable one and he did manage a smile after achieving the milestone.
“This was one of my long-term goals. Leading up to my return here I had already played a number of games for the club so at first when I had the opportunity to return it was already something on my mind,” Bateau said.
“This was one of the reasons along with the birth of my son which had a part to play in me returning to Mechelen. I wanted to be in a country where healthcare is first class and he could get the best treatment along with my girlfriend being comfortable in an environment such as the one here in Belgium,” he added.
Bateau first signed with Mechelen in September of 2012 before moving on loan to Russian Premier League club Krylia Samara in 2015. “Once I got the offer to sign with Mechelen a second time, I began looking at the stats and I think for any player to play one hundred games for one club is always a respectable goal to achieve and a very good achievement.
“I definitely feel good about it and I think the feeling is even better now because of what I went through by not playing for fourteen months. I started to play again and then got injured, missing a few games during that time and then came back into the starting team in time to play from the start in my 100th game. I think that definitely shows some character,” he said.
“I grabbed this opportunity with open arms and to get the win meant it was the perfect 100th game. I had a decent performance and the only thing that could have made the occasion better was getting on the scoresheet. Trusting the process and putting in the work has led me to believe everything happens for a reason and falls into place.”
Bateau turned 30 on January 29th and is keeping a keen eye on the situation with the T&T Senior Men’s Team leading up to 2022 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
“As everyone knows it has been a difficult period for Trinidad and Tobago football. But some things are starting to look up, whether it be sorting out the players’ financial situations or getting the locals active again in a Pandemic.
“Looking at our qualifying group, all these other teams are looking at improving their line-ups with foreign players so it’s definitely not going to be any easier than it may have been in the past.”
Bateau came up under Terry Fenwick at Jabloteh, making his way onto the T&T Men’s U-17 and U-20 teams during that period before playing his first senior international match on February 6th, 2013 against Peru at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
He is now anticipating the opening World Cup qualifier against Guyana which will be played in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic on March 25th, followed by the second qualifier versus Puerto Rico on March 28th.
“What will help us is that we have someone like Terry (Fenwick) and the majority of the boys have worked with him before. We understand his philosophy. We haven’t played as a group for a while so really miss coming together. I think we should really have that zeal to go out and perform.”
“At the end of the day the overall goal is to qualify for a senior World Cup, especially for guys like myself and Molino who have been to two youth World Cups and tasting what it is like at that level,” Bateau added.