by Shaun Fuentes
Trinidad and Tobago National Under 23 captain Sheldon Bateau signed a one-year contract with Belgium Jupiler League club KV Mechelen on Thursday to become the country’s second player to currently be playing in Belgium.
Bateau underwent a medical examination on Thursday morning before signing on the dotted line. His contract runs for one year with the option of an additional two years.
The former National Under 20 captain had been training at the club for the past three days after spending the previous three weeks in Holland.
Mechelen needed cover for injured Bosnian international defender Boris Pandza and found Bateau to be the ideal replacement. The ex-Olympic team captain will join countryman Khaleem Hyland in Belgium with the midfielder currently a fixture in the Racing Genk start team. Both teams are in the same League, the top tier of Belgium club football.
“I signed the contract earlier today and I am very relieved to have finally landed a deal in Europe. This is a dream becoming a reality for me,” the 21-year-old Bateau said on Thursday.
“I’m just very anxious to begin a full professional career in Europe now. I played for Jabloteh in the local Pro League but this now is the real deal,” added Bateau hails from Charford Court, East Dry River but also calls St Ann’s a second home.
“The past few days have been stressful for me. I’ve had sleepless nights not knowing what the situation would turn out to be. I did well at FC Twenty but then the deal there was cancelled at the last minute. Then I came to Mechelen. Up to a few days ago, Twente officials kept in touch and wanted to work something out for January but I’ve signed with Mechelen and I believe that this is what God wanted for me. I’m very happy to have signed my first overseas contract and now just looking to get down to the business of representing the club and fulfilling my dreams,” Bateau added.
Bateau also represented T&T at the 2007 FIFA Under 17 and 2009 Under 20 World Cups and has been with the national set up since the under 15 level. His accomplishment was hailed by TTFF Technical Director Anton Corneal who coached the youngster since his days at the National Under 15 level.
“All credit to Sheldon. He is a fine example of what hard work, determination and belief can result in. He has been in our system from a very young age and he has come through the ranks. We’d like to wish him the very best in his endeavors in Europe and of course we are really looking forward to seeing him represent the Red,White and Black well in the future,” Corneal said.
Mechelen is based in the Antwerp Province and have won four Belgian championships and one Belgian Cups, as well as the 1987-88 European Cup Winners’ Cup.