March 23, 2006
Shaka Hislop Reaches Pinnacle
Courstey of Kab Hakim
To some people at Howard, June 9th may not hold much significance. To the rest of the world, it is the opening day of the greatest event on the planet, the 2006 World Cup in Germany. This is a month long multi-billion dollar extravaganza where nation upon nation battle it out for the title of World Champions of soccer.
June 10th, however, should hold particular pride to all Howardites. On this day, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) kick-off their challenge with a historical match against Sweden in Dortmund. Why historic? Well, T&T qualify for the World Cup for the first time in their nation's history and they are the smallest country ever to qualify.
So what has all this got to do with Howard University?
Well apart from having the Caribbean Student Association celebrating another island nation triumph, following Jamaica's participation in the 1998 World Cup, Howard alum Shaka Hislop (School of Engineering '92) will be in the Trinidad & Tobago squad destined to become the first ever Howard alumnus to participate in the World Cup.
This is as great a feat as having a Howard athlete compete in the Olympics.
Neil Shaka Hislop (known as Shaka to all) is a British born Trinidadian, who played under head men's soccer coach, Keith Tucker, from 1988-1992. It was as a Freshman that Shaka experienced his most memorable moment in the program by beating current US National Team coach, Bruce Arena's University of Virginia team 3-2 in Charlottesville during the Bison's undefeated march to the NCAA Division 1 Final. But it was in this final, that Hislop still harbors bitter feelings toward the manner of the outcome as Howard went down controversially 1-0 to Indiana on the Hoosiers' home field. History repeated itself the following year, as Howard lost at Indiana again by a 1-0 decision in the 1989 NCAA Quarter Finals.
1989 held particular significance in the Shaka Hislop story and even the future of soccer in both America and Trinidad, when soon after the Indiana upset, he witnessed on television the crushing 1-0 loss to the USA in Port of Spain which eliminated Trinidad from the 1990 World Cup to be held in Italy. Ironically, this was the USA's first qualification in 40 years, and as the host-to-be of the 1994 World Cup, the game played a critical role in soccer emerging in America as a professional sport and flourishing with the youth and growing millions of soccer moms. Sadly, the '89 game also led to a 16 year demise of the Trinidad and Tobago national team as they flattered to deceive in every qualifying stage and the local youth game hardly took off with any formal structure.
Such emotional and political events led to shape Hislop's life and career choice after Howard University. He graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, gained NCCA Division 1 All America honors and was offered a professional soccer contract while guest playing for the Baltimore Bays during an exhibition indoor game in England.
Thus, it was in 1992 that Shaka decided not to pursue an engineering career but rather follow his dream to Europe to play pro ball. Where many have failed, success has followed Shaka both on and off the field. He started in the lower divisions of English soccer with Reading from 1992-1995 before being picked up by major pro club, Newcastle United (1995-1998), to play in the glamourous English Premier League. His career continued to flourish as he switched to West Ham United (1998-2002), then Portsmouth (2002-2005) and now he is back with West Ham, where he is just a few weeks away from helping the club qualify for European competition for the first time in some 30 years.
In 2006, Shaka Hislop, at the age of 37, has entered his 14th year as a professional in one of the toughest leagues in the world and yet he is on the verge of competing in the biggest challenge of his life; helping Trinidad, the Soca Warriors, win the World Cup. Hislop was inducted into the Howard University Hall of Fame in 2005. Strangely, despite his world reknowned performances at the top, Shaka only made his debut for T&T in 1999, when he played in an exhibition match against Jamaica, winning 2-0 for his first international shut-out. There has been much dialogue to why he has been overlooked for so long. Part of it may have been his selection for the England U21 National Team and the England B Team due to his qualification of holding a British passport. Shaka was even selected for the full England National Team in a friendly game with Chile, but he was left on the bench, which allowed him to remain eligible for his Trini "homeland". Ironically, Trinidad will play their second game of the World Cup against England on June 15th, which will be a massive encounter for Shaka as he may have been on the opposition's roster. But make no mistake, his heart and loyalty is definitely with the Soca Warriors. Since 1999, Shaka has made approximately 28 international appearances for his country. But no appearance will be more celebrated by Trinis and Howardites alike as when the legendary Shaka Hislop walks out in Dortmund on June 10th to start against Sweden.
Neil Shaka Hislop
Born in London, England on 22nd February 1969
Graduated from Howard in May 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Married to Desha Rigel Moore (School of Business '92)
Daughters are Maalana (9), Khazia (7), Talia (4), Nia (2)
Parents are George and Gina Hislop
Brothers are Terence Kona and Brian Kali Hislop
Inducted in the the Howard University Athletic Hall of Fame-2005