"I thought I wouldn't like Los Angeles because I always hear about earthquakes and like that. But when I came here it was a different story. I really enjoy it." -Steve David
"When I go home," Steve David says, "well, they don't have a parade, but a lot of people come to the airport. I see all my friends. They put it in the paper that I'm back home."
The Aztecs wish David were half as popular in Los Angeles. Steve wouldn't mind, either.
"If you go to Trinidad," he says, "and you say, 'I want to see Steve David,' you can find me. Everyone know."
The Aztecs, leading the Southern Division, would just like everyone to know they'll be playing the Dallas Tornado in a North American Soccer League match at the Coliseum today, 2 p.m. Between Tommy Lasorda and discussions of Joe Namath, it's difficult to get a word in print edgewise.
"At first I couldn't understand why soccer's always in the back page, stuck in a little corner," David says. "At home when you play a game, it's a big headline and you get a whole page. But after they explained it to me, I try to understand."
BUT STUDENTS of sport also should understand that while Ron Cey no longer leads the bigs in
home runs and Namath hasn't led in anything but interceptions lately, Steve David to the leading scorer in the NASL with 16 goals and 2 assists for 22 points.
With George Best now feeding him from midfield, the Aztecs forward is happier than a kid in a cane field, and there are employers who understand that a happy employee is a productive employee.
David's career is a classic case.
With the Miami Toros in 1975 he scored 23 goals in 23 games, the same goal-a-game pace he is on this season, and was voted the NASL's most valuable player. The next season he scored one goal.
"I had some problems," Steve says before a team practice on the backlot soccer field at Hollywood Park. "I didn't want to play. Even before the season started, I told them I wanted to be traded. But they didn't want to trade me."
So David sulked.
"They kept trading all the good players and bringing in bad players," he says, "but they wouldn't let me go. It's difficult to play in conditions like that."
THE TOROS, now the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, are owned by Elizabeth Robbie, wife of Joe Robbie, who runs the Miami Dolphins. They were so bad (6-18) that the whole team left town.
After his miserable season, David was unloaded to the Aztecs for a measly second-round draft choice, but he didn't exactly cartwheel to L.A.
"I thought I wouldn't like Los Angeles because I always hear about earthquakes and like that," he confesses. "But when I came here it was a different story. I really enjoy it. Great bunch of guys, the coach is good, the front office treats you well."
He's not even homesick for Trinidad, the British island colony about the size of Delaware off the coast of Venezuela.
"After my first year, all this homesick stuff just wear away," says Steve. "Now I can stay away as long as I like."
DAVID, 26, was reared with four sisters and two brothers in the town of Point Fortin. His father is an engineer for Trintoc, an oil company.
"The lifestyle is different in Trinidad," he says. "Family ties are closer. You don't go to restaurants and eat. You cook your food at home. You don't leave your parents' house until you're married."
It wasn't even an easy decision for Steve to play professional soccer.
"I was a policeman," he says. "After leaving high school I had to find work and get some money to continue my education. I liked it so much I didn't want to leave to play pro soccer in '73, but in '74 I decided I should leave."
He concedes that a policeman's lot in Trinidad may be less perilous than in the U.S.
"They've got some dope but not as much as there is here. It's mostly pickpockets and things like
"Once I had to chase a guy who got out of prison. I had to chase him down the river through a forest for a few miles. After an hour and 30 minutes we caught him. He was tired."
Only recently has Trinidad's underworld discovered guns.
"Just before I left," Steve says, "and they're making homemade bombs, too."
IT SEEMED LIKE a good time to go play soccer. Chances are David won't go back to police work when his playing days end, although he does plan to retire to Trinidad. Professional athletes are VIPs in the West Indies.
"They are special," Steve says. "When I finish playing and go back home I can get a job with the government."
That's why he has to be careful in discussing his relationship with teammate Martin Cohen, his roomie from South Africa. Clearly, Cohen does not practice the apartheid policy of his government.
"We never discuss it," Steve says. "I never noticed what my color was until I came here. I don't want to get mixed up in politics like that. That's the last thing my government would ever expect me to talk about."
He hopes to study architecture, completing his junior college work at El Camino.
"I'm just thinking about playing soccer, getting an education and afterward I'll go home and get a life there," he says.
He does not follow the lifestyle of his other teammate, George Best.
"There are a lot of things to do here," Steve says. "Sometimes I'll go to the races. Sometimes we'll go out to eat. Generally, what I like to do best is sleep."