FORMER NATIONAL footballer Marlon Rojas is publicly expressing his appreciation for the input that ex-T&T coach Bertille St Clair had on his career.
The 39-year-old Rojas played 23 internationals for T&T between 2004 and 2005 as a left-back, during St Clair’s second reign as national men’s team coach.
During a recent interview, Rojas spoke of the role St Clair played in his career, his time on the T&T team and his life since retirement.
JOEL BAILEY (JB): You’ll like to publicly say thanks for the role Bertille St Clair made in his life, especially as a footballer...
MARLON ROJAS (MR): Just going about your daily life, I often reflect on the impact the coaches had in my life. We become adults, your life takes shape, after going through youth programmes as an athlete. While I have appreciation for all the coaches that I’ve passed through, I think he’s definitely one that always stand out. Not taking anything away from the other coaches, they all played a strong part in my development, but St Clair was one, and I can speak for a lot of athletes and players who would say he (brought) out the best in you, if you wanted to bring it out.
He was there to ask of all when you hit that field to train, that was basically where all the hard work was put in. When you trained with St Clair, you really learnt to sacrifice and work hard. That, I think, really helped shape our lives for the future. I always wanted to say thanks. I don’t see him on the scene anymore and I’ll like to recognise his contribution publicly because you never see it until someone has passed. That’s what I want to do, say to Mr St Clair thanks for the work you put in with all of us as athletes. I think it goes a long way for how our lives has become. I’m very content with the path that my life has taken and I owe it a lot to all the hard work some of the coaches have put into my time. Apart from schoolwork, being an athlete shaped you to better take on all the other challenges.
JB: Have you kept in touch with St Clair at all?
MR: I’ve never been in touch with him since when I was a player under him. It was the last time I probably had any interaction with him. I don’t know his whereabouts or anything about him.
JB: Have you tried any of your past teammates to see if they can get in touch with St Clair on his behalf ?
MR: I’m not really in contact with any of the players either. Very rare I speak to anyone who I played ball with unless, for some reason, I bump into them. I’m not a heavy user of Facebook either, even though I’m on it. ‘Tiger’ (Leslie Fitzpatrick) is probably the only player that I’m tight with.
JB: Since you retired from active football, what have you been doing with yourself?
MR: Ever since I’ve stopped playing at that level, I’ve been working. I went to school and now I work at a bank (as) an assistant manager of financial crime in Bermuda. Outside of football, work has been good to me. I’ve been able to work and live in Luxembourg and Bermuda as a compliance officer. Now I’m an anti-money laundering officer at HSBC Bermuda.
JB: How was life in Luxembourg?
MR: It was great. When we were into sport, you travel and see the countries you visited from the lens of an athlete. Then as a worker, as an employee, you get to really take in a bit more and enjoy different cultures that a country might have to offer. And Luxembourg was one country that had a very diverse culture because it was a business capital.
I worked in that field which afforded me the opportunity to live in Europe for a bit, and it was absolutely great. I would say to all athletes, really balance school and your sport so you can afford yourself opportunities after playing. There is no way, if I didn’t mesh it well, that I would have given myself an opportunity, outside of football, to go and visit other countries and enjoy some of the things that we’ll take for granted.
JB: Are you still involved in football?
MR: I do, I still play and up until (recently) I coached in Bermuda. I coached every year since I stopped playing and play recreationally. I coach in one of the clubs in Bermuda, Somerset Eagles. I’ve been with that one club in Bermuda ever since I’ve been on and off the island. I play at least 30 minutes in a game. I try to limit the minutes so I can at least have fun and not be dying.
It’s great, but the life I live now I would say was shaped largely around the efforts that was put in, while I was a student-athlete, and listening to the directions and the (demands) of the coaches. And one particular coach that really helped shape my career in T&T was Mr St Clair.
JB: T&T football has gone through tough times since 2006, what will you attribute to that?
MR: Definitely the talent is still there. I do check out the games on (SportsMax). You see the skill. I think it has digressed a bit, but the skill is definitely there. From my view, the organisation on a whole suffers from the management level. Some of the issues I see raised today (are) genuine issues. I like the call, without taking sides, that (Keith) Look Loy is fighting. From my vantage point, it looks like a good call.
I’ll like to see that follow through. Those things trickle down to the grassroot level and if (the administration) is being run that is not transparent, that can affect everything. I’ll like to see football come back to that stage where the passion is there at all levels. Right now it’s definitely broken up and it’s affecting everything.
JB: During your playing days, the majority of T&T players abroad were in Europe, that’s not the case now. Why is that? Is it due to our current FIFA ranking?
MR: It could be. I’m not on the ground to see how much desire that players have. In my time, it was a competition each time we take the field, at the club level, at the schoolboy level and at the national team, and you got good results. The struggles of the organisation are seeping into the football and it’s really causing it to be fragmented. You can’t really get the best out of the boys if you have a fragmented organisation.
It’s going to affect our football to rise again for many years to come. The economic situation in Trinidad, I’m sure, doesn’t help as well. It’s no one issue our sports is facing, it’s coming from all different angles.
JB: What will you consider your high point as a footballer?
MR: The biggest memory that I keep with me is the relationship that I shared with the guys while playing. The relationship you build with the guys is there for a lifetime. I have great experiences with playing, travelling and having fun, you (can) meet a guy 20 years later and you easily pick right back up as if you saw that person yesterday. I think that’s something that the young ones should really keep in mind, the relationship you can get through sport, nothing in the world can give you that opportunity.
JB: Family life, how is that like?
MR: Family life is really great at the moment. I have two kids, a seven-year-old (Tamia) and a four-year-old (Matteo). They keep me laughing, they’re brilliant and they’re always surprising me. My wife (Shimikah) does a great job. We actually met when I went to the University of Tampa (in Florida, United States). She’s from Bermuda, hence the Bermuda connection. We’re just doing well and trying to achieve what every family would at this time, at the home, financial security, those kind of things.
We’ve lived in Bermuda, Luxembourg, Basel (in Switzerland) and we’re now settled down and trying to raise the kids. We’re actually moving from Bermuda and back to the US sometime soon. That’s going to be the final base I think.
JB: Have they visited Trinidad before?
MR: They love Trinidad, my wife has been coming here ever since college. She loves the Carnival, the food, everything you know a tourist enjoys. She comes here and wants to eat everything. She loves the food and has learnt to cook a few things. The kids love it down here and they keep in touch with Skype, so they don’t miss a beat with my mother (Yvonne) and my siblings on Whatsapp video calls. They love the accent and I’m having fun with them.