Veteran striker Kerry Baptiste has no intention of hanging up his football boots, even as he achieved his fifth TT Pro League crown in November.
In a recent interview, the 36-year-old Baptiste acknowledged, “I won it five times, twice with Jabloteh, (one with) Joe Public, Central FC and now here with North East.”
He was a member of the victorious Jabloteh teams which lifted the league crowns in 2002 and 2003-2004 seasons, as well as Joe Public (2009), Central FC (2015-2016) and North East Stars (2017).
“It’s always good to end the season on a high note,” he said. “The coach (Derek King) and (technical staff) put together a team with experienced men, and that will beat you everyday. The results will show, and we’re 2017 Pro League champions. It’s a good feeling and I’m enjoying it. I enjoy playing.”
Baptiste began his career as a midfielder, both at Mucurapo Senior (now East Mucurapo Secondary) and at the national Under-20 level, before he was utilised as a striker by King during his time with Joe Public.
At Joe Public, he had his most prolific season (2009), netting a record 34 goals – which still stands – and taking the accolade as the Pro League’s Player of the Year.
This past season, Baptiste was mainly used as a substitute and netted four goals in the campaign.
“I’m enjoying playing the game and that’s what keeps me motivated,” he said. “Every time I step out on the field and it’s time for training, I’m excited.”
A number of experienced players were involved with North East Stars in the 2017 season, including ex-national captain Densill Theobald, team skipper Elton John as well as defenders Julius James and Yohance Marshall.
“Most of the younger guys in this team, they’ve shown me and a lot of the senior guys respect,” Baptiste stated. “We know what we’re about. We’ve been playing the game for a while.
“When we talk to them, they try their best to take heed, we always try to keep them at the right path and let them know the ins-and-outs, that professionalism is on and off the field,” he added. “We hope that they could take heed and, in the future, be our age and still playing.”
How will he rank this Pro League title? “It was a good one,” he replied. “I really enjoyed this one. I’ve never played with a friend of mine, Densill Theobald, at club level.
“I (got) the opportunity to play with him for the first time and he won the Pro League title for the first time this year. So I enjoyed that. Next season, God spare life, I hope to cop another title,” Baptiste ended.
When asked about his long-term ambitions, Baptiste replied, “Nobody really can tell me when to stop playing. I will stop playing when I feel to stop playing. Once I’m getting the respect from whatever club I’m with (I’ll keep playing).
“But when I stop playing, I’ll try to go into the coaching, I’ll try to get into the coaching academies,” he continued.
Looking to 2018 with North East Stars, he said, “CFU (Club Championship 2018) is ahead of us. We’ll try to win the CFU group, qualify for CONCACAF (Club Championship) and take it from there.”
At the international stage, Baptiste has played 50 times for Trinidad and Tobago, from 2003-2010, netting 12 times. He is still keeping his fingers crossed that he can add to those figures (appearances and goals) one day.
“I’ve never called retirement at the international level,” he said. “At the end of the day, the coaches have their jobs to do. I always leave that option open. It’s always an honour to represent your country. Like I always say, age is a number.”
With regards to his fitness level, Baptiste pointed out, “I try to take care of myself a lot. I try to eat as disciplined as I could. I try to work hard, I try to rest as much as I could. I think that is what helps me a bit.”
Originally published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday