Sun, Feb


The phi­los­o­phy of sport is nev­er fixed. Its meth­ods de­mand an in­her­ent­ly self-crit­i­cal con­cep­tion of in­tel­lec­tu­al ac­tiv­i­ty; one that chal­lenges its pre­con­cep­tions and guid­ing prin­ci­ples con­tin­u­ous­ly both as to the na­ture and pur­pos­es of phi­los­o­phy and of sports. It draws up­on and de­vel­ops many of the di­verse branch­es of the par­ent dis­ci­pline, phi­los­o­phy, and re­flects a broad church of the­o­ret­i­cal po­si­tions and styles.

Re­cent­ly Eu­rosport high­light­ed ten sport­ing philoso­phers which they be­lieve were top of the pack. Among them was Bill Shankly, the leg­endary for­mer Liv­er­pool man­ag­er who took a club which lay at the bot­tom of the old Sec­ond Di­vi­sion and turned them in­to the best club in Eng­lish foot­ball. He mixed his man­age­r­i­al nous with a fine line in wit and wis­dom, how­ev­er, dis­pens­ing end­less ver­bal gems - in­clud­ing per­haps the most fa­mous quote in foot­ball his­to­ry. "Some peo­ple be­lieve foot­ball is a mat­ter of life and death, I am very dis­ap­point­ed with that at­ti­tude. I can as­sure you it is much, much more im­por­tant than that." In­clud­ed in that list was French­man Er­ic Can­tona. His ex­tra­or­di­nary philo­soph­i­cal in­tro­spec­tions al­lied to his of­ten bru­tal phys­i­cal na­ture which made him a leg­end, the re­port stat­ed. Then there was Muham­mad Ali, "As good a box­er as Ali was, any ob­jec­tive analy­sis has to show that his rep­u­ta­tion as "The Great­est" re­lied just as much on his flair for self-pro­mo­tion, ver­bal dex­ter­i­ty and pithy in­sights as his box­ing prowess."

I'd like to high­light some­one from our shores who I con­sid­er to be among the top lo­cal philoso­phers and dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ans in sport. He is for­mer Na­tion­al Foot­ball coach Bertille St Clair, the first man to guide Trinidad and To­ba­go to World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion in 1991 at the FI­FA Un­der-20 World Cup in Por­tu­gal. He al­so led T&T to its best-ever Gold Cup fin­ish, reach­ing the se­mi-fi­nal in the 2000 edi­tion. I spent a half-day on the first week­end of the year with Bertille at his sports shop in Scar­bor­ough and there are some be­liefs and quo­ta­tions that stood out.

"The foot­ball struc­ture has changed, The at­ti­tude has changed. It is so im­por­tant and coach­es must recog­nise that. What we do nor­mal­ly is that be­cause you are a good play­er you can do what you want," St Clair said dur­ing our chat.

"I am say­ing it is a lev­el play­ing field. I am con­tin­u­ing to say that if you have good dis­ci­pline you can be any­body. Our coach­es have to recog­nise that. Foot­ball is a lev­el play­ing field don’t care how good you are.

"If you are good you must set the stan­dard for the oth­ers to fol­low. Our coach­es are not strong enough to stand up for what they be­lieve."

Foot­ball has three As," he says. "The first one is the abil­i­ty and we are loaded with that in Trinidad and To­ba­go. The sec­ond one we are lack­ing is ag­gres­sion. We are laid back and the fi­nal one is an at­ti­tude and that goes for every­thing, even the coach­es. You have to set the stan­dard for every­one to fol­low.

"We need that in Trinidad and To­ba­go. Once you can get the play­ers to come to­geth­er and work, then the sky is the lim­it. But you have to do things step by step. Peo­ple learn dif­fer­ent­ly. There are no dunce peo­ple. Foot­ball is a brain game but there are no dunce peo­ple. Every­body doesn’t have the same type of tal­ent but we are all good enough to grow.

"Trinidad and To­ba­go has too much tal­ent for us to be in this sit­u­a­tion. We have to stand up for the right thing. Like I used to tell Dwight and Lat­apy when they come, I say, you see what you all do in Eng­land, do the same thing over here or take the next plane out. In Eng­land, you can’t do any­thing un­less the coach says. Peo­ple want to come and see you look the part. Pride is im­por­tant.

"The big ones set the stan­dard for the oth­ers to fol­low. Every­body has a part to play in life and you must re­spect each oth­er. There is Cap­i­tal D which is dis­ci­pline. You are here to do a job, then fo­cus on do­ing that. Do the right thing," St Clair con­tin­ued.

He had some wise words for the foot­ball lead­ers. "Uni­ty is strength and we need to un­der­stand that. We are all equal. In Trinidad, we think aye he is a big play­er and he is every­thing. It can­not be like that. Set the stan­dard and you can be any­thing you want to be. Foot­ball is a world game and every­one is look­ing for­ward to see­ing it so set the right ex­am­ple for the world to see.

We want our foot­ball to be el­e­vat­ed to the next lev­el. Foot­ball made me what I am. Peo­ple who are in po­si­tions must be com­mit­ted to tak­ing the foot­ball up­wards. You get back what you put in."

SOURCE: T&T Guardian