Keith Look Loy coached his last top-flight football match on 10 December 2017 when FC Santa Rosa were surprised 1-0 by UTT at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, a result that cost them the chance to repeat as Super League champions.
Barely a week later, Look Loy confirmed that he has retired as Santa Rosa head coach and will now focus more on his administrative post as Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president.
No doubt, the outspoken administrator will continue to grab the headlines for his fierce verbal deliveries, whether the target is the local refereeing body or the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association.
So what is the legacy of Look Loy as coach?
Wired868 talks one-on-one with the TTSL president about his career, which first came to public prominence with Malick Secondary in 1990—Look Loy was actually listed as assistant to head coach Kenneth Franco but got much of the credit for the surge in the school’s fortunes—before going on to include coaching jobs with Trinidad and Tobago and Joe Public and developmental roles with CONCACAF and FIFA:
Wired868: Why have you given up your job as head coach?
Keith Look Loy: Well, I started coaching in 1987 and I told my club that this would be my last year. I tried to do it once before but had to come back. That was 2015. I had put one of my former players, Jason Hope, in charge. He was inexperienced […] and the team started very badly. We got six from Club Sando and six from WASA, so I re-assumed leadership of the team and we finished seventh, I think.
But this year, I told them whatever the result, I had to go out. It would have been good to go out as double champions but I stand by my decision… It has got nothing to do with the refereeing situation—I’ve never seen a fight I’d want to run from. Thirty years is a lifetime in coaching and that is enough.
So I will focus on coaching the Under-12s and I will support whoever takes over. I will not turn my back on the club, of course, because it is my club and I am still the president… We have already had approaches from five coaches who are non-Santa Rosa coaches [but] we will take our time and make what we think is the best decision—all factors considered.
Ultimately, I will make the decisions although other people will no doubt factor in. The players believe that Jovan Rochford, who is the former captain and my former assistant, should be the coach… He is a leading candidate if not the leading candidate but I will let it stew and then make a decision.
Wired868: Why didn’t you advise of pending retirement before? Were you giving yourself room to change your mind?
Look Loy: I just didn’t want to affect things [at the club]. Those who needed to know knew. We would have just gone ahead with our business without it going public [but] somehow the [Trinidad] Guardian newspaper found out… The timing of the release was not ours but it is not like it was a national security secret.
Wired868: Has your dual role as Santa Rosa head coach and TTSL president been a distraction to your club and the TTSL?
Look Loy: It was not a distraction to the club. I am retired so I have 24 hours to work on football and I am a good time manager. So I went about my different time portfolios and the evidence is there that I did a great job. The TTSL had a great season and Santa Rosa could have and should have won the league. Also our Under-15 team won the National Youth League and we were losing finalists in the Under-13 division.
[…] It affected the League in the sense that the referees decided they would disrupt the League in their fight with Santa Rosa. But we have taken action to have a refund of our money and that was a board decision.
On the first Wednesday of every month, the [TTSL] Board meets and, in the 12 months since our foundation, we have had 10 general meetings. That is more than the TTFA. In the Super League, the general membership is the ultimate decision maker and takes the heavyweight decisions—and, in particular, the commercial decisions like to bring the Caribbean Football Trust and bMobile on board. The Board decides on the administration of the League and gives guidance but the general meeting decides what to do.
We also have a good administration run by Camara David with his two assistants. I am in constant touch with all of them and they are very capable young people.
Wired868: Will you return as Santa Rosa head coach after your term as TTSL president?
Look Loy: I am a man of my word. For me, the best part about coaching is coaching the little children; that is the coaching I have always loved and that is what I will finish my career as coach doing. I will coach up to Under-12 level.
I am [club] president so I will be asking questions [of the new head coach] and giving guidance and placing demands but I will leave them to do their business. They will still have to answer to me as president but that is only fair.
Wired868: What would you say was your best moment as coach?
Look Loy: Apart from coaching these little children, it would have to be winning the [National] Intercol title with Malick [Secondary] in 1990 and winning the Super League in 2016. I have won a lot of titles but those two stand out.
It was the first time that Malick had ever won an Intercol. When I started coaching Malick in 1987 in the East Zone, the nickname for Malick then was ‘more licks.’ We finished in second place to San Juan then on goal difference and, in 1990, we won our first ever title and we won all the titles. North, National Intercol, Big Seven, MVP, Most Goals. Everything! I will always remember when we won that Intercol title, you couldn’t fit a pin into the National Stadium; there were 25,000 people in there.
Then, of course, with Santa Rosa, we won in our 25th year. We had started the [senior] team in 2010 [after initially opening the club in 1992] because we were tired of losing [our young] players, so we took the decision to start our own men’s team. In our fifth season, we won the League title and just the march towards that—as a club without any major sponsor or big resources—that was very special.
We had boys who joined Santa Rosa from 6 or 7 years old like Jean-Paul Aqui-Blanc, Jovan Rochford, Shaka Pilgrim, Osei Sandy, Gary Bart, Keston “Zico” Henry, Kitwana Manning. It was a validation of our work [over the years] and we were very happy about that.
Wired868: Tell us about Arnold Dwarika. How did you come across him?
Look Loy: Well, we were in pre-season just a few weeks before the start of the 1990 season and the boys told me that a village team wanted a practice game in Susconosco. I said where? They said Susconosco, which is a little village in the back of Santa Cruz. So I said okay, let’s go.
That season, we had played against some big men like teams in the NFA and won, so I wasn’t expecting much from a village team. So we are playing this village side and this little fellah only disrupting our defence. And I’m there on the sidelines pulling my hair out because we just couldn’t stop him. So I turned to Azaad Khan, who was the manager, and asked him who is this boy and what school does he go to. So he told me it was Arnold Dwarika and he goes to a technical school called St Bede’s up in Mount St Benedict’s and he lived just 50 feet from field. They told me his father is a policeman and he was really dread. So I went over there that evening and I said ‘Good evening, ma’am, I would like to talk to you about your son playing for Malick.’
While I was talking to her, his father came home. I told them ‘Send your son to play for me in Malick and he will eventually play for Trinidad and Tobago.’ Well both of them looked at each other and started to laugh. I said don’t laugh.
So they agreed and they brought him into Malick. They were restructuring the League and we had the chance to play in the North, which meant better grounds, more media coverage and closer to home…
In the first five or six games, Arnold struggled and people told me all sorts of things on the sidelines. I remember somebody said, ‘Look Loy, where you get this coolie from? You’re with his mother or what?’
But by the end of that season, Bertille [St Clair] called him up to try out for the 1991 World Youth Cup team. The problem was he would miss the [SSFL] Big Seven and he said: ‘No. Because nobody knew me before I came to Malick so I will stay and play. And if you don’t want to pick me because of that, then don’t pick me.’
Wired868: What advice did you give him about that choice?
Look Loy: I left it to him. I told him if you stay, we will win but if you go to play with the team then there are benefits to that too. But then Bertille picked lots of boys for that team, including [Malick players] Shawn David and Mark James. But he didn’t pick anybody from Signal Hill [Secondary], who he was then coaching. And when we looked at that, we felt that was very transparent. His parents also said [Dwarika] would finish the season with Malick and that was that. If we had never played that match in Susconosco, who knows…
[Editor’s Note: No Signal Hill players made St Clair’s final World Cup squad so it seems fair to say that the Tobagonian coach had not tried to give his school team an advantage].
Wired868: Where do you rate Dwarika among the local talents you’ve seen in your coaching career?
Look Loy: Anybody who knows me as a coach knows that my teams are very structured. Everybody has their job to do for the team and I make no bones about that. The only player I would tell ‘just go and play’ was Dwarika. I just left him to invent his game. I never once told him what to do and that’s the truth. He is the best talent I ever coached. He is better than even Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy in my book but what they had on him was discipline.
The boy was just too indisciplined. I could tell you stories about him from even in Malick. He was not a good trainer—and it took me a little while to realise this—but he would always deliver on match day. But as you get older, you cannot get away with that. When he came back to Trinidad from [East Fife in] Scotland because he was injured, Jack [Warner] and myself brought him back and I picked him at the airport and took him to his sister. I told him ‘You are 25 years old; this is the time you should be leaving Trinidad, not coming back.’
I don’t think he ever fully recovered [from the Scotland experience]. Don’t get me wrong, he went on to play for Trinidad and Tobago many times and he made the CONCACAF Gold Cup All-Star team and so on but he never had the mentality and drive like Dwight Yorke.
While Dwarika was at Joe Public with me, we got offers from clubs from the Mexico Primera Division all the way to Saudi Arabia. But he just wasn’t interested. He should have achieved a lot more. He could play cricket, basketball, table tennis; everything with a ball he could play at an expert level. But he didn’t have the drive.
Wired868: And can you tell us about when you received a ban from the SSFL?
Look Loy: It was 1991 and we were trying to repeat [as champions]. It seems that I can’t repeat. Anyway, we were playing against Trinity College [Moka] on St Mary’s College ground in a make-up game. Brent Sancho was playing for Trinity at the time.
Before the game, some Malick supporters came to me and said: ‘Coach, get up and go inside; the referee come here smelling of alcohol and we want to mash up the game.’ I told them to behave and leave the game to us.
Well, Trinity beat us 1-0 after a player hit the ball with his hand and, as my players stood up waiting for the whistle, he ran after the ball and scored. So our crowd was in volatile form. I went to the referee after the match to ask him about what he did in the match and one of the [Malick] fans hit him. I had to jump in to protect him.
After that, we were in our dressing-room and a policeman came and knocked on our door and said we have a report you hit the referee. I asked who said that and he pointed to an off-duty referee. I said ‘You saw me hit the referee?’ He said no and I asked the referee if he wanted anything else from me and that was it on that evening.
Then the SSFL said I incited violence. Ewing Davis was in charge of the disciplinary meeting and I turned up for it with two lawyers and they immediately cancelled the meeting. Then, they announced that I would get a two-year ban without even giving me a hearing. I took them to court and won and, in the end, they had to pay damages and legal costs. That case finally ended in 1993.
I never went back to coaching Malick. I left and went to work for the TTFA as Jack Warner put me in charge of national youth development and made me the National Under-20 coach. I went on to take teams to three international youth tournaments.
Editor’s Note: In the second and final part of this two-part interview on 20 December, Keith Look Loy will discuss Trinidad and Tobago football during the Jack Warner era, David John-Williams’ failure at the helm of national football, why local football should be in crisis mode and who should be the next TTFA president.