Sun, Mar


Yorke and Latapy"The thing is I always played football for the love of the game, and just really enjoyed. I never really thought about too much of everything that comes with it.

I suppose now that I've retired and you're getting old and you cannot play any more, you have to reflect on some of the things, and these are the times when you do." – New First Citizens Sports Foundation Hall of Famer Russell Latapy.

I don't know how many of the 22 players on the field in Friday's national InterCol semi-final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium are as football crazy as "Little Magician Latas" was when he was their age.

But the above words he spoke after being inducted into the Hall on Thursday show that Latapy's football fascination brought to him more than a long career, fame and fortune.

Now that his legs can no longer carry him past defenders in the same mesmerising way they once did, he has a collection of good memories and friendships to cherish. And the odd induction or two.

I am glad that occasions like his Hall of Fame inclusion can be added to Latas' memory bank.

Unless and until his brain fails him, he will always have such honours to jog those thoughts of times past, even when young boys in future refer to him merely as "some fellow they used to call the Little Magician".

Because we are still such a people of short memories, any later generations will hardly be reminded or even be able to see for themselves the kind of football that made Latapy the local legend he is today.

How much of his play with the Strike Squad or even the Soca Warriors has been preserved on tape I wonder?

People in future might be more privileged to see the best of Dwight Yorke or Brian Lara since foreign-made DVDs exist of their best work.

But how many people today know anything about Victor Gamaldo?

He was, like Latapy and Yorke, a football inductee. But who besides his contemporaries will even remember his induction after last week?

That will be a pity because Gamaldo, I am told, was the kind of player people stood three-deep in front of the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah to see...a hard-kicking skillful midfield star with star-studded Malvern in the 1960s.

Likewise, how many of today's youths, outside the ones he coached, will be able to appreciate the kind of bowling, fielding and batting talent Bernard Julien possessed, outside of those who pass time in the Concrete Stand in the Queen's Park Oval reminiscing about old times?

That is why I value my personal memories. They preserve images that would otherwise have disappeared with the passing years.

I suppose the boys from St Anthony's and Presentation College who watched their teams in last Friday's semi-final will have moments from the season they will talk about for years to come. I hope.

Maybe they will remember Daryl Trim's flick header that put them in the final, or the super flying save that goalkeeper Joel Francois made to deny Pres' Shackiel Henry when the scores were still level.

The St Anthony's boys must have had a ball this year. Before yesterday's final (don't know the outcome of the game at time of writing), their "Tigers" had won every game they had played, something very, very few teams, if any, have ever managed.

The Queen's Royal College sides of my time never enjoyed a title-winning season, far less an unbeaten one. But, putting myself back into my school shoes, game day was still exciting, especially when it was InterCol.

For a first or second former, first team players seemed like "big men", playing big football.

In my 12-year-old eyes, that was how the QRC team of 1981 looked. And short in stature though he was, Lester "AD" Charles was a giant, especially after he scored a peach of a free-kick against Fatima on their ground early in the season when QRC were riding high in the league.

Those unbeaten times did not last, but memories of AD's composed play certainly have. In later years, the dribbling and vision of Roger Guiseppi and nippy footwork of Jeremy Shortt have been added to my collection of Royalian highlights.

Latapy I remember from his days in the yellow and black of Tranquillity Secondary. But when I think of Latas, I think of a game he played for the Strike Squad in a warm-up match during that Italy qualifying campaign in 1989.

It was a European side, don't think it was a national team, but the little man scored a goal that, to this day, I still can't work out.

It was just a combination of footwork that left a cluster of defenders bazodie and deft finishing that did the trick. The guy seemed to find room where there was none!

I was watching from the eastern bleachers in the now Hasley Crawford Stadium that afternoon. When I think about Latapy, to this day, I go back to that match.

Sweet dreams are made of stuff like that. Because I have seen much more of him on TV, many more Yorke moments come to mind, most of them from his play with Manchester United in their treble-winning season of 1999.

His combination with fellow striker Andy Cole was compelling stuff, especially in the Champions League. Top of the list was a game away to Barcelona in the group phase. Yorke had already scored to level the match at 1-1 when he dummied the ball that went through to Cole and back to Yorke and back to Cole and into the goal!

The game--a Champions League classic--finished 3-3. But one British paper called it "A Dwight To Remember".

Later on, in the quarter-final first leg against Inter Milan at Old Trafford, came a pair of Yorke headers from carbon copy David Beckham crosses.

If you can score goals like that in big games like those, why wouldn't you play with a smile on your face?

How much Latapy, Yorke and QRC moments have added to my enjoyment of life, I could not estimate. How much can I pay Brian Lara for the thrills I have got, even as a West Indies cricket sufferer. Don't have enough money.

Some things are just priceless.