Former Trinidad and Tobago and New York Cosmos midfielder Richard Chinapoo recently touched base with the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) and told us of his aspirations to return home to T&T and help make a positive contribution to local football.
Chinapoo has been living in the United States for over three decades and his recent trip to T&T has got him thinking a lot about his country of birth, more so his community and what he can do to make some impact. Chinapoo has a burning desire to play a role in promoting the sport that made him a house hold name to many during his time on the field.
He told the SWO he has lived and contributed more in the US than in T&T and he thinks it’s time to give something back, now more than ever.
Below are a few questions that were asked of the hard knocking midfielder.
From a football aspect, what have you been up to lately?
RC: For the past 10 years my focus has been growing the club we started back in 1997, Capital Area Soccer Association in Harrisburg, PA, which can be found online at capsoccer.org. Last spring I was provided with the opportunity to get back into the indoor soccer arena with the Harrisburg Heat. I've accepted the position of Head Coach and recently completed our inaugural season with the third highest attendance in the league (19 teams). I also continue to play in an annual Over-50 tournament and in the local leagues.
Who would you say was responsible for helping you become the player you were?
RC: There have been many influential people along the way at different stages in my career. It started with my older brother, Roger, who played for Harvard back in the day and from what I remember got a stint with the National Team. He chose work and family over a career in soccer which gave me more respect for him. Back in the day after games you just got a meal, and it was not like these days where it is financially rewarding. My first high level club team was San Juan Jabloteh. Being born and raised in San Juan you had a sense of community and a responsibility to play at a high level. The elders looked after me giving good advice, providing whatever I needed to perform, such as shoes, transportation and non-alcoholic beverages at parties. Natty and Belize stood out as supporters along with so many others. I then moved on to Malvern, with Robbie Greenidge at the helm.
Great players and role models such as Russell Tesheira, Buggy Haynes, Desmond Headley, Leonard Lewis, and Luciano Woodley set the standard. Coach Greenidge gave me the freedom and confidence to be myself as a player. On the national scene Russell Tesheira was there again. There was also Kendall Walkes, Michael Grayson, Ron LaForest, Gordon Husbands, Earl Carter and many others who have been a part of my molding process. At college my coach Arnold Ramirez pushed me to no end and I am thankful for that. I still remain the only 4-time All American in any sport at Long Island University. Professionally, I would have to say it was Carlos Alberto from the onset. Many more can be mentioned, such as Stam Stamenkovic, Jim Pollihan, Tatu, Johan Neeskens, Paul Kitson, Kenny Cooper, Gordon Jago and Juan Carlos Michia.
When did you make your full debut for T&T and who was responsible for picking you on the national team? Also, what did you accomplished that warrant a place on the team? For example, were you a standout for your club/school or would you say in your time you were one of the top 15 players in the country that caught the eye of the T&T head coach?
RC: I believe my first stint with the full National Team was in 1978 at the CAC games in Colombia. I distinctly remember trying out for the National Team a year or two before and having to beat out the likes of Warren Archibald, Ray Roberts, Buggy Haynes, Ron LaForest, Wilfred Cave and Steve David. Needless to say I was not selected, but it certainly opened my eyes to the talent we had in our country. These were players I watched as a kid and respected, and it was an honor to be on the field with them. The coaches of the CAC team were Ken Henry, and Mervyn Joseph with Oliver Camps as the Team Manager. At that time, I was playing with Malvern and we had won the league and FA Cup. I was scoring goals. It is not for me to decide if I was in the top 15 players in the country, I just wanted to get better and move ahead with being the best I could be.
Obviously, many local fans did not see a lot of you while you represented Trinidad and Tobago at the senior level. Would you like to share some of your brightest moments in T&T colors?
RC: Obviously the first tournament was memorable. By that time Hasley Crawford had won Gold at the Olympics and I’m not sure why, but we struck up a friendship. He was in the stands screaming when we played the Netherland Antilles, and I scored a hattrick. I went on to score in each of the other games we played, however we lost to Bermuda 3-2 and did not move on. Playing for the Strike Squad in Honduras to take us to the final stage was huge also. Dwight Yorke was 16 years old and I could have seen the brilliance in him already. Playing against Suriname at Skinner Park and winning 3-2 was cool too. I missed a penalty kick and knew I had to make up for it, so I provided two assists to Veron Skinner, along with one goal scored by myself, to win the game.
Though, I've never seen you play and only heard about you, one thing I heard that stood out was that you had a powerful shot that was unstoppable for many keepers. What else can you tell us about your game?
RC: My days in Trinidad were played as a striker and my responsibility was to score goals, get assists and put fear into the eyes/hearts of the goalkeepers and defenders. I just loved to score goals. I am a team player and a positive person. I always showed this with all the teams I played for from Trinity College to Malvern to the National Team
What are some of your accomplishment in the past?
RC: Trinity College –I took them from Division 1 to Intercol. I played one year at Intercol losing the North Final to Belmont and finishing second in the league to Belmont. I took Jabloteh to the league championship.
I played with Malvern winning the league and the FA Cup. I played for the U-19 National Team in 1974 at the CAC Games in Canada and we placed third. My other accolades include, Champions New York Cosmos 1983, Champions Baltimore Blast 1984, 4-time All American at Long Island University, 3-time ECAC MVP, 3-time MISL All Star, 5-time NPSL All Star, Harrisburg Heat Hall of Fame, Baltimore Blast Hall of Fame, Long Island University Hall of Fame and NCAA 50th Anniversary Team Selection
Who would you say were some of the best players you've played with and against, with T&T and at Club level?
RC: There are so many. Not in any order - Russell Tesheira, Winston Hackett, Kendall Walkes, Gerard Homer, Carlyle Andrews, Derrick Lewis, Earl Carter, Dwight Yorke, Dexter Francis, Russell Latapy, Brian Williams, Curtis Murrell, Michael Grayson, Ron LaForest, Desmond Headley, Leonard Lewis, Buggy Haynes, Wilfred Cave, David Nakhid, Leroy Spann, Ian Bain and Michael Maurice. Internationally; Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Stam Stamenkovic, Nene Cubillas, Carl Heinz Granitza, Vladislav Bogievic, Tatu, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Neeskens, Kaz Deyna, Peter Lorimar, Wim Rijsbergen, Steve Hunt
How was the experience playing for the NY Cosmos and what were some of your ups and down while there?
RC: It was a once in a lifetime experience. Keep in mind my college team, Long Island University would play scrimmages against the Cosmos each year and even though we would lose, I would score in every game. We already knew some of the players/coaches and they knew of me. I remember the first preseason camp in the Bahamas, sitting on the plane with Johan Neeskens and Wim Rijsbergen (players I watched playing for Holland in the World Cup). Then upon arriving in the at the hotel in the Bahamas I saw Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia sitting at the pool. During my first stretching session I partnered with Carlos Alberto. That was memorable. Winning the championship in San Diego and being runner up for Rookie of the Year was also a huge accomplishment. Also, traveling the world and being known everywhere was amazing. The crowds really came out to watch us play.
You lived in the U.S for most of your life. Now, do you have any intention of returning home in the near future? If yes, do you have any desire to give something back to your country as far as football goes?
RC: It’s interesting that you would ask this. This past Christmas and New Years was the first I have been home for that time of the year since the early 80’s and T&T is definitely on my mind. Christmas is surely a special time at home with family and friends. There is a sense at this juncture in my life that I should be home enjoying everything about what makes Trinidad and Tobago beautiful. I have said many times, if I could just take what I have here and drop it in Trinidad, I would be extremely happy.
In the US I have a home, family, rewarding job, friends, no traffic, safe neighborhood, good health care, and opportunities. On the other hand in Trinidad you get warm weather, beaches, cricket, variety of food, family, friends, a home, health care choices, and most importantly a sense of where you belong. I am currently looking into my options in Trinidad . I was saddened to see San Juan Jabloteh closed down; however, I would love to pass on some of my experience to local football. I have been with my current club for some 16 years and I have learnt a lot.
I am assuming that you are following the current state of T&T football domestically and internationally. What are your thoughts?
RC: I am always optimistic about our football. To be honest I am not in a position to offer an opinion one way or the other. What I see are the results of games and people in position. I am not privy to the inner workings of football, especially on the management level. It is important at any level, in any sport, in any occupation for leadership to set the standards for the rest to follow. We know the talent is there. It is also vital for the young players to understand the sacrifices needed to get to the top.
You have played for San Juan Jabloteh back in the 80's. Can you tell me why was football so well supported and why the support has dried up?
RC: In the late 70’s the entertainment options were not what they are today. As they say “The one thing that is constant, is change”. We live in a different time with different values. I was born and lived the first 17 years of my life on Mission Road in San Juan. Just that explains my loyalty to my neighborhood. From 17 to 21, I lived on Santa Cruz Old Road. There were older men who saw the potential in me and sort of took me under their wings. Players like Kenwyn Cooper, Charlie Spooner and Kelvin Barclay from my area and the ultimate role model, my brother Roger Hosing. Jabloteh was a community back in the day. It was a team with local players, local ties and local support. Also, there were many positive role models and knowledgeable management personnel back then.
What were your thoughts of T&T at the 2006 World Cup and do you think we have the players to take us to the 2018 World Cup?
RC: I was very pleased with our performances at the World Cup. I thought our style of play, composure and confidence was at level that made me proud. We looked like we belonged. Yes, we have the talent to get there again.
If you were the current coach of T&T what steps would you take to help improve this country's national team?
RC: I cannot make recommendations at this point without an understanding of the football landscape in Trinidad and Tobago. I know what I have learned here through playing, coaching and managing. How my learning experiences here and my experience with Trinidad and Tobago football can come together for the benefit of everyone is yet to be seen. As stated, it starts at the top with a clear vision and hard work.
Have you ever visited the Soca Warriors Online (SWO)? If yes, what are your thoughts and what can we do to help make you a more frequent visitor?
RC: I have visited the site on many occasions. I would like to see more positive news about players, teams, management and the direction of football, as well as more uplifting articles. However, great job !!!!
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