Thu, Dec

To the younger generation the name Syl Dopson is still associated with the pulsating beat of sweet old time calypso music. But to the old time football fans, the handsome man with the cuatro is also remembered as a outstanding national footballer of the distant past.

Syl was among the stalwarts showing up at St Crispin's EC Church last week, to say farewell to another topnotch Trinidad player, Rex Burnett, who made the inside left position his own for over a decade.

He stayed on in the churchyard for an hour, mingling among his dwindling Notre Dame teammates. The lime included Noel Pouchet, Colin Agostini and Ronald Neives. The trip down memory lane was incredible, a journey back to the 1940s and '50s, an era of intense inter-colonial and local club soccer rivalry.

The octogenarians lamented that such days are all over...never to return.

But Syl was highly critical at the demise of regular club football, the death of football teams like Malvern, Shamrock, Maple, Sporting Club, Colts, Notre Dame and Casuals.

"I can't understand it. Why did they allow these clubs, this club football on afternoons, to die. Why?...Why?" he kept asking as if awaiting an answer.

Syl admitted he has been out of touch with the local game for a long time, but assuredly, he would have been on spot on afternoons at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, had there been clubs like Malvern, Maple and Shamrock still in operation.

And so would have been hundreds of old footballers, all rooting for their respective clubs against their traditional enemies.

Many insist the players themselves are to blame since most of them suddenly turned their back on the game following retirement, leaving it up to the officials to maintain the trend. The entire face of Trinidad football could have been different had they still maintained that strong club structure which produced hundreds of household names.

Syl was part of that local history, a highly-accomplished full back, exquisitely handsome, and easily identified with his cuatro and clarinet on tour.

He was a member of the 1953 squad which made a landmark trip to England to play 14 matches. The British press captured Syl with his cuatro making merry; John Atwell with the chac chacs and Allan Joseph with ukulele when they touched down from the Golfito at Southampton on August 24.

But Syl's greatest moment in football was recorded six years earlier when he represented Trinidad and Tobago against Jamaica on

Wednesday, February 26 at Sabina Park, Jamaica, before 13,000 spectators.

He was described by sportswriters in the Jamaica Gleaner as a really great full back. "It was his (Syl Dopson) positional play and hard kicking backed up by John Huggins on his left and Joey Gonsalves in goal which prevented us from cutting down the lead", wrote the Jamaican writer George Beckford 57 years ago.

A heavy shower of rain around three o'clock that day turned Sabina into a muddy pitch to send the Jamaicans floundering around, while Trinidad and Tobago relished the soggy conditions.

"The Trinidadians with their studded boots were more at home on the wet field, to which they were accustomed in Port of Spain where the rainfall is heavy, while our boys were slipping about trying to get a grip with their barred boots", wrote Beckford.

The Trinidadians, playing at their best, scored three goals in five minutes. The first was engineered between Andy Ganteaume and Putty Lewis on the right, the latter lobbing across to Ken Galt at centre whose header was saved. "But Dujon, who like most Jamaican goalkeepers does not use gloves, naturally could not hold the slippery and heavy ball and Galt was right there to pounce upon a golden opportunity". Such was the action related by Beckford writing in the Gleaner.

The writer pointed out that Trinidad's margin of victory would have been much bigger had it not been for goalkeeper Arthur Dujon. "In spite of the six goals which passed him, had he not been so alert a keeper, as when he saved two stingers-one from Ganteaume, the other from Galt, in the opening session-we might have seen double figures in the headlines".

Dopson recalled the match as if it were yesterday, elaborating on the ease in which the Trinidad team destroyed the Jamaicans to share the championship with the visitors.

At 84, he still resides at 17 O'Connor Street, Woodbrook with his wife Ophelia of 59 years. A small get-together is planned for next year when the couple will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

Dopson has no regrets. Life is still sweet and he still meets every now and then with his musical quintet to play the old favourites.

"Calypso music has always been my life and I was able to blend it with football," he said.

Throughout the decades, he has met and played music with the great calypsonians and considers Sparrow as the all-time greatest. Next comes Kitchener.

Dopson reserves his judgment on the Mighty Spoiler.

"Spoiler was good in his department. He was really good in composing those funny songs, but he died very young and so it would be difficult to place him among the greatest," he said.

The teams:

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO - J. Joey Gonsalves, Syl Dopson, J. Huggins, M. Mc Lean, Prior Jones (capt), Noel Winn, Carlton "Putty" Lewis, Gerry Gomez, Andy Ganteaume, Lionel Lynch.

JAMAICA - AS. Dujon, AU. Dujon, H. Shakespeare, H. Walker, K. Mc Ken, W. Rickett, D. Smith, G. Allen (capt), C. Mc Morris, L. Alcock, V. Coy.

Referee - F. O. Romney. Linesmen - E. S. Barber. M. Lovell.