Tue, Jul

It is still the opinion of the few survivors who saw the late Edwin "Boysie" Monteil in 1938 that he was Trinidad and Tobago's best-ever header of the ball.

Monteil died February 10, from complications related to Alzheimer's Disease. He was 88.

He was the last of the 1938 national team which played in a Triangular tournament in Guyana. His death marks the end of another era of local sports, the era of stalwarts like George Edwards, Raffie Knowles, John "Bull" Sutherland, Joffre Bart, Hugo Day, Ken O'Brien, Ahamad Charles, Ken Galt, Harold Burnett, Jean Rignault...and now Edwin "Boysie" Monteil..

It was fitting there was standing-room-only last Friday at his funeral service at St Theresa's RC Church in Woodbrook.

Hundreds turned up to say a final farewell to "Boysie", an athlete whose contribution was immense, a man who had given so much pleasure to thousands of local and Caribbean sports fans covering four decades.

Two months ago Monteil had the privilege of celebrating the 60th anniversary of his marriage to Babs Rawlins, the childhood sweetheart he took for a bride when she was just 15.

But like so many prominent old-time sports personalities, Monteil was disappointed when his name did not appear on the list listed for induction into the West Indian Tobacco Sports (Witco) Foundation's Hall of Fame at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.

The Witco format invites the sporting public to make nominations, but it has resulted in a slow-pace of inductees and a bitterness among many deserving personalities.

"He believed he had done enough to be included and it really annoyed him" said his daughter Michelle yesterday.

Monteil was not only Trinidad and Tobago's first serious table tennis player and island champion in 1932, but was the man responsible for spreading the game throughout the country at a time when nobody knew about it.

His sporting life was packed with one bizarre event after another, as footballer, cricketer, marksman and table tennis player. His name was linked with football as a top national player for Sporting Club, and UBOT (United British Oilfields of Trinidad) throughout the 1940s.

He was also a top cricketer, who once beat Test cricketer Gerry Gomez in a race for the first century in a season. As a pioneer alone he should have been in the Hall of Fame.

In 1932, as a 16-year-old student at St Mary's College he dropped into the home of two of classmates-Louis and Maurice Keating-who later joined the priesthood. "Their father came from Ireland and one day they said they had a new game to show me, a game called ping pong played with two racquets, a net and a celluloid ball. I was enthused from the very beginning," said Monteil, who recalled the historic occasion back in 2000.

Monteil, a natural ball player, was soon able to beat the Keating brothers and one day he rushed into Port of Spain with the fabulous sum of $6 in single dollar bills.

"It was the Christmas money...and it was a lot--single dollars were blue in those days-and I went from sports store to sports store looking for ping pong equipment. I got none. Just as I was about to go home I made a last try at a store on Frederick Street.

"Nobody had heard about it-ping pong. But I noticed the owner (a foreigner) was

smiling as he told one of his clerks to check the garret. He brought down a dusty pair of racquets and a net. The owner was amazed that I had heard about the game and gave it to me free," he related.

Monteil said ping pong caught on instantly in Woodbrook and the tick-tock sound coming from wooden racquets could be heard all over the city, in the homes, in the sports clubs, as men, women, boys and girls lined up to play "champ on board". The regulation nine foot by five foot tables were still not on the scene, and matches were played on dining tables.

The game eventually moved into other areas. Young and old in San Juan, Tunapuna, Arima, and Sangre Grande went ping pong crazy.

The game eventually reached San Fernando, and Monteil, who had improved remarkably, developing a backhand and forehand attack, had the honour of beating the defensive Kelvin Mokund of San Fernando in the first-ever national table tennis final around 1936.

The country had yet to see the emergence of old-timers like George Alexander, Bal Kowlessar, Sydney de Bourg, J. Fernandes, Felix Flook and Carl Mohipp-fine players all, who excelled in the 1940s.

Monteil was a star on a Sporting Club football squad which included names like the Alkins brothers, Johnny and Bootins; Carl Appoy; E. Des Vignes; Rolly Tench; Hugo Day; Joffre Bart and Huntie Yeates, with Norbert Kilgour in the goal.

Although Monteil had years of glory with Sporting Club, his greatest moment probably came in a Trinidad versus Guyana clash in 1938.

"They were marking Harold 'Bobool' Burnett and he passed the ball to Bart and as he got it I knew what to expect," said Monteil gleefully relating the entire bizarre episode.

"There was the ball, sailing through the air. I got into position. I saw a Guyanese stopper rushing in to clear it, but I dived and headed the ball to the net, seconds before it could land on his boot. The crowd erupted...but to the amazement of everybody the referee ruled offside.

"There was pandemonium. The Guyanese had never seen anything like that and the referee (an Englishman) eventually had to allow it. Imagine that--the goal was scored against them, but they were so fair-minded and thrilled that they insisted it be allowed.

"We won 1-0 and the referee later came and apologised for his initial error. Skipper Ken Galt was so vex that it was one of the rare occasions that I heard him use some real strong language," said Monteil, adding that for days they were heroes in Guyana, as football fans talked and talked about the sensational (header) goal.

Monteil also had the distinction of playing for both North and South teams in a home-and-away tie.

A week after playing for South he moved into Port of Spain and was selected by Capt JO Cutteridge, author of the series of West Indian Readers used in schools, to play for North.

But Eric James, who later became a fiery secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (T&TFA), protested vehemently. "This should not be. He cannot represent both teams so quickly," James argued.

But James was silenced by the stentorian voice of Cutteridge. "I don't care what you think. I want Monteil on the team," he shouted, and the rest is history.

Although Monteil had been a popular member of a Sporting Club clique, noted for a penchant for the heavy stuff, he had remained a "very moderate drinker".

He had another moment of glory at the turn of the Millennium when old-timers at Jeff McKell's residence, almost opposite to the Monteils at 16 Dennis Mahabir Street, St James were looking on at a "foreign match" on television.

The household went wild when a goal was scored, with screams and shouts reverberating across the street. Monteil heard a voice (Mc Kell) he had known for years.

"Look at that header-that's Boysie Monteil...that's Boysie Monteil all over again!". Monteil was elated. He certainly did not feel "forgotten...or left out".