Sat, Apr

Former Trinidad and Tobago Head Coach, Bertille St. Clair

Legendary Tobago football coach Bertille St Clair was one of 21 stalwarts recognised for their years of service within their communities on Monday, when the Ministry of Sport and Community Development launched their 2024 Sport, Health, Athletic Performance Empowerment (SHAPE) programme at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.

St Clair coached Trinidad and Tobago's football teams at various youth levels and he has the distinction of being the only coach to take Trinidad and Tobago's senior team to the semi-finals of the Concacaf Gold Cup – a feat they managed in the 2000 edition of the tournament. He was also the coach of the Soca Warriors in the successful 2006 World Cup campaign, before being replaced by Dutchman Leo Beenhakker.

St Clair also brought Signal Hill Secondary to prominence in the 1980s, with Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) league and national intercol titles.

St Clair is also widely regarded as one of the main forces who influenced the career of former Soca Warriors captain Dwight Yorke, who had an outstanding career with Manchester United, with success in the English Premier League and Uefa Champions League.

The former Trinidad and Tobago coach was not present to receive his award, but the VIP lounge at the Hasely Crawford Stadium was swarmed by sporting pioneers who have dedicated their lives to bettering the youth in the communities through activities such as dance, cricket, rugby, football, netball, track and field and so many more.

Two of the awardees, Rhonda Jones and Preston Nanan, told Newsday they were grateful to be acknowledged for their work and they said it gives them additional motivation to keep pushing the youths to excel.

Jones, a former coach of Trinidad and Tobago's youth female cricket teams from 2009-2014, was recognised for contribution in the sports of netball, football and her first love, cricket. Meanwhile, Nanan, who has been working in sport for over 30 years, was rewarded for his immense contribution to football.

Nanan's San Fernando Sports Academy has produced quality players such as 16-year-old St Benedict's College and Premier SC striker Malachi Webb, who has been selected on the Trinidad and Tobago's under-20 men's football team for the Concacaf under-20 championship qualifiers.

Nanan founded the San Fernando Sports Academy NGO over 15 years ago, with former Naparima goalkeeper Levi Fernandez and 2022 SSFL MVP Tarik Lee being two other high-profile graduates of the programme.

"It is a great accomplishment and a great feeling to know you coach these young guys and now you are seeing them on TV," Nanan told Newsday.

"It is a great feeling to know you have been honoured is a great thing to recognise people for their work.

"Sometimes, these people go unnoticed for the work they do; and they have great influence in their communities, spending time with children and nurturing them and training them and giving them the courage they need."

Jones, a teacher for over 30 years, is extremely passionate about her La Horquetta community, and in 2009, she started the LH Movers Sports and Cultural Committee following the spate of murders in and around her community. Jones' brother lost his life, after a life of crime, and she remains committed on her quest to steer the youth of her community away from nefarious activities.

"I was always battling behind the scenes and that kind of thing," Jones said, reflecting on her community involvement prior to forming the committee.

"I decided I would come forward and let people know we could do so much more. We got some like-minded people together and we formed the committee. Since then, we have been doing so much."

Jones said the LH Movers Sports and Cultural Committee hosts a plethora of social, cultural and sporting events, and the recent Carnival season saw them teaching youngsters about the traditions of the festival to try and foster a greater appreciation for its roots.

While Jones is appreciative of the award, she said the hard work must go on.

"For me, getting this award is just saying: 'your work was recognised and it was not in vain.' And I will continue – whether another award comes my way or not – until God says no more.

"In my community, it is needed. It is really needed because it is really sad when I hear gunshots as opposed to a ball bouncing. I will go for a ball any day. I will give them a bat and a ball. That is just me."

21 Community Sport Titans honoured:

  • Trevor Alleyne (Cricket)
  • Charmain Archer (Netball)
  • Brian Browne (Cricket, Football)
  • Randolf Cato (Dragon boat)
  • Verna Edwards (Table tennis, Track and Field) – Posthumous
  • Nikeisha Felix-Lewis (Cricket, Netball)
  • Gerard Franklyn (Track and Field)
  • Wade Franklyn (Track and Field)
  • Roger Frontin (Cycling)
  • Vishnu Gokool (Cricket, Table tennis)
  • Ulric "Buggy" Haynes (Football)
  • Rudolph Jack (Rugby)
  • Rhonda Jones (Cricket, Football and Netball)
  • Ingrid Maxwell (Cricket)
  • Ray Mitchell (Football)
  • Preston Nanan (Football)
  • Willet Pantor (Rugby)
  • Verlyn Ross (Rugby and Tagby)
  • Reynold Sewdass (Cricket)
  • Bertille St Clair (Football)
  • Lana Lisa Thompson (Dance)

SOURCE: T&T Newsday