Wed, Oct

"Hard work never killed anyone!"

Those are the words that may best describe former Trinidad and Tobago captain Anthony Rougier, included in coach Leo Beenhakker's provisional 24-man T&T squad for the 2006 World Cup.

Although some people have expressed surprise at his selection, Rougier is certain it is just another step towards fulfilling the destiny that God has in store for him.

A deeply religious man, the veteran "Soca Warrior" has always had to work hard for whatever he has achieved.

He hails from the tiny village of Sobo in La Brea, a region that has one of the highest levels of poverty in Trinidad.

Despite the hard times, though, Sobo Village can boast of producing a string of top sportsmen in both cricket and football.

These include former West Indies batsman and coach, Gus Logie, and ex-national striker Philbert Jones, who is the uncle of another Sobo hero and Soca Warrior, Kenwyne Jones.

Rougier claims that Philbert Jones was his boyhood hero and he owes a lot to the guidance that the former "Strike Squad" star gave to him.

It is that same guidance and support Rougier wants to give to the young people of Trinidad and Tobago, many of whom he says are drifting aimlessly through life.

He feels that sport, especially football, can play a big role in turning around their lives.

"Football was a big thing in La Brea when I was growing up. In fact, the whole area from Point Fortin  to La Brea was football crazy. Teams like Civic Centre, Trintoc, Forest Reserve, Uprising and La Brea Angels had big crowds whenever they played and I always

wanted to be a part of it," Rougier recalled.

He joined La Brea Angels at the age of 14 and was a member of the La Brea team that captured the FA Trophy.

Soon after, he went across to the popular Trintoc team, which had an array of national players to choose from.

Rougier soon established himself as a key member of Trintoc and won many national and regional titles with the "Oil Squad".

At 16, he was called up to join the national team and he has been there ever since.

In 2000 he was appointed captain of a team that included such players as Russell Latapy, Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop and Stern John and he was able to get the respect of all of them.

Rougier is a bit disappointed that things in the deep south are different today and that many of the sporting traditions have been forgotten, especially by the youths.

However, he is determined to change things and has already linked up with the La Brea Football Academy to restore the status of the sport in his hometown.

His professional career has taken him from Scotland to England to the United States and even to China.

He speaks fondly of his time in far-off China, where he was amazed at the work ethic of the Chinese people. It is a work ethic that he must have been familiar with since he has always been respected for his determination and strength of character.

Even Beenhakker, in explaining Rougier's selection, indicated that he brings "special characteristics to the team".

So just when fans were writing off his international career, Rougier has surprised them yet again. But he has a history of doing what many have told him was impossible.

He remembered as a youngster some people told him he would never become a professional footballer. He was also told he would never make the national team and when he did that, he was told that he would never become the captain.

A few weeks ago, many held the view that he would never be on the squad for Germany but he has chosen to ignore the critics and listen to his God.

Rougier knows he must work very hard in the coming weeks, but as he says: "It's no big thing because that's what I have done throughout my life."

At a time when successful sportsmen are better known for their  boastfulness and conceit, this humble son of Sobo is a welcome change.