“No matter where we roam, if near or far from home, let us be always one Naparima.”
Taken from the Naparima College anthem, these words were the final sentiments shared to the late Shahdon Winchester by his former school/teammate, Nigel Wright, during his tribute at the ex-footballer’s funeral on Thursday.
Wright was joined on stage by several former Naparima teammates, former coach Shawn Cooper and the college’s Physical Education tutor, Richard Nagaur, who shared their memories of Winchester’s youthful days.
Given the aliases "Redo" and "Jep" for his light-coloured skin and speed on the pitch, the 27-year old striker was a favourite at his alma mater. During his early years at Naps, a pint-sized Winchester was often made fun of by his schoolmates. However, what he lacked in physical appearance, he made up for both on and off the field of play.
Wright and Winchester played alongside each other on the Naparima frontline and shared many good times competing in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), South Zone and National Intercol tournaments.
“On the field, a warrior, fighter and backing down was not an option for him,” said Wright in his emotional tribute. “Off the field, however, little Shahdon made it his business to frustrate the older guys. We would get back at him by making sure we held his hand when crossing the road. We understood and tolerated him and that was his way of showing affection to us. He was family, one of us, and we made it our business to take care of him while in school.”
On their way to lifting the National Intercol title in 2007, Wright was unable to play after a broken leg suffered in the South Zone final. His fondest memory of Winchester came after being dropped to bench by Cooper for a couple games prior, and then substituted on against Moruga Secondary during the Intercol competition.
“Coach Cooper told me if I didn’t score three goals I was going to be on the bench for the rest of the season. As I came on, I begged for assistance: ‘Please fellas, help me score,’ I pleaded with my teammates. Jep assisted me in all three goals I scored that day. He was a team player and was loved by all,” Wright reminisced.
Dubbing Winchester as Naparima’s "secret weapon", Wright said the former talismanic striker showed more fight than most of the players on the team. Wright also recalled countless memories of Winchester’s natural goal-scoring ability. One particular instance came during a training game against San Fernando Giants (semi-pro team).
“Jep got a ball at the edge of the box, first touch chest-trapped, the defender rushed in and he put it over his head, and before the ball dropped, he volleyed into the goal. Coach Cooper ran onto the pitch and told the referee to blow off the game. We ran onto the field and lifted him up and ran off with him as if we’d won the final. He always trained hard and it didn’t matter who he came up against. He always gave one hundred per cent and demanded the same from us.”
Nagaur also reflected on Winchester’s decorated school career and also hailed his academic pursuit. According to the PE teacher, the ex-striker was ably assisted with his homework and projects by schoolmates throughout the SSFL season (September-December).
During his time at Naps, Winchester won numerous titles donning the blue and white uniform. From 2005 to 2008, Naparima were crowned South Zone league champions. They also copped the South Intercol (2005, 2007, 2008), National Big Five league champions (2005, 2008) and the National Intercol (2007).
“We worshipped him,” said Nagaur to mourners. “Scoring goals with both his head and feet. The one I remember the most was against Mayaro Secondary, he was about 14 at the time. With five minutes to go, they had marked Shahdon throughout the game. He collected a pass, beat two defenders to produce a 2-1 victory and silence the whole of Mayaro. That day, we lifted him up. I remember it like yesterday and was there for his entire career at Naparima College.”
SOURCE: T&T Newsday