Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fun, football served up at 'InterCol Nostalgia'


STILL GOT IT: Former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid, right, playing for St Mary's College, tries to elude a Tranquillity Government Secondary player during the InterCol Nostalgia Football Tournament on Saturday at St Mary's Ground, Serpentine Road, St Clair. The event saw a number of former school and national stars turn out for a day of fun. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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For the men that took the field for the InterCol Nostalgia Football Tournament at St Mary's Ground at Serpentine Road, St Clair on Saturday, it was an opportunity to renew ties that for some, stretched back 50 years.

But for the spectator inclined to look further, it was a glance into the past at an era in Trinidad and Tobago football when the pride and passion of playing for school and country had little to do with financial reward.

It was a who's who of aging and younger football heroes from decades gone by, with former national InterCol champions facing off against each other, from Naparima College, St. Benedicts College, Presentation College San Fernando, St. Mary's College, Fatima College, Belmont Secondary, Queen's Royal College and Tranquillity Government Secondary.

Former national stars like Leroy De Leon, George Romano, Lincoln "Tiger" Phillips, Marlon Morris and Ken Butcher, and those of even more recent vintage like David Nakhid, showed their InterCol spirit by turning out for the event.

Some, like Phillips and De Leon, did not don their alma mater's colours for friendly action against their past comrades. But others were up for a sweat, even with their trademark pace having long deserted them.

Even Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing put on his old Belmont stripes, with his gusto greater than his cunning on the day. National team coach Jamal Shabazz too showed his support for the event, while Paul "Polly" Regis, a former player and Maple coach also popped in.

Of course, along with a plethora of knee braces and greying hair among the different age categories, there was a smattering of youth. And the usual banter was in abundance. One past player inquired jokingly if urine samples were needed, presumably for drug testing.

A smiling Nakhid took the field for St Mary's and showed glimpses of the prowess that had made him a staple in the national side's midfield in the 1990s; but the camaraderie and stories of yesteryear, along with the old photographs displayed by one of the event organisers, Kelvin Lawrence, were perhaps the most inspiring events of the day.

Butcher, a former Sport Company of T&T (SPORTT) CEO and now executive manager at UTT (University of T&T), sees great importance in staging the InterCol Nostagia tournament.

"(It was) desperately needed, because over the years people have been talking about it but nothing has been done," Butcher told the Express on Saturday. "We eventually got it together. We emphasise the importance of getting it off the ground, especially since it was St Mary's 150th anniversary of the school, so once we started it, we know the momentum will build."

Of the tournament, Butcher, who lined up in St Mary's colours, was happy to be back on the pitch.

"It's in a friendly spirit because we know each other from long ago. We play a much slower game, but we still knock it properly, and so far, everybody is pretty happy with how we started."

Butcher was most impressed to rub shoulders with his old friends and former teammates such as former midfield ace De Leon—whom he reveres as one of the T&T's "best-ever" players—ex-goalkeeper Phillips and former full back Romano, with whom he started playing for T&T.

"Lincoln 'Tiger' Phillips, he is an outstanding person, he is a storybook by himself. Then you have people like George Romano who started on the national team with me, we played for Queen's Park together. Roger Matthews, Sheldon Gomes, those are the guys and myself who really began football in Queen's Park."

Butcher called the experience "priceless".

"The mere idea that they're coming out, it means a lot," he said. "What is important is that when they come out, they can share. That is the important thing for us, to share with the younger ones.

"It's going to be on the calendar every year. So when people come for Carnival, they will arrange their holidays the Saturday after Carnival to stay for something like this."