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Thanks for nothing, Jack

Thanks for nothing, Jack Austin "Jack" Warner. (FP)

By Theodore Lewis | Sun, May 05, 2013 - 12:03 AM

What do you do when an actor refuses to leave the stage?

In the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, they have an ingenious device in the form of a long hook.

If you are performing badly, and the crowd starts to boo, someone with the hook gets it around your neck and they pull you off unceremoniously.

Jack Warner cannot leave the stage. His performance is over. A former chief justice of Barbados says that what he was up to in CONCACAF was fraud – this absolutely mortal blow to the man in charge of crime here.

The mongoose was in charge of the chickens in football. With that, Jack fell down and broke his crown. And he knows that in that nursery rhyme, Jill came tumbling after. But Jack does not have it in him to leave stoically. No, he wants an encore.

He is hearing the voices. “Peron! Peron!” coming from Charlieville and Longdenville (areas in Warner’s parliamentary constituency), and from the acting head of police. He is thinking, “The crowd still likes me, look at them! I deserve an encore.”

But the indictment against Jack is not that he is unpopular. It is that he has committed fraud, according to Sir David Simmons. The remedy for that cannot be multiple elections showing that the people like you.

The remedy has to be to show that you have not been engaged with fraud – that you can account for every dollar intended for the upliftment of football in the country. But that will be difficult to do, by a man who is rich enough to be one of the prime financial backers of a major political party in this country.

The problem for Jack, is that long before the Simmons indictment he had become known in the country as a “smartman”.

Jack also emerged in an era that had known Dom Basil Matthews, a moral force, who debated Greek philosophy with Eric Williams and who created in St Benedict’s College, a secondary school that became the cauldron for the production of some of the best footballers this country has seen in its history.

History will show Dom Basil Matthews to have been the greatest football visionary we have produced.

The Dom devoted his energies to bringing boys who were otherwise underprivileged into a Catholic secondary school. He brought in coaches from Brazil and Suriname.

He recruited the best young football talent in the south and brought them in: Bobby Sookram, Henry Quanvie, Andrew Yee – boys of all races. Then the golden period. Warren Archibald, Kenny Joseph, Wilfred Cave, Leroy De Leon, Dick Furlonge, Leroy Spann, Jan Steadman, on and on, talent that provided the backbone of our national football team for a generation.

There were glory days in football here before Jack. Football was cultural. It was tied to communities: Colts, Maple, Malvern, Paragon, Luton Town, Shamrock. In the South, Shell, Juniors, Lantern Giants, Black Hawks, Searchers, Point Fortin Civic Centre. Intercol was a national institution.

The QRC vs CIC game was one of the highlights of the national calendar. College football was the crucible for national football. Chipsy Mohan, the Sadaphal Brothers. The North-South Red Cross game used to be the biggest game of the year.

Each year the stars emerged, and became household names: Carlton Franco, Tyrone “Tank” De La Bastide, Lincoln Phillips, Ulric “Buggy” Haynes, Alvin Corneal, Andy Aleong, Sammy Llewellyn. And, of course, the incomparable Everard “Gally” Cummings.

When the comprehensive schools came on the scene, we saw a changing of the guard. St Augustine Senior Comprehensive with Garth Pollonais, Julien Garcia, Gary Da Silva, and Mucurapo with the likes of Clint Marcelle and Ian Clauzel, the dread dribbler, were talk of the town.

Dwight Yorke, from Signal Hill and the Green Machine. La Forest and Wayne Lewis from Belmont Inter.

I remember a time of vibrant football leagues in the country: SFL, SFA, POSFL, the oilfield teams with their heroes. Men like Cax Baptiste, and Son Baptiste, Edgar Vidale. Then there were the lesser community leagues, like the one in Marabella that produced legends such as Leslie Boodoo and Lil Roy.

Great national schoolboy teams came to play here, from Brazil, Suriname, and Jamaica. Football here was alive. You knew the names of the players, and recognized then on the street. I saw Pele play at the Oval.

For all of the FIFA influence, football in this country has been moribund under Jack Warner. The intercol (domestic) season comes and goes and no one cares. The stadium is empty when supposedly important games are played here.

Today’s generation of youth do not know that the Savannah used to be a football mecca of the highest order. The Oval was the high church. Raffie Knowles would call the games.

Earl Lovelace has described the Malvern-Maple rivalry in The Dragon Can’t Dance. In 1974, we produced a World Cup team here, of home grown talent that was one game away from going to the World Cup.

Football in this Trinidad is basically dead. I cannot name a single college star, nor do I know who is the captain of the national team.

I do know that the team that went to Germany are still not fully paid, and that they have taken the football authorities to court. Lost in the long-running Jack Warner saga has been football itself.

Football in Trinidad has long lost its way. The biggest star we have produced, with our FIFA connection and power, is Jack Warner himself. He has a higher global profile than any of our footballers.

And he may be richer than all of them combined.

There are people who could get football back to where it was, to the point where we could reclaim a magical history.

Football itself is the main casualty of the era in which we had a high-power man on the seat of power at FIFA. The Jack era killed football here.

• Theodore Lewis is Professor of Education at UWI, St Augustine. This piece first appeared in the Trinidad Express.

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