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23
Mon, Oct

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A little bit again and I thought he woulda jump over the counter and rest two cuff-at least-on me.

"He" is someone so passionately supportive of Russell Latapy that just mentioning "the Little Magician" and "old" in the same sentence was enough to set off a heated argument that prompted almost everyone else crammed into the family business place last Saturday morning to forget about electrical wires, plugs and PVC conduit and lend their voices to the raging debate.

In the end, there was no winner (is there ever when these impromptu verbal confrontations take place?), but even as my combatant continued to scream his protestations, to the point of almost losing his voice, at the disrespect shown by the local media towards one of our greatest-ever footballers, I knew I was onto an excellent topic for a column.

Of course, being involved in the media, I have the unfair advantage of more than one platform to clarify my position while my opponent-a very good electrician, I might add-does not. So, let me try as best as possible to present his case, then mine, and let you be the judge.

As someone who played alongside and against Latapy as a youthman in Carenage, who has grown up following every step of this gifted player's career and noted carefully the media's treatment of the midfielder, especially now that he has come back, at the age of 40, to again make a significant difference to another World Cup qualifying campaign, the view, as expressed at the very top of a straining voice, was that we media people like to just pull down our own.

In support of that contention, it was noted that arguably the greatest player of all time, Pele, recently wrote glowingly of Latapy, who, in case anyone missed it, made history as the oldest player to score in World Cup qualifying when he found the back of the net against the United States in that critical encounter at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on October 15, a game that was eventually won 2-1 with Dwight Yorke, another veteran at 37, getting what proved to be the winner from the penalty spot.

So, the challenge was put forward most forcefully (causing some spectators to forget about what they had come to purchase-not a good thing at all for a place of business): why is it that the media only going on about the man's age when someone of the stature of the legendary Brazilian is so full of praise for Latas and, more importantly, the midfield maestro has once again proven the sceptics woefully wrong?

There were a couple other peripheral points, like Leo Beenhakker doing the country and specifically Trinidad and Tobago football a grave injustice on the global stage when the Dutchman chose not to give Latapy a run until the last few minutes of the final group fixture against Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

"That was the only time we see we kinda football!" was the piercing scream, barely discernible amid the rising tide of additional, and equally forthright, opinions from those either for or against the fundamental contention relating to media bias.

On the other hand, my take on the whole issue was, and is, that it is not about the personality but the process, and, fundamentally, being so heavily reliant on so many senior players, with Latapy the most senior of them all, raises serious questions about the structure of the national game and its inability, so far, to produce a younger crop capable of filling the considerable boots of these ageing and long-serving stars.

And yes, I had to do some shouting myself to get the point across, so much so that it took 15 minutes to measure 20 metres of wire (thankfully, the waiting customer didn't mind because he was enjoying the exchange) as I kept losing count in between my own verbal rocket launchers, one surgical strike being along the lines of: "Yes man, bring back all the old fellas. Next thing you go want to dig up George Headley (in keeping with the heavy Jamaican bias) and put a bat in he hand for the West Indies!"

But this supercharged electrician, on the verge of tripping from an overload of outrage, was having none of this "bigger picture" tra-la-la, preferring to lament at how ungrateful so many of us are to a footballer who had given so much and delighted so many on the national and international stage from the time he was barely into his teens.

Reeling from the incessant onslaught, I pulled out what I hoped would be the magic bullet, of the same variety that National Security Minister Martin Joseph says will solve our crime problem in two and a half years from now.

"So tell me something. Who you does support-Trinidad and Tobago or Russell Latapy?"

It was the only time in the 15-minute tirade that there was a pause before, having stumbled only briefly, my adversary shot back: "Allyuh could say what allyuh want, but Latas is my boy all the way!"

With neither side backing down, a stalemate was declared and regular business resumed. Still, in between toting panel boxes and testing blubs aplenty, the question of priority towards individual, team or country lingered.

While you make up your own mind on the issue, I'll await another round of the verbal battle, keeping a mixture of lime and honey handy for my worthy opponent.