So often, with sportsmen especially, you hear them talk about "giving back".I understand the sentiment but I don't like the expression.
Why does someone who has spent ten or 15-plus years giving people pleasure in a particular discipline and bringing trophies and honours to club and country need to "give back?"
Has he or she not been doing that all along?
Maybe it is better for them just to say they want to keep giving, keep contributing.
That desire to contribute to community in the present was strong nearly two weeks ago at the YTC ground in Arouca where ex-national footballers, in the main, gathered to play against and interact with inmates at that institution for young offenders.
Many of them are not now getting their wish for one reason or another. But Leroy De Leon is no longer among that number.
A midfielder whose mesmerising play both locally and in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s led to many in the fraternity dubbing him the best player the country has produced, De Leon is now in command in a very different role--as sports coordinator for the Point Fortin Borough Corporation.
It was an interesting and highly commendable move by the borough, one with the potential to really develop the sporting talent in an area that has produced sportsmen of pure gold over the years. If it succeeds, it could well be a model for other regions to follow.
De Leon is a son of the Point Fortin soil, having grown up next to Mahaica Oval. But the area has also produced Trinidad and Tobago football legends like Warren Archibald and Steve David and high calibre talent like Doyle Griffith. "Point" has been a big contributor in basketball also, with Victor "Voot" O'Garro also coming from the area.
Two weeks ago, the five of them were put on high so to speak, their images being placed on a billboard in the borough. All five were present for the official unveiling.
I got to talking with De Leon about the day, about national football of course, but also about how he plans to tackle his new job.
The talk was good. Here are some of his many thoughts.
Speaking first about the billboard, he confessed: "It is one of the greatest honours I have ever had in my life--to know that I have received something that did not say: 'In remembrance of'. I'm alive and every one of the inductees was alive and they were there to enjoy it...
"In the Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sang a song and there is a line in it that goes 'for something in my youth and childhood, I must have done something good'. It wasn't anything conscious, but hey, I'm older now, I'm in the third trimester of my life and I'm enjoying whatever. Whatever I put in down there wasn't for accolades but whatever is given to me I will enjoy."
And with the same confidence that he would have approached his business on the field, De Leon also expects to make a difference as far as sport in his hometown is concerned.
"I will work my butt off to make sure it's successful. I don't have a problem because I know what to do...and I will surround myself with people that share the same views...
"We have six councillors. I had a meeting with the councillors and I said, in every electoral district, I want you to identify a person that is involved in different sporting disciplines. And then I get all those people together and discuss my philosophy on what our plans are for the future of Point Fortin.
"From that, we're gonna have a competition within the six electoral districts and then I'm gonna have a head coach for each discipline...identify these people and that will give us a Point team in cricket, in basketball, in netball, in football, in track and field... You'll hear about Point Fortin again, believe me."
Mayor Clyde Paul's term in office would have been worth it for this initiative alone if De Leon's plans come to fruition. However, the sticking point is always the execution of plans, the following through on promises, the supplying of adequate resources so that people can get their jobs done.
I hope "Dilly"--having left life in Arizona, USA behind--is ready to maneuver around the obstacles that are sure to appear. Success in this field would certainly help him make headway with another of his big hopes.
"I...sent an e-mail to Mr (Jack) Warner, asking him for funds for Mahaica Oval, him and Mr (Anil) Roberts. But on the other side of that coin, I also asked him to get me involved in Trinidad and Tobago football, not as a national coach, because I don't want to be a national coach. I want to be in youth development...
"I am a good listener and I'm dedicated to developing kids. I have the patience, I have the fortitude for that. It took me a while going to classes and learning child behaviour and (I) took some psychology classes and that kind of stuff to really realise what teaching is all about..."
And "teacher" De Leon, concerned as he is about what he sees as "no direction" in the development of the national team, wants to see more use made of local personnel in a concerted way, working with a particular philosophy.
"We have educators in this country, we have the resources in this country to facilitate all that. How come we don't have a national training centre for the football team? How come? We don't have it at all, why? That's a big problem...
"Something is wrong with us. We've had in the past 20 years...I count about nine or ten (national coaches). It's not the coaches, it's our system...
"I think we need stability. We need somebody at the helm that would have a programme from this level to this level. And everybody that's hired to work must follow that programme. Must, must, must!
"It's a continuation... We have lost our identity... We need to get somebody here who can focus on our culture and take it and enhance it, not try to change it.
Don't come in here and tell us you're going to make us people from Holland, or Germans, or Brazilians, we can't be those people! Their lifestyle is different from ours, and once we recognise that, we don't have a problem. We have people in this country right now that could take our football to a different level. I know so! Give them the resources to do it."
It is a pity that, in 2011, such pleas like De Leon's still need to be made.
Now 62, I hope he lives to see his call heeded.