Time for TT football to reboot
Time for TT football to reboot
Time for TT football to reboot
the Dread Dribbler,
'I was humble to the game'
DOB: Oct. 10, 1960
Nickname: the Dread Dribbler/Moose
Hometown – Belmont
Favourite meal: callaloo, fish broth.
Favourite player: Lionel Messi.
Hero – Ronaldinho (Barcelona)
School: Mucurapo Sr. Comprehensive
Clubs: ASL (1979-’80)
ECM Motown (1981-‘82)
Superstar Rangers (1982-’83)
By Veersen Bhoolai, Nov. 2, 2019
The College’s Football League took a turn in 1978 and never looked back.
Gone were the glory days of a Saint Mary’s – Queen’s Royal College final in the North Zone, Trinity and Tranquility had both made their claims throughout the seventies. But now there were two new kids on the block. Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive and John Donaldson Technical Institute (JohnD).
Throw into the mix a diminutive Rastafarian by the name of Ian Clauzel, the Mucurapo Striker whose skill was bamboozling defenders nationwide and taking the country by storm. The masses soon dubbed him “the Dread Dribbler.”
As Clauzel played, his image grew. His skill and shock of locks were embraced by the working class but there were also many who frowned upon his grooming and believed that a schoolboy should have a more well kept appearance.
Today, a humble and mellow Clauzel reflects, “I was a Rastafarian. I wasn’t into the negativity. My hair wasn’t playing football. People wanted me to cut my hair but it was the same football I was going to play.”
He explains, “I was bringing people together from Cocorite, Carenage and Belmont. They came out to support and not really me alone. It was a team I was playing with.”
Describing his style, he explains, “I had something psychological before a game. I would play it in my head. I would play it before and after. I would study a game and be one step ahead. I had confidence too, I would run and change directions.” He continues, “I feared no player on the field. I would carry a ball to the player. My overconfidence broke their confidence. I would go past them and then change direction. I would turn away from them and then turn back to them.” He emphasizes that his confidence and skill simply overwhelmed his opponents. “I would run with the ball between my legs. I would show them the ball and then not show them and my shoulders would be dipping, ”he laughs.
To his surprise while suiting up for Elements vs Trintoc in the eighties at the Arima Velodrome, a young Russel Latapy warming up at the other end, ran over to him. “He told me how he liked my style and had adopted it (to some extent), cutting the angles, changing position and the body language.”
In addition to Clauzel the Mucurapo team was a talented bunch: Glenon Foncette (Goalkeeper);
Novell Gittens (Captain); Kendall Reyes; Kenneth Vincent; Phillip Thomas (deceased);
Randy Glasgow (a boxing promoter today); Eric White, Emmerson Dubbison and Wendell
“Wendell was a strong, powerful player. He loved to run. He would run into anybody. We called
him ‘the Tractor’ because a tractor can move anything in front of it. I moved around them.
He moved through them.”
Former TT Goalkeeper Earl Spiderman Carter (New York Cosmos), raves about Dubisson, he “was
the #9 who was the main piece of the puzzle for Clauzel. Emmerson was the workhorse and 90
percent of the goals that Clauzel scored were received from the #9.”
Regarding Dubisson, Carter expounds, “I have never seen anyone run with the ball close to their
feet at top speed like that through the midfield except Warren Archibald.”
Carter believes Dubisson was a better footballer than Clauzel. MSC’s Vice Captain, Kenneth Vincent (Right Back), agrees. He explains that not only was Dubisson fast but he could fall back in defence and direct. “We were a symphony and he was the conductor.”
As Mucurapo marched towards the North Zone Intercol Final, John D with their own talented crew did as well and they were determined not to be the bridesmaid in this encounter. They had in their ranks, Captain, Alan “Peru” Anderson and five other players who would go on to the National Youth Team so this was an encounter chock-full of pedigree.
It was quite a sight as the Queen’s Park Oval was sold out for this epic Final. Some Press reports say eighteen thousand showed up that day. Clauzel says, “All I can tell you is that the Oval was sold out and there were ten thousand more people outside trying to get in. People even told me that they got injured trying to storm.”
The Dread Dribbler showed his class in the first half drawing first blood for Mucurapo. “John D attacked, my Goalkeeper kicked it out to just on the half line. I was facing him and made a half a turn on my right foot and hit it with my left. The goalkeeper did not move. He only dived after the ball went in.”
Dale Hinds and Harmon Lucas countered for John D and a battling Mucurapo hit the post twice courtesy of Clauzel and White but in the end succumbed 2-1.
MSC Captain, Novelle Gittens (Centre Back), recalls Clauzel and the N. Zone Final, “Ian Clauzel was … a leader on and off the field but most of all he was a team player. He wasn’t into all the glamour and fame that he attracted playing for MSC.”
Novelle distinctly remembers the huge crowd that turned up for the Final. “In my opinion MSC brought the crowds back to Intercol football which was lacking in the past. …I remember when Ian scored the first goal of the game – a beauty – seeing the packed Oval crowd go wild with enthusiasm. It was unbelievable. To this day people still remind me of the joy that the ’78 Mucurapo team gave to the masses.”
Regarding Dubisson, “He was was also another gifted teammate, arguably even better than Ian Clauzel in my opinion.”
Joseph Bacchus, who started in the midfield for John D admits that the MSC team of ‘77/’78 was a breath of fresh air for Colleges’ Football. He makes it clear however, that in no way was his team worried about Moose (Clauzel) or Old Man (White).
“We had one concern for that game and it was Dubisson. We shut him down and that was the game.”
He credits their Coach Noel “Brigand” Gonzales and his Assistant for having a plan as well as fellow midfielder, Lyle Skinner, “the masterpiece.”
Bacchus explains that although Clauzel and Mucurapo were getting a lot of attention, “We were on par. We really matched up well with each other.
“On that day we were much better. If Mucurapo had scored three, we would have scored four. If the had scored four, we would have scored five. That’s how good we were.”
John D Captain, Clyde Joseph, distinct memories of the crowd and the goal. “We were housed at Harvard Club and walked over to the Queen’s Park Oval before the game. We entered we didn’t see anybody there. When we exited the Dressing Room, we couldn’t believe how many people were in the Stands.”
Regarding Clauzel’s goal, he says many people don’t know this but “He hit a shot … the ball ricocheted off my leg and beat my ‘Keeper. It was real fast. People didn’t see (it). They just saw the ball in the back of the net.”
Clauzel points this game as one of the few lows of his footballing life, however, “They deserved to win. I scored one but they scored two. I accepted it. I did my best.”
One can understand the dismay of the Mucurapo supporters, the previous year, Clauzel and company had run roughshod over all opposition in the Championship Division winning every game. Entering the nationwide Barclay’s Knock Out tournament, they met League Champs, Trinity College in the final and humbled them 5-2. “I scored the last goal. We played all over them. They didn’t know what hit them.”
Vice Captain, Kenneth Ola Vincent, remembers the encounter on St. Mary’s Grounds. “We were leading 3-0 at half time and it seemed like the game was over. The crowd hoisted Clauzel and Eric White on their shoulders. The Principal was in her glory. We couldn’t get to the Locker Room.”
Vincent has a distinct memory of Clauzel leaving four Trinity Defenders in his wake and scoring on an open net.
The other man up front was pretty impressive as well, Eric White (Cocorite Utd). He describes the Mucurapo team and playing with Clauzel as “… an awesome experience.
“Clauzel and I developed a comradery. We just had to look at each other and we knew exactly where to collect the ball.
“He was witty. He could easily go through a defence undetected.” White agrees that Clauzel is one of the top dribblers in the history of TT football. “He just lacked a bit of weight.”
He points out that the only reason MSC failed to win the league that year is that he and others were unavailable due to training with the National Youth Team.
Mucurapo’s Intercol season may have come to an anticlimactic end but their final vs John D had made it clear the glory days of the prestige schools was no longer a certainty. Even more so a diminutive Rastafarian had left an indelible mark on the game, the likes we have never seen.
He quickly dusts off the compliments, “I am humble. I never thrived on it. I don’t like people to worship me.”
As far as he is concerned, his career highlight was “ … doing it for the masses, the people supporting me and the Principal – the joy, the celebration after the game.”
He continues, … “People came from all over for me to entertain them. I did it for them not for me. I accept things as they come. I was humble to the game.”
Former national Striker, Graeme Rodriguez won the National Intercol title with Fatima in 1979, he makes it clear that from his playing days in the seventies until now, Clauzel, is in his opinion the best player to come out of the Secondary Schools’ League, “ … a distant second being Garnet Craig (Fatima). My memories of Clauzel was awe! He was in my opinion the best College’s League player I have ever seen. He also played on a team of top class players who complimented his style of play, … like Emmerson Dubisson and Eric White – great players in their own right.
“Clauzel, knowingly or unknowingly, instilled fear in teams before even setting foot on the soccer field, he was that good! His skill at that time was at a level much higher than all the players in every game he played. I was now making my debut in the College’s League and my older brother Christian who was a top class (CFL) player always told me about the greatness of Clauzel. He too was a big fan.”
Playing for St. Mary’s College in 1978, Rodriguez had a chance to experience Clauzel’s brilliance. “I remember … seeing first hand his skill level and intelligence on the field. He dominated but we were fortunate to hold them to a 1-1 draw.”
Rodriguez continues, “If I did not have a game that year, I would find myself going to see him play. It was a must see” He admits that he was abroad and did not see much of Dwight Yorke in the SSFL “although I am sure that Dwight dominated his era.” He emphasizes, “Clauzel was different. Masses of people would be drawn to his games, fans of different teams just to see him play and look on in amazement. He never disappointed.”
One would think that was praise enough but Rodriguez is not finished, “Russel Latapy was a great, great, College player and he played on a great side with players the likes of Leonson Lewis and Dexter Gill amongst others. Other great players I saw in the College’s League were (Richard) Chinapoo and Vernon Skinner … for Trinity, Garnet Craig, Anton Corneal and Ronnie Simmons for Fatima, Peru Anderson, Garfield DeSilva for John D and Eddy for QRC are a few of the many players I saw play and played with and against who were … very special but to me there was something about Clauzel. He just had it, maybe it was his personality, his humility which in some way enhanced his soccer gifts on the field that gave him (that something) a little extra special that all the great ones have.”
Rodriguez’s older brother Christian played for St. Mary’s College vs Mucurapo in ’77. When drawn with MSC in the Barclay’s KO tournament, they had not even heard about Mucurapo and no one took them seriously as a “Second Division team.” Saints were second in the league and after 10 minutes on the QRC Ground, found themselves 3-0 down. “I could not believe they were that good!” he exclaims. The game was called off due to rain. Christian explains that regarding the rematch, “Never had we trained harder for a game but we still lost 1-2.”
He cites MSC’s 5-2 victory over Trinity as “an unheard of accomplishment as Second Division schools just never measured up to the First Division back then.” He adds that as League Champs, Trinity was a bit cocky. “So it was nice to see them get knocked off their perch.”
With the 1978 College season over, many looked with anticipation for the Dread Dribbler to take it to the next level. But for the man considered the next great thing in TT football, life would not be easy.
With the Concacaf youth tournament at hand, the National Team was in training. Conspicuous by his absence was Ian Clauzel. The public surmised that the nation’s best player was being maligned for no other reason than his hairstyle.
He muses, “At school I was and still am a Rastafarian. This was new to the system.” He concludes that he was discriminated against for this reason. “But I was doing what I wanted to these guys (the footballers on the field).
Clauzel says that the Youth Coach, Roderick Warner, was interviewed on TV as to his absence and replied, “I was too untidy to be on the National team.” He adds, “But everything I was doing was for the (Mucurapo) players and the school. I wasn’t bothered by that.”
The TTFA made it clear that he was to be on the NT. The staff immediately resigned.
With Winston Phillips and Philbert Prince replacing the Coaching Staff, the team went to Honduras with Clauzel in tow. They lost to the US and beat Puerto Rico to make it to the Second Round. Grouped with Canada, the US and hosts, Honduras, TT’s only victory was a 3-1 win over the US.
The man the Coaching staff did not want at the National Trials, won the award for the most Outstanding and Disciplined player in all of Concacaf. As Rodriguez puts it, “In 1977 and ’78 he was that good and then some.”
As the Dread Dribbler puts it, “But that wasn’t important to me. I was bringing people together from Cocorite, Carenage, Belmont. They would come out to support. But not really me alone. It’s a team I was playing with.”
He adds that he was drug tested after every match. “They were supposed to pick two players at random after every game. But somehow, they picked me every time,” he laughs.
He points out that “Dubisson actually made the Youth Team before me but they did not take him to Honduras. Maybe they did not want three or four Mucurapo players on the team,”
Vincent is certain that they didn’t want too many MSC players on the team. He says that in addition to Clauzel being a player with “skill well beyond his years. He would take on a defence and destroy you at any level.” He adds, “He was the most humble of individuals, articulate and soft spoken and had a great passion for Mucurapo.
“He was conscious of his Afro centric being and like some others on the team gravitated towards the Rastafarian movement. … We were not accepted because of our beliefs.”
Vincent believes that because of this and that “We were kinda rebellious – not in a negative way but against the norm and from the underprivileged part of TT and then you had the Corneals and the Colleges – we were shunned upon. We had to fight against it”
Nine Mucurapo players were called up for National Youth Training at King George V Park. Vincent recounts that they started asking players where they were from. “When they realized there were nine of us, they said ‘No, we can’t have that.’”
Although they questioned this, “… no answer was really given.”
He alleges, “Even (Clive) Pantin (the Fatima Principal) was against us because of our greatness.” Vincent explains, that it was the norm for MSC to use the Fatima Grounds for training. “We used to go through Fatima all the time. … He would see us on the grounds and call the Principal and tell her we were playing cards and gambling. It was not true. We were just very close, we did everything together.”
Their Principal, Mrs. Annette Wiltshire, explained that because they were from the underprivileged class, discrimination would be something that they would have to confront and overcome.
White was the only other MSC player besides Clauzel to tour Honduras. However, both he and Vincent make it clear, “There should have been more Mucurapo players on that team.”
Bacchus disagrees, he does not believe that there was any bias towards Mucurapo. He explains that 50 players from around the country were called for trials and every month ten would be dropped. “Because of their performance in the College’s League, Garnet Craig, Anton Corneal and Moose were brought into the team. This was two to three weeks before the tour. No one told the Coaches, they just showed up. (The Coaching Staff) already had a set team.” Thus, as a result of this, Warner and his men felt they had no option but to walk away.
Joseph, however, believes there was certainly a bias towards MSC. He explains that many people were used to seeing the prestige schools. “And then Mucurapo. Who dem?
“In 1978 there was no doubt that Mucurapo got shafted.”
With the College’s League behind him the public awaited his ascension to club football and the National Senior Team.
Selected to represent a WI All Stars team vs the New York Cosmos was a surprise in itself. “They called me on the day of the Trials. I did not even know there was a Trial.” He was bundled into a car and driven to the UWI Grounds.
“I arrived and saw about about 100 men there and I am just a schoolboy. I see fellas like Sammy Llewellyn, Stuart Charles (Fevrier) and (Leroy) Spann. I was wondering if I would make this team.
“My name was the first name they called. I was so surprised, there were bigger more professional names than me. But I had a franchise name.” He adds, “I was just glad to play.”
They youngster started and held his own against the like of Franz Beckenbauer, Carlo Alberto and Yasin Ozdenak. The All Stars drew 1-1, their goal being scored by Barbadian, Ricky Goddard who was later red carded.
He quickly dispels the rumour that the Cosmos gave him a trial. “… it was a newspaper gimmick.” However, he did make an appearance on Sesame Street – the popular children’s TV program. “They came to the school and asked me if I was a professional footballer. I told them no.” They asked him to …”juggle a ball and people were counting in Spanish from one to ten. I did it in the school hall. I saw it on television.”
Thereafter, Ian Clauzel seemed to disappear from mainstream football in TT. Throughout the eighties there would be cries from the public and Press alike “Where is Clauzel?” By the nineties it had changed to “Whatever happened to Clauzel?”
There are those who hypothesize that being small in frame and having to bridge the gap between the CFL and First Division football compounded by the fact that he would be going up against “hard back man,” simply exposed his fallibilities.
He is quick to dispel such notions. He points out to his background and upbringing as a footballer which would have prepared him for the future. “During my early days, I played in the quarry in Gonzales. I played on a stone field. From an early age I was already training with the adults. At around eight or nine, I was training with the Rovers team from Belmont that played in the POSFL. “
The young Clauzel watched teams like Malvern and Maple and was inspired. He credits a neighbour, Billy Evans for his early development. "He loved the game and would gather the youths in the area. He taught me how to trap and pass. He was giving back to the game which is the same thing I am trying to do now.
“I had heard about Pele but I had not seen him on TV. ..I looked up to fellas like Sammy Llewellyn, Winston Tom Phillips and Bert Neptune.”
Clauzel explains that although his brothers played football, “I took it to the next level. I had Coaches, instruction and learnt to understand the game. Playing and understanding the game are two different things.”
He points out that having played with adults since his adolescence, by the time he entered the CFL, “…they were like little boys to me. I had no fear for anyone. I would pressure them all the time.”
By the time he entered the club arena in 1979, “It was not a problem. I always trained like a professional. My equilibrium was flowing with football.” He emphasizes “My standard was just as high as the other players. … When I was at ASL (Aviation Services Ltd.), I was never nervous. I never backed down.”
He was not going to allow the pettiness of the establishment denying him a national call up to have an effect on him. His priority was to play the game.
Did it hurt to know that he had such ability and have to watch the National Team from the stands?
“Of course! Especially when I was watching players with less skill than me.”
He bemoans that this was nothing new. “Since my youth in TT this is what happens. It’s
who you know and all kinda crap. I never take them on. I thought of looking for a job
because I had no future in the game. Of course it hurt but it was beyond my control.”
Post Mucurapo, he joined the lone professional club in the county at the time, ASL from
1980- ‘81. He never signed a contract but was paid a stipend. He played a few games and
remembers playing against a Brazilian club but does not remember which.
Not being a regular on a talent laden ASL side, he then joined ECM Motown in 1981.
However, despite his talent, he says “discrimination” followed him. ECM said they would
pay 18 players. “They told me I was player #19.”
In frustration, Clauzel then moved on to Superstar Rangers. “I never got called up to the
National Team. I don’t know …it’s like these people had their own philosophy. I was fed
up with the discrimination.”
Trying his luck with Super Star Rangers, he lasted just one season as he tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). Citing no support from Rangers on this matter and unable to play, he walked away. He basically played no football from 1984-1988. Then amazingly, the man who despite his seemingly unparalleled skill and flair could not get a national call up, was summoned by the Strike Squad in 1989 after four years of inactivity. “I was told they needed a dribbler. Maybe I was the only option.”
He explained that he could not due to his injury. He was referred to a Specialist via the Strike Squad and had “experimental surgery.” He admits that perhaps he should have had an additional surgery and that he did rush his rehabilitation a bit.
He joined Caledonia, spending one season. “But it was the same nonsense. I wasn’t getting paid. TT is trouble you know.”
Disenchanted and with his knee still giving problems, the Dread Dribbler walked away from the game in 1991.
Looking back, does he have any regrets? Is there anything he would have done differently?
“Not really. Every man decides his own destiny. I lived my life. I was successful. I have four children. I like the man I am today.”
He joined the Ministry of Health and worked with at the St. James Infirmary. During the earl nineties, the Mucurapo Principal walked in with an injured student. As they were patching him up, he mentioned to Clauzel that the U-16 team needed a Coach.
“I had not done a Coaching Course at the time. The team had no fitness.” With two
weeks to go before the National KO Tournament, he took them to a 3-1-1 record in
his first five games and later to the National U-16 KO Title.
“I had never thought of being a Coach. But I realized I liked it, I decided to get accredited.” He officially became Murcurapo’s Coach in 1998. He proudly tells you that the U-16 team has been extremely successful in the Intercol and that the Sr. side has a number of North Zone titles as well as two National Intercol crowns under their belt. Along with Coach, Selwyn Figaro, they produced players such as
Cornell Glen; Ataullah Guerra, Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino. He left Mucurapo in 2018 to open his own academy.
Perhaps his crowning glory as a Coach was MSC’s historic National Intercol title in 2014. Relegated from the League, they shocked the nation in a true Cinderella like story.
He explains that it was a talented team but there was a lot of indiscipline, “…young people with bad training habits and rivalries such as Cocorite and Diegomartin.
I explained to them that they could play together or get demoted. We had a live in camp and we had to send two players home for fighting. But when they saw demotion staring in the face, they got the message.” He explained to his charges, “You do the wrong thing, you get the wrong result.”
Facing favourites St. Benedict’s in the Final at the National Stadium, the were deadlocked at the half. “They were still bickering at half time. I let them talk for about two minutes and then I spoke, I told them ‘We have a game to win.’ St. Benedict’s is a First Half team. They used up a lot of energy in the first half. We planned for the Second Half. We scored in the last 10 minutes and won 1-0.”
He makes sure that you understand, “Never before in the history of Trinidad has a team been demoted and won the National Intercol Title.”
Russel Latapy approached him after the game, impressed with MSC’s “cha cha cha” style. “I told him that I follow the Barca philosophy. He wanted to know how I could get the players to play like that. I told him that they had the technical ability” (to do it).
His son, Shem, is an aspiring midfielder, he was offered a schoolboy’s contract by Crawley Town FC in 2017 and had a trial with Montpellier in 2019. The former St. Anthony’s standout, trains at his father’s football academy and plays for North East Stars.
Today, working as a Dietary Supervisor at the St. Anne’s Hospital, he also runs the Ian Clauzel Football Academy at the QP Savannah opposite Jerningham Ave. “It is my way to give back. I was fed up seeing TT football go backwards.” He focuses on youth development. “It is easier to build a child than repair a man. … I teach the game. I do not coach the game.”
There has never been a footballer who has failed to represent the Senior team and yet evoke the passion that Clauzel does. He epitomized the TT youth of the seventies: young, black and proud. Add to that a symbol of the evolving Rastafarian faith mixed with mind boggling skills only to disappear from the football landscape to the chagrin of a nation. He is undoubtedly the country’s greatest footballing enigma.
As we conclude the interview, I mention that one of my regrets in life is that I was too
young to see him play.
He laughs, “You missed a show.”
"I feared no player on the field. I would carry the ball to a player. My overconfidence broke their confidence."
“People came from all over for me to entertain them. I did it for them not for me. I accept things as they come. I was humble to the game.”
“Clauzel, knowingly or unknowingly, instilled fear in teams before even setting foot on the soccer field, he was that good! His skill at that time was at a level much higher than all the players in every game he played."
“It was not problem. I always trained like a professional. My equilibrium was flowing with football.” He emphasizes “My standard was just as high as the other players. … When I was at ASL (Aviation Services Ltd.), I was never nervous. I never backed down.”
Ian Clauzel on his transition to Club and Pro Football in TT.
Coach Clauzel in action with Mucurapo
L-r, Eric White, Emmerson Dubisson and Ian Clauzel, leave the field after a game vs Tranquility at the QPO, 1978.
Celebration Time: Mucurapo Sr. Comprehensive celebrate their National Intercol Title (2014). Coach Clauzel, partly hidden, holds the trophy. (Photo courtesy of Wired868)
Colin Rocke, greatness unfulfilled
Former TT Stiker, Graeme Rodriguez on Ian Clauzel.