Ian Clauzel

PAID PRICE FOR BEING DIFFERENT: Ian Clauzel

Realising an injustice had been done, the TTFA demanded that Ian Clauzel be on the national youth team for the 1978 Concacaf Championships. However, the coaching staff immediately resigned.

Trinidad and Tobago went to the tournament in Honduras and the unwanted Rastafarian won the award for the most Outstanding and Disciplined player in Concacaf.

“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.

“They were supposed to pick two players at random for a drug test after every game. But somehow, they picked me every time,” he laughs.

He alludes that there seemed to be a bias regarding Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive (MSC) players on the team.

MSC vice-captain, Kenneth Vincent is certain of this. “He {Clauzel} 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.

“We were kinda rebellious and from the underprivileged part of T&T. We were shunned upon. We had to fight against it”

Nine Mucurapo players were called up for national youth training. Vincent recounts: “When the coaches realised this, they said ‘no, we can’t have that.’”

Although they questioned this, “...no answer was really given.”

Eric White was the only other MSC player to tour Honduras. However, both he and Vincent believe their school was victimised.

Being selected to represent a West Indies All Stars team against the New York Cosmos, came as a surprise to Clauzel.

“They called me on the day of the trials,” he recalls. Clauzel was bundled into a car and driven to the UWI grounds.

“I arrived and saw 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... But I had a franchise name. I was just glad to play.”

The youngster started and held his own against the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Yasin Ozdenak. The All Stars drew 1-1.

Clauzel dispels the rumour that the Cosmos gave him a trial. However, he did make an appearance on Sesame Street. “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.”

Thereafter, Clauzel seemed to disappear from mainstream football in T&T.

Some hypothesise that club football simply exposed his fallibilities.

He disagrees, pointing to his background. “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.”

Therefore, by the time he entered the CFL, “…they were like little boys to me. I had no fear of anyone. I would pressure them all the time.”

Club football “was not a problem,” he insists. “I always trained like a professional. My equilibrium was flowing with football. 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.”

Despite no national call-ups, his priority remained to play the game. But the exclusion did hurt, “especially when I was watching players with less skill than me.”

He bemoans: “Since my youth in T&T 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.”

He joined ASL from 1980-81. He was paid a stipend and played a handful of games. 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.”

He lasted just one season, tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). He basically played no football from 1984-1988. Then amazingly, he was summoned by the “Strike Squad” in 1989. “I was told they needed a dribbler. Maybe I was the only option.”

Citing the injury, he turned them down. He was referred to a specialist and had “experimental surgery.” He admits that perhaps he did rush his rehabilitation a bit.

He joined Caledonia AIA, spending one season with them. “But it was the same nonsense. I wasn’t getting paid. T&T is trouble you know.”

Disenchanted and injury-plagued, the “Dread Dribbler” walked away from the game in 1991.

However, looking back, he says he has no regrets.

“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 coached his alma mater, Mucurapo, for more than two decades with great success, producing players such as Cornel Glen; Ataullah Guerra, Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino. He left Mucurapo in 2018 to open his own academy.

There has never been a footballer who has failed to represent the senior team and yet evoke the passion that Clauzel does. He epitomised the T&T youth of the Seventies - young, black and proud. Add to that, he became a symbol of the evolving Rastafarian faith mixed with mind-boggling skills. Still, he disappeared from the football landscape to the chagrin of many lovers of the game.

Clauzel 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, and says, “You missed a show.”

https://vbhoolai.wixsite.com/hail-caribbeansport/ian-clauzel-trinidad-football

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