written by Marsha Boyce
It is an accepted fact that sport has the power to change lives.
In Trinidad and Tobago, one man who has seen this unfold countless times is Anthony Wickham. For nearly 40 years, Wickham has used football as his tool to make a positive impact on youth in some of this island’s most marginalized communities. It is in recognition of his untiring commitment that Wickham, affectionately known as ‘Dada’ has been named the 2017 recipient of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s Alexander B. Chapman Award.
Wickham says he is humbled by the honour.
“This award really means a lot to me because I have been in the Vineyard for about 37 years, coaching youth in the East Port of Spain area. We know, of course, of the situation that is taking place in East Port of Spain. We have a lot of children who are going astray; who are getting involved in gang activities. Our organization – Trendsetter Hawks Football Academy – is there to try to help. If we could at least get to two out of every ten, we can save some lives in East Port of Spain.”
This prestigious Alexander B. Chapman Award was presented by the man himself, accompanied by His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT, SC President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago during the TTOC’s 23rd Annual Awards Gala.
The award recognizes outstanding contribution to Sport and Olympism, particularly in the promotion of Olympic ideals. It highlights achievements or contributions in any sport by individuals or groups which epitomize the Fundamental Principles of Olympism as found in the Olympic Charter. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole, the qualities of body, will and mind. Its goal is to place sport at the service of the human development, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
While the use of sport to achieve social development goals might be a recent global trend for some, for Wickham, it’s something he has dedicated his own life to, saving the lives of many in the process. Since 1978, Wickham has been working with youth in often-maligned areas, using football to integrate rival communities.
“We take players from all over East Port of Spain. We operate in Sea Lots, Beetham Estate, Duncan Street, Nelson Street, some of these areas where it is said that youth are ‘warring’ with one another. We try to see if we could get players to come together. Even though people might think that you are not supposed to work in these areas because of the rivalry, our organization has been working to try and see if we could take the youths to another level.”
Without much fanfare, Wickham and Trendsetter Hawks are unknowingly part of a much larger informal global network, promoting the goal of the Olympic Movement – to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, requiring mutual understanding, friendship, solidarity and fair play.
For him though, it is simply a means of service – a chance to give back to the community; something in which he believes other clubs and sporting associations should engage.
“The whole idea of getting into service was so that we could save some lives in East Port of Spain. You have to be able to serve your community. Service is not you just looking for something in return. It’s something you have to dedicate your life to. It’s something that if you love it, you will stay in it.”
The Trendsetter Hawks Football Academy has been successful over years in producing players for National Junior and Senior teams like Densill Theobald and Mekeil Williams, as well as some who campaign in the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Pro League. One of the Academy’s aims to offer youth a viable alternative to getting involved in criminal activity by exposing players to other options, setting the platform for a brighter future through scholarships or even professional careers. None of it could be achieved without what Wickham calls his ‘support system’ which includes Academy personnel, parents, and members of the communities in which they work. Financially, they survive on donations and fundraising ventures, with some support from the Ministry of Sport which comes on board to assist with particular activities.
In looking to the future, 2018 is set to be a big year for Trendsetter Hawks players as three teams – under-12, under-14 and under-16 – will look to make their debuts at the world renowned Mediterranean International Cup (MIC) Youth Football Tournament in Spain in late March. Wickham received an invitation from the event organisers and is hoping to give his young charges the opportunity of a lifetime.
“There will be a lot of scouts. This is one of the biggest international youth competitions. There are going to be a lot of schools. Some of the bigger named clubs in the world will be playing there like Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid. It is an opportunity for the kids to at least showcase themselves, so that maybe, who knows? Let’s say if one player could get an opportunity to make it out, that would be great!”
In the meantime, Wickham continues on his life’s mission, marrying his passions for football and youth to improve the lives of those in the communities around him.
Editor’s Note: Alexander B. Chapman
Alexander B. Chapman is an honorary Life Member of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC). He is also an honorary Vice-President of the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (CACSO) and a Lifetime Vice-President of the Commonwealth Games Federation