The years have rolled by rather quickly. I could distinctly remember the first day the Alcons Soccer Academy started its primary coaching session at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine front ground in June 1969.
To many, that day may have meant nothing to them, as they were very young. I was pleased to have shared a wonderful dinner last Saturday with close to one hundred of the players that passed through Alcons, past and present, who have been members of the ACCS which carried the name of “Malta Carib Alcons.
On Saturday night, my expression of great joy had been as much as I expected in life of sport when I was able to meet and greet with some of the country's finest footballers, whose careers stretched from the tiny tots of the ACCS to the now popular “Alcons” where parents may well have hope that their children will make the grade of a future soccer star.
Having travelled to many parts of the world and had a good look at the development processes of football in most sophisticated ways and how kids were taught to turn their lives into superstars. Having had my fair share of my own and to my great satisfaction, the time seemed to have arrived for me to exercise the lessons learnt from the single digit years through to the age of 31.
From the early stages of teaching this beautiful game, the most essential was with the young ones whose decision was based upon whether or not he/she was enjoying the activity, especially as some may have been underexposed to playing with kids on the block.
Trust me, the journey was an absolute joy to me and to the thousands of kids who benefitted the value of the Alcons Soccer Academy. This turned into the “Malta Carib Alcons” because of some interested parents who viewed the project positively and brought some exposure to the initial game plan. Four years into the academy” the late “Dr. Anthony Sabga”, chairman of the Carib Brewery in those days who resided within the compound, was approached by two senior employees of the company, the deceased Michael Redhead, (head Brewer), Selwyn Raymond, a versatile sportsman whose love for Cricket, horse racing and Football could hardly be divided within his emotions.
The momentum was rapid with both cricket and football that our session became a full year of coaching programme which brought joy to kids and parents on Saturdays and Sundays.
A quick turn of the pages which reflected exciting years had reached the proportions, gained momentum when the kindness of the “Malta Carib Brand” department, decided that the sessions should be moved to the compound where the company had its own ground south of the Brewery.
By that time, I had covered some sixteen years of representing the country in both sports and joined the professional ranks as a Cricketer in England. My desire was to become a coach many years before and my trips to England for our summers took me through preliminary and advanced coaching courses in both football and cricket.
Within a few years, the pendulum started its lusty swings when a huge amount of great potential among the group, some of whom had been attending secondary schools and the prestige schools. Some of the parents became as inspired as I was to get these guys into a strong competitive standard. Our first tour to Venezuela had opened the eyes of many youngsters including my own children to demonstrate their skills within the school competitions.
A visit in 1974, I was given the responsibility to coach the Under-20 national team to enter for the first time to the Concacaf tournament. Happy to say that the team was very successful and won the bronze medal by a bunch who were not well known in TT until that period.
The path for the next 45 years was filled with some of the finest players of that era and gradually were joined by some exquisite players, most of whom were attracting the fans for many years. Most of them joined the national senior team in 1975 in the PanAm games in Mexico, then retained their capabilities as they were able to gain University scholarships in the USA. Most of them excelled and made names for themselves on the soccer fields and in the classrooms.
Yes, Alcons were regular winners of local competitions, such as the East Zone in 1984, the Caribbean professional League in a few years later. Team of the year in 1985. We did not stop except for the period when our lads were in great demand via US scholarships.
The number of players of three and four years became huge. It would surely have been unfair to call names of some and not the others because of the many success stories. A trip to the USA almost every year from 1974 to 2009, Brazil 1984, Germany 1986, Brasil again in 1988 and 2013, England 2009, Panama 2016 and Surinam 2015.
Our illustrious opponents stretched from professional teams in Brazil, England, National Brasilian team of 1984 preparing for the Olympics in Los Angeles, Two matches against UAE who was preparing for the upcoming World Cup finals and trained by the famous Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
Our Successes in the East Zone started in the eighties where we won the league and reached the open FA final, a game which we lost to Trintoc 1-0. Our last entry was to the North Zone where we also won the Knock out Fruta Cup, second in the league, and Team of the year.
Our history has been excellent as far as national senior and junior players over the years and I am pleased to have worked with some of the country's finest players who turned out to be well groomed and showed their ability to excel as athletes, academics, and businessmen.
We had hoped to bring the many fans together for this occasion but our success to reach those who attended, were familiar with the Academy through closing ceremonies at Christmas time for the end of the year past/present.
We shall continue to follow the route of progress, thanks to our long-time sponsors, who brought us to this point and hopefully beyond. Those who may wish to get a better picture of our history can make contact with myself or members of the Academy and we shall send you copies.