the morning of Trinidad and Tobagos crucial 2006 World
Cup qualifier with Panama this countrys most influencial
midfielder 37-year-old Russell Latapy spoke about his footbaling
experience Shaun Fuentes, T&TFF Media Officer, at the
Riande Aeropuerto Hotel in Panama City, Panama.
Q and A with Russell Latapy.
Q. Whats your most memorable moment or match, whether
for country or club
A. In a positive way, it would the 1-0 win over Mexico at
home when I scored the winner in the 85th minute. Obviously,
from a negative point, what happened on November 19, 1989.
The situation was that at 21, with your whole career in front
of you, you had opportunity to go to the World Cup and then
anything could happen and then you wake up next morning and
realise that all the dreams were dashed away.
What the World Cup does is put you on the world stage and
if you are lucky enough to do what you can do, then the whole
world is at large for you. After the disappointment of not
qualifying, I then had to use a different route, which is
through club football and you then do that until you can qualify
for a World Cup.
Q. Name two persons, whether relative or not, who have been
an inspiration to you.
A. One would definitely be my Mom. She has always supported
me with all the decisions and I have had some hard ones to
I had the opportunity to go to University (FIU) when I was
19.And the at the time I was offered a professional contract
and she said she would leave it up to me, which is a difficult
thing for parents.
Normally, they would say forget the football, especially at
the time when I was growing up when there were not many professional
footballers coming out of the Caribbean. I made the decision
to play football and fortunately it didnt turn out to
be such a bad one. (laughs).
The other influential person would be Jean Lillywhite. He
definitely is one of the most influential persons in my career
from that young stage. Ive had a lot of other positive
influence, but he saw my potential as a young age and because
he did, he worked with me from the age of 12 on my technical
I remembered it used to be just me and him on the (Queens
Park) Savannah, helping me to use the right and the left foot.
Its something I will never forget, because kids at that
stage of their lives, especially now, probably would be thinking
about Carnival. For me it was going to the grounds and playing
with a football.
Even he as an older person didnt think about Carnival.
He was with me right through on Carnival Monday and Tuesday
in the Savannah.
Q. Any favourite player or team
A. The team I like the most is FC Porto and a lot of it has
to do with me passing through the club. Its just one
of those things. Its just the way I was treated there,
the spirit and history of the club. The player is also one
of my best friends and its not just because of that.
Ive had the chance to train and play with him and weve
been in close quarters.
The best player Ive played against is Roberto Mancini
of Sampdoria. He was just frightening in the two games we
played against them. I was also fortunate to also play against
Javier Zanetti of Inter Milan.
Q. What would be your preferred other profession?
A. It would have to be football. I definitely want to get
into management.I think beside being a player, it must be
the next best job in the world.
Q. Whos been among your most admired coaches and why?
A. I would definitely have to say Bobby Robson. And a lot
of coaches are not really recognised, but Victor Manuel is
also one I admire. He was my coach when I was at Academica
At 21, this guy realised what I could do and changed the system
of play in the team to suit how I was playing and I had that
free role to develop.
Another massive influence, because Im still playing
at 37, has to be the one Im playing for at the moment
in Scotland. Thats John Hughes.Hes still young,
but I think what is good about him is being able to get the
best out of me at age 37.
His management ways have been good. Just a quick example;Before
we played Hearts I wanted to come in and train as usual before
the Sunday game and he told me to take Friday and Saturday
off and just come in on Sunday for the match.
Whats he doing in that sense is just making sure that
I dont really need to do all the hard work, once I can
produce on match day, which is perfect for me at the club
Q. What do you think of T&Ts chances of making it
to the 2006 World Cup.
A. Its just one of the situations.Once I retired from
international football when I was 32 or 33, I thought that
was going to be the last chance as a player. But now having
come out of retirement and seeing the bunch of players we
have around, I see that we have a good chance.
We should have picked up more points in the early part of
the campaign but thats football. Its not impossible
now. If we get a favourable result tonight (against Panama)
it takes us ten points and hopefully Mexico can beat Guatemala
and that means it would then come down to the last game.
If we get into the play-offs, it means too that anything can
happen, so we definitely have to fancy our chances.
Q. When what should be done to ensure the team gives a better
attempt in these late stages, he replied:
A. I think when you are playing football at a high level,
the most important thing would be to be able to pass the ball
and you cannot get flustered in possession. Once you do that
and maintain that composure, then the rest just happens for
What happens a lot in international football is you play a
lot of teams who play behind the ball and if you give the
ball away cheaply, then you end up putting yourself under
The other thing is something which we wont need if we
qualify for the World Cup, which is for the players to be
motivated and have the right mental attitude.
The game tonight ( vs Panama) obviously is a must win one,
but Mexico is a more difficult one in terms of the quality
of the opposition.
Its a situation whereby, like all other games, we need
to ensure that we dont concede goals and of course we
must convert. We need to play like the home team against Panama
and take the game to them.
We have to attack and play the ball forward as much as we
can and get at them from the word go. We dont have a
choice really. We are kind of depending on other teams too,
but the reality is that if we win tonights game, it
might be enough to send us through because Guatemala could
also lose their next two games, or we can be hoping that Guatemala
get only one point or even three, which means we just have
to beat Mexico at home.
Q. Any instances or plays that you always reflect on?
A. I think, I know a lot of people say its not enough,
but one of the major factors which has kept me going is the
understanding and love for the game.
The game doesnt owe us anything, but we might be owing
it more because when having come out of a humble background,
now everything you have is due to the game. You have to always
play with the hunger and passion to succeed.
One of the things you draw strength from is people just being
around you like friends and family people.You may not be having
the best of times, but then you tend to think about the good
times and you talk to your family and so on and it keeps you
Q. Whats the best piece of advice youve received.
A. In my particular situation, the best piece of advice ever
given was to keep working hard and keep your feet on the ground.
In my case it was good to me and I have always played a lot
of football and fortunately I had a bit of talent to go with
I came from a very sporty family with uncles, brothers and
cousins always involved in some way or the other.
I used to play other sports as well, but I think just having
a knack for football made it for me. For some reason I always
seemed to be better at football and other persons were always
wanting me in their team and protecting me.
What do you do to relax away from the game.
A. Normal stuff like hanging out with friends and family
Q. Whats your favourite dish?
A. The thing is because Ive lived in so many other places
Ive had no choice but to get used to the different cultures.
But theres nothing like home food. A typical Trinidad
Sunday lunch is best thing ever, like some stew chicken and
beef, nice red fish and calaloo. That is the real thing self.
Q. Favourite drink?
A. Depends on what mood Im in. If its alcohol,
then I definitely would want some bitters in there.
Q. Whats been the high and low points in the past six
A. High points definitely is getting promoted to the Scottish
Premier League because its kind of fulfilling ambitions, not
as a player in that sense, but as a coach being involved with
my team and helping out around the club and giving my input
about my philosophy in the game and unlocking heads with the
manager and giving solutions.
Other high points is just being in a position now to help
give other kids the opportunity to do something with their
There have been Portuguese players who I was influential in
getting to Scotland and if the situation with Densill works
well and it seems it should too, it gives me a buzz.
Q. Favourite type of music?
A. A lot of people said to be when I was younger that it would
just be whatever kind of music. But the reality is that Im
a bit older now and when you are away from your homeland you
tend to appreciate things more from home. So Ill tell
you that in my cd player in my car (Black X5) right now is
some old- school Sparrow, like Jean and Dinah and Congo man.
Q. Favourite time of year?
A. I wish it was carnival (laughs) The thing is I really enjoy
my holidays, but the other thing is after three weeks I need
to get back to work and football.
I really love the summers, but I really love my job, I live
a stress-free life at the minute. Its like me liking
the summer, but also the winter too.
Q. Most comfortable football boot?
A. Right now, and older players like it as well as you tend
to go back to it if you dont have sponsorship deal.
Thats the Copa Mundial boots.
Over the span of 18 years as a player, I have had deals with
Reebok in Portugal and then Mitre. At one stage I was with
FILA at Hibernian and at (Glasgow)Rangers I was with Nike.
But now I can basically play with anything and I like that.
But of course if we stay longer in the Premier League, then
some sort of deal may come through again.
Q. Name one thing about yourself you would change if given
the chance Even if it meant going back in time.
A. I have always been the type to do things my way. Im
a bit stubborn and maybe it would be changing that. But also
because of that way, it made me always determine to do what
I set out to do and thats a good thing.
Q. Preferred Wear.
A. Jeans, T-shirt, a pair of trainers, slippers or shorts.
Q. Any advice for others aspiring to make something of themselves.
A. To give kids advice I would have to say to just keep focused
on whatever your objectives are in life. Dont get sidetracked.
Even if it means wanting to be a doctor, before you get there
it might mean you would have to work in a store to up some
cash to do to school. But dont get sidetracked when
you are working in the store.
Keep working really hard at whatever you want and always keep
your foot on the ground.
Q. Whats the biggest impact you have had at a club?
A. That is difficult to say, but what I can is that you tend
to feel a certain sense of pride when you go back to clubs
and places and people treat you with respect. Its easier
to describe it in that way.
The fans were unhappy when I left these clubs, but when I
go back now and the people who Ive worked with, end
up becoming good friends and they treat you with respect and
show appreciation for what you did at the club.
Q. Tell us a bit about your early days in Portugal as a professional
footballer. Was it a struggle.
A. Its always a struggle. if anyone says to me if its
different, then I wont take them on.
If you go to Inter Milan, AC Milan, Manchester United or Porto,
the early days are always a bit of a struggle for one reason
or the other. You always have to adapt to football and to
At smaller clubs you have to do the same as well, because
theres a financial difference obviously.
Q. What is your ultimate goal. Lets say next five, ten
or 15 years.
A. Obviously, because I want to go into management, it would
be to win big things as a manager. The biggest club trophy
is obviously the World Club championship just like it is for
national teams. But if Im coaching in Europe its
just a dream come true, just as you have to start dreaming
to reach a high level before you start playing professionally.
Q. We remember you with the Afro-hairstyle in your younger
days. Whats up with the dreadlocks now.
A. To be honest, growing up, a lot of the people who had influence
on me and I used to be around were those of the Rastafarian
Then I also played in Jamaica for a while and I always wanted
that dreads from since then. But at the time, I was starting
to play professionally and back then, statement about what
cultural beliefs you had depended on what managers may think
of it and so on.
It may have been a wrong choice especially as it was already
hard coming from Laventille and being black.
Nowadays though, people dont really care if its
about religion or cultural beliefs. They see it as a hairstyle.
But then you get to a stage where you have already crossed
that stepping stone and you can now make these kind of decisions
based on what you believe.
I have always sympathised with the people with these beliefs
when I was back home in the early days. I like the kind of
righteousness that it stands for. For me its not just
a fashion statement.
Q. Does Russell have any superstitious doings before he takes
A. My superstition has always been taking a good pass off
in the toilet before going to a match, (he says with an even
I tell myself that if I do my shit off the field
then I wont do it on the field and I have been doing
this since the age of 14.
LATAPY in action against Guatemala.