Wednesday 13th February, 2008

 

"I Love Lucy"

 
 
 
 
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BY HANNIBAL NAJJAR

I HAVE known Luciano Woodley, alias “Lucy”, from our Form-Two days at St. Mary's College (CIC as we are more affectionately known).

Ever since those early days, I took to liking for Lucy. Some of it, a kind of hidden jealousy, and some, just a pure desire to match the expectations that he had set himself as a footballer.

We played football in the "Small Yard" together every lunch time and would compare each other's efforts or goals. Then, we would carry that silent yet, passionate inner "burnings" into the afternoon classroom sessions until we got "down grounds", where we would continue our quest to better each other feats.

We did this throughout out "Giants" and later, "A Colts" years. This trend continued as we were simultaneously called up to the Championship side at 14 years of age each.

Lucy was the younger, having his birthday in December and I, in October. During both our years as playing for the "A" Colts team, we also played for the Championship team.

We won every national age group championship and we were both always competing for most goals at every turn, except in the 1968 team.

I felt, from very early, that I was a better all-round player, while as we aged, I had to succumb to the reality that he was going to be the better goal scorer.

We were both on the championship winning team of 1968 that overpowered QRC's mighty and highly touted team 2-1, with the likes of Rolf Clarke, Roger Mathews, Neil and Larry Springer, Ian Jeffers, Stephen Gomez, Earl Best and others.

Our fortune continued into the Island-wide championship game against St. Benedict's College, where we gave an awesome display with a 4-2 victory.

St. Benedict's themselves were hot favourites to win with the Hackett brothers, Ruben, and others leading their charges. But our team was a superb unit as far as understanding of duties and roles were concerned, and in Intercol, we are indestructible.

Fr. Reginald DeFour was the major organizational force behind our youth development plan and game-day plans, though our senior players would have his ears.

Our team was one that boasted the likes of Steve Waldron, Russell Tesheira, Miguel Hospedales, Ian Bain, Alvin Henderson, Richard Callender, Richard Brathwaite, Jackie Messiah, Wayne Dopson, Michael Cooper, Alex Hamel-Smith, Rupert Wilson, and others.

The best was yet to come when we, along with the outstanding play and leadership of Alvin Henderson, carried the momentum into 1969 under Michael Liang and then later, in that superb year, 1970, under Alvin Corneal.

We were both 17-year-olds in 1970, and after myself playing for Raffie Knowles and the ultra-talented Queen’s Park squad, with the likes of Gordon Husbands, Roger Matthews, Sheldon Gomes, George Romano, Ken Butcher, and others, I was dispatched to Canada to complete my Grade 13 and first-year university studies.

Lucy continued and played one more year for St. Mary's College. I played three years at the championship level and Lucy, four.

Overall, we played five very memorable years together and shared one class, Form Three.

In our never-to-be-forgotten 1970 year, Lucy established a college record by scoring 36 goals and in the process, six hattricks, at least three of them, natural ones. He was the league's leading scorer and I, the runner-up, with 18.

Lucy's year was so great that he was called up for a North team at the adult level and with his usual carefree ways and bold assurance, he scored in his debut game at the King George V Park.

I loved playing alongside Lucy and today, there are memories of him and I together, that would never ever fade in visual clarity or emotional high.

The last time I played alongside Lucy was in 2003 at our annual old boy's CIC-Belmont clash and, as we did all through our college years, we linked up with his patented decoy run and I, my lay-off to him to, yes, score again.

There is no one that I could remember playing alongside that allowed me to enjoy myself or play as well as I did, and I had very good tandems in Alvin Henderson at St. Mary's College, Sheldon Gomes at QPCC, Godfrey Harris at Maple, Martin Bourne at UWI and Maple, Sammy Lewellyn at Essex, Ron Laforest and Sammy Llewellyn at ASL, or anyone elsewhere else that I have been or played.

There are so many things that I could remember about Lucy and none that I would like to forget. The one thing I would further state is that even back then, Lucy was never haughty, boastful, or arrogant, and he always had that meek, sincere, sheepish smile, and possessed a blending personality.

He was, however, just as miserable as all of us were as children growing up, but he was different in that he held his peace longer than we seemed able to, or so I thought. Today, at 54 years of age, I can say that truly, "I love Lucy" and I appreciate him more than I did back then, MUCH MORE!

Lucy is all that every speaker made him out to be when they delivered their eulogies last Thursday morning before he was laid to rest.

In the busy world that we live in today, it is difficult to make the time for each other as we once did so easily. But after speaking with Lucy's wife, Lauren, from my St. Louis home upon learning of his hospitalization, and then, upon learning of his passing, I dialogued with my friends Trevor Leiba, Ian Bain and Alvin Henderson, brother Labib, my wife and family and it was clear that I had to attend my friend's funeral.

My wife Annette, ne Kumar, of almost 28 years, and confidante of, 37, knew what such a person meant to me and she fully encouraged the visit. Naturally, it is always an excitement to visit home as I miss it dearly and so the trip was essentially on.

I then consulted with the principal of my High School (LWCS) over the weekend and with his consent, I purchased a last-minute ticket that Sunday night for departure on Carnival Monday to be at my friend's farewell and celebration of a life well lived.

I am exceedingly happy to have made it and I rejoice now that I was with Lucy's entire family and host of friends, colleagues and well-wishers at his farewell presided by Fr. Girod. As sentimental as it was to be at the occasion, it was made more meaningful since the service was held at my childhood church in Woodbrook, St. Teresa's - the moment was nostalgic.

Most fitting as well, was that very evening, we had our traditional annual CIC-Belmont post-Carnival 22-year rivalry which was then used to further honor Lucy.

The evening was so fitting that the skies shed some of its tears as we prepared to play the great game. A product of both Belmont and CIC, Lucy would have been proud of that occasion which was very well attended by a host of soccer greats including Everald "Gally" Cummings, Alvin Corneal, Lincoln Phillips, Sedley Joseph, Michael Wiley, Brian Rigsby, to mention a few. David Rudder, a former Belmont boy was also in attendance from what I was told - I missed meeting and chatting with him, a personal friend I consider him to be.

The game was very well participated, and St. Mary's overcame Belmont 3-0. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the two thirds that I played. I felt great with the spirit in which everyone conducted themselves, as I was with my performance (I still love my football) despite my week-long illness. I thank God for the privilege of playing yet another game as we honoured my friend, Luciano "Lucy" Woodley.

The occasion was blessed with a pre and post game minutes of silence and later, we were graced with some fine T&T cuisine and fabulous "Old-Time" kaiso music performed by the irresistible, Wayne Dopson, Charla Dore and others.

I submit this brief, but moving, passage in time, with the greatest love and respect for my friend Lucy. I trust that others too, share in this sincere exchange of love for Lucy, for the game, and for what sport and this great game have done for those of us who have played the game of football especially during the eras and periods that we participated - these are times never to be forgotten, and more so, always to be cherished. Friendships are built that will last forever, last beyond the ages; you understand this all to well my friend of the Guardian, Gregory Trujillo.

 

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