The Ian Clauzel Story

Garth Wattley
Date Published: 
Trinidad Express

The Class of the 20th Century
Part 8: The Ian Clauzel Story
Return of the "Dread Dribbler"

Standing there in the Queen's Park Savannah with his bow legs arching slightly, Ian Clauzel does not look like a man under strain.

But then the former Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) standout speaks and the illusion is destroyed.

"Yuh mind if I smoke?" he asks. "This coaching is plenty stress. It is so much responsibility."

To the gathering of Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive teenagers who are awaiting his instructions, he is just the coach - for the second year - of their Under-16 team.

Nowhere in a Hall of Fame for senior footballers would the name Ian Clauzel figure; his career lasted seven years before it was curtailed by injury in 1984.

In schools football, however he is something of a legend.

And perhaps because of the brevity of a career that promised so much, he is also an enigma.

He played just two seasons of schools soccer, 1977 and 1978.

The mere sight of Clauzel set him apart.

A shock of dreadlocks raised eyebrows and the ire of the establishment.

Even in the restless Seventies, a schoolboy Rastafarian was revolutionary.

In the 1978 season, Clauzel's dreadlocks wee to land him in the middle of controversy when he was included in the national Under-19 team - at the insistence of the Football Association.

That led to the resignation of coach Roderick Warner and his entire technical staff. Clauzel's radical look was not the only thing working against him.

In 1977, he was playing for Mucurapo Senior, which was new on the football block.

Together, Clauzel and "Compre" had to break new ground.

"I love the school," he says. "I think I owe a lot to Mucurapo because that is where I made my name."

And what a name.

"Skill for skill, his style was very unorthodox," says Clayton Morris.

In the late 1970s, Morris, the former national "Strike Squad" captain, was part of the North Zone powerhouse John Donaldson Technical Institute side.

"You never could push your foot and touch the ball when Clauzel had it because he ran with it between his legs," explains the defender. Even if you tackle him, you would foul him."

Clauzel, elusive and unpredictable, was the marquee name in an exciting side in which his strike partner Eric While and midfielder Emmerson Dubisson wee also outstanding.

"Trailblazers," is the way Patrick Nash, a member of the Mucurapo management team, describes the unit captained by Novell Gittens.

A senior division side in '77, they won the Barclay's Bank Knockout Trophy. But in Intercol of '78, Clauzel and company probably had their finest hour.

Ironically, they ended as 2-1 losers to John D in the North Zone Intercol final.

The 18,000 fans in the Queen's Park Oval saw a classic contest distinguished by Clauzel.

"That was a beautiful game, man," Clauzel recalls. "From since that time I haven't seen the standard reach that high."

John D eventually came from behind to win on goals by Dale Hinds and Harmon Lucas. But it was the Clauzel strike that few have forgotten. "The best goal I ever scored," he says.

He remembers the play.

"The ball was coming to me just over the half-line and I take it like this," he says, demonstrating the half-turn and takedown, the movements smooth and easy as ever, "I hit it one time from about 35 yards and it was in the back of the net."

Clauzel and White also managed to hit the post but could not pull the game back after John D took the lead. Clauzel got fan mail after that game. But there was little else to show for his efforts.

The years since have been a huge anticlimax but the reasons have never been quite clear.

"He was very, very skilful but very slightly built," observes Clive Pantin, himself a former player and, in 1978, the Fatima College principal. "He could be marked out of a game."

Morris said, "He was offered a (US) scholarship but refused to cut his hair. If he had taken that opportunity, he could have made the breakthrough."

Clauzel's reaction to the suggestion is no less interesting.

"I lost confidence in the football system," he offers. "There was a lot of bias in the football at that time, especially at the national level."

Then he adds, philosophically: "I feel what is for a man is for a man. I does just deal with Life as it comes."

But it is clear that the old memories die hard. Those relating to his controversial selection to the Under-19 team for that Concacaf tournament in Honduras are particularly harsh.

He remembers the cold stares he received when, with the money his mother had scrambled together, he turned up for training - only to be told of the resignations.

"The talk was that I was too untidy to play for the national team. That was an embarrassment to me. They just did not understand the Rastafarianism."

Nowadays, he is now close-shaven, the locks sheared.

"You don't have to be dread to be Rasta," he declares, sounding like Morgan Heritage, "I just wanted a change in my life."

But it does not escape him that well-paid players now abound in world football, dreadlocks and all.

And as he recalls his years after school, there is more pain.

"People used to mention I would be playing here, playing there, and I did not know anything about it.

"A lot of people made money off me," he says. And then the timbre of his voice rising shrilly, he asks: "The only person who didn't make money off me is myself!"

But now it is time to return to his charges. And he fires off this parting shot.

"I try to encourage a lot of them to dedicate themselves to their soccer, because right now there are opportunities."