Trinidad and Tobago national football team player and Defence Force Football Club vice-captain Kevon Carter died this morning of a suspected heart attack at the Seventh Day Adventist Community Hospital in Cocorite.
Carter, who has two daughters aged 10 and three, turned 30 on 11 November 2013.
Defence Force coach Ross Russell said that Carter complained of chest pains after training at Macqueripe this morning and he was taken to the army’s medical department. The training session ran from 8.30 to 10 am.
Carter, a former Belmont Secondary player and Ken Elie Coaching School graduate, was subsequently driven to the Community Hospital where he passed away.
“I just heard that (he died) and I’m on my way to see his family now,” Russell told Wired868. “We only heard the news after the team was already dismissed so the team has not spoken about it as a group. But some men were bawling when they heard…
“It is one of our family gone.”
Carter was a key player for Defence Force last season as the “Teteron Boys” claimed the third Pro League title of Trinidad and Tobago’s professional era. His 11 League goals and 29 in all competitions were the most for any non-striker and only his teammate Devorn Jorsling and Cornell Glen, who now plays professionally in India, scored more.
On the field, Carter was not a particularly vocal player but he always caught the attention when the ball was played in front of him. His pace had to be seen to be believed and Defence Force used that weapon to telling effect.
Carter was just 20-years-old when he made his senior Trinidad and Tobago debut as a substitute for Bertille St Clair in a 2-0 win over Guyana at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya on 2 March 2004. He waited almost four years for his second cap, which came in a 2-1 defeat away to Panama on 31 January 2007 under Wim Rijsbergen, a former Holland World Cup player.
He went on to win 29 more caps for the Warriors and scored five goals. He would have played more regularly but for a broken leg in a Cup match for Defence Force in October 2010.
At the time, Carter had played in all eight games under then national coach and local legend Russell Latapy and his injury meant he missed the 2010 Caribbean Cup. Trinidad and Tobago was eliminated from the 2010 Caribbean Cup in the group stage.
Carter opened his goal scoring account for his country under iconic Colombian coach Francisco Maturana with a solo effort in a 2-0 win over Grenada at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya on 27 April 2008.
He did not recover from injury in time to feature in Trinidad and Tobago’s ill-fated 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, which finished soon after it started under German coach Otto Pfister. But he was a key member of the national rebuilding process under coach Hutson “Barber” Charles and then the coaching duo of Charles and Jamaal Shabazz.
Carter played in 14 from Trinidad and Tobago’s 16 matches in the build-up to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. And he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over the Dominican Republic on 11 December 2012 that clinched the country’s first Gold Cup berth in six years.
“He was a very quiet but authoritative person,” said Shabazz. “He used to accept his responsibilities and he was a real team person… When the team travelled, he would be the first to help the equipment man or to volunteer with the simple things that senior players tend to leave for the juniors.
“He was very positive in spirit and an energetic, enthusiastic person. It was a pleasure to work with him and he was one of my favourite players with his pace and aggression to get behind the defence.”
Carter played twice under current head coach Stephen Hart at the Gold Cup in the United States as the Warriors got to the quarterfinal round for the first time in 13 years.
Hart was stunned to hear the news today.
“At this point, this is just a serious shock and a tragedy,” said Hart. “Right now, I just want to offer condolences to the family. I met Carter when I came into the team for the Gold Cup and he was a complete professional.
“He always did whatever was asked of him and was very approachable and never complained.”
The 2013/14 Pro League season has been a troubled one for the Defence Force. The reigning champion club lost three of its first four fixtures and then was stunned by news on 22 December 2013 that former defender Rawle Fletcher was gunned down in Couva.
A week later, Trinidad and Tobago mourned as 22-year-old former “Soca Warriors” defender Akeem Adams passed away in Budapest after failing to recover from a heart attack.
And, on 10 January 2014, the Defence Force football team was shut down entirely to, according to Major Al Alexander, “lend support to the police in the fight against crime.” The players were not allowed to train as a team for a month before the club was reinstated in the Pro League on 11 February 2014.
Defence Force played its first game a week later and lost 2-0 to Central FC in Couva. Two more games came in the space of a week as the army/ coast guard combination whipped San Juan Jabloteh 3-0 and then was held 1-1 by North East Stars last Tuesday.
Russell’s squad has still played between three to five matches less than the other Pro League teams—due to its temporary withdrawal January—and is faced with a packed schedule as it tries to catch up to its domestic duties. The Teteron Boys are also due to travel to Jamaica next month for the Caribbean qualifying phase of the CONCACAF Champions League.
There is no identified link between the football club’s hectic timetable and Carter’s untimely passing. However, Shabazz is adamant that local football, in general, needs to focus more on the medical side of the game.
“Local football does not have a medical department, we only have a national team doctor (Terrence Babwah),” said Shabazz, “and even he isn’t given the kind of respect and leeway to implement things in a preventative way for Pro League and national team players.
“This is an area we need to focus a lot more on. We are spending so much money developing players’ talent but their medical and physiological aspects are what we are weakest in.”
Selby Browne, vice-president of the Veteran Footballers Federation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFFOTT), echoed Shabazz’s call for greater medical care for local athletes.
“I call for full medical tests for all footballers selected to national training squads, with immediate effect,” said Browne. “All Associations, Zonal, Tobago and the Secondary Schools League, must also implement immediate full medical tests for all footballers participating in their Leagues.
“I also call for the TTFF/TTFA to immediately have medical insurance coverage for all footballers registered to participate in Leagues conducted by member Associations. Footballers are the major assets of Football in this Republic and their well being must be the prime consideration of all administrators.”
Shabazz offered his condolences to Defence Force and Carter’s family, even as he hoped that further tragedies can be avoided where possible.
“In Islam, we say to Allah we belong and to him we must eventually return,” said Shabazz. “Having a second player of a heart attack means we probably need to look at what methods we are using or have some kind of analysis… But we accept that when God decides a matter he says be and it is.
“Sometimes it is very difficult to understand why these things happen.”
The Defence Force is expected to take care of all funeral arrangements for Carter and more information is expected soon.
Editor’s Note: Kevon Carter made his international debut in 2007 away to Panama and not in 2008 as previously reported.