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Bertille, Braithwaite and I: Nakhid recalls two memorable Gold Cups

Former T&T football captain David Nakhid recalls the work of late manager Richard Braithwaite during two tumultuous Gold Cup campaigns

Wavering between reluctance and tacit acceptance, I feel an obligation to pen some of the experiences and times that I shared with the man commonly referred to by most players as “Manage” and the gentle, principled giant I knew as Richard.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team manager Richard Braithwaite.
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team manager Richard Braithwaite.

My reluctance stems from the realization that we are a people of words unburdened by actions. How best then to procure the appropriate recognition and acclaim for a man who was without a doubt the best manager in Trinidad and Tobago’s football history—Richard would have hated that bit of hyperbole—from a public famous for its acquiescence to official dogma?

As our so called ‘leaders’ past and present—superfluous in everything but the basic principles and integrity needed for public office—are deified by a partisan public, the deserving along with their accomplishments are discarded only to be remembered upon their deaths with hypocritical sentiment and expansive eulogies.

I knew little of Richard’s personal life as he was a very private man. But I was captain of the National team for most of his six or so years as ‘Manage.’ It is Impossible then for me to reference Richard without referencing the Coach that he worked with for the better part of those years and the dynamics and sparks that emanated from that very successful relationship.

Bertille St Clair was not an easy man to work with. But then most principled people within a distinctly third-world mentality environment tend to be branded as ‘difficult.’

Bertille St Clair is a man of principle and integrity… and then some!

Photo: Coach Bertille St Clair (second from right) has a word with (from right) Shaka Hislop, Stern John, Michael Maurice, David Nakhid, Leslie Fitzpatrick and Clayton Ince during his stint with the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior team. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Coach Bertille St Clair (second from right) has a word with (from right) Shaka Hislop, Stern John, Michael Maurice, David Nakhid, Leslie Fitzpatrick and Clayton Ince during his stint with the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior team.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Richard, who was unassuming, diplomatic to the nth degree, visionary and, over all else, action-oriented, was the perfect foil to the stubborn, energetic, demanding, unapolegetic, highly-driven disciplinarian that is St Clair. Their union was an historic turning point in T&T’s footballing fortunes and direction and their statistical record is indicative of a productive connection.

At the time, our senior team struggled for even token support from a TTFF that, from the onset, placed obstacles in our way. There were no proper training camps, no access to proper training fields, inadequate training provisions and the list went on and on… Richard begged, borrowed and cajoled as we prepared against the tide for the 1997 edition of the Caribbean Cup.

Bertille and I put our complaints to the media several times but there was no reaction from anyone. As Bertille would accurately say: “If this was Mexico somebody house burning down!”

Richard always managed to get us through to the next level of training and our group of players, although not our best team, responded magnificently.

When we arrived in St Kitts, we were firm underdogs, our fiercest rival, Jamaica, was bound for the ‘98 World Cup and established favourites. Understandably, all their best players were there seeking selection for France. The TTFF ignored all requests by Richard and Bertille to bring back our best players. No money was the reason given.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Jerren Nixon (centre) tussles with Costa Rican players Mauricio Wright (left) and Jafet Soto during the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal. Trinidad and Tobago won 2-1 for one of its most memorable triumphs during Richard Braithwaite's term as team manager. (Copyright AFP 2015/Hector Mata)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Jerren Nixon (centre) tussles with Costa Rican players Mauricio Wright (left) and Jafet Soto during the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal.
Trinidad and Tobago won 2-1 for one of its most memorable triumphs during Richard Braithwaite’s term as team manager.
(Copyright AFP 2015/Hector Mata)

Jerren Nixon, Peter Prosper and I were the only overseas players. Jamaica completely outplayed us for the first 45 minutes of that epic semi-final. Their extensive and well-financed preparations were evident. But Bertille’s impassioned talk at half-time and a typical low-key, matter of fact statement by Richard pushed us to turn the tables dramatically and remains with me to this day.

“Fellahs, Jamaica playing with their eyes towards France,” said Manage. “Allyuh playing for the next 5 years of your lives!”

Every player got Manage’s message. We knew the TTFF was waiting like vultures to fire Bertille and Richard and axe some of the “difficult” players involved. We went on to dominate the rest of the game including extra time and eventually beat a mentally and physically drained Jamaica on penalties. The lifting of the Caribbean Cup was a mere formality after that.

I never felt that (then TTFF general secretary) Richard Groden liked Richard, Bertille and I being the de facto leaders of the National team. To our faces, he and (then president) Oliver Camps were courteous and full of praise but their actions consistently suggested malicious intent. As we set out with the team on a pre-Gold Cup Central American tour, which Richard had incessantly pushed (FIFA vice-president and TTFA special advisor) Jack Warner to organise, we heard that the TTFF bigwigs said our team would be an embarrassment and we should return home.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Angus Eve (left) takes on a Canada player during the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Angus Eve (left) takes on a Canada player during the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Richard and Bertille stayed the course and convinced everyone to believe as we suffered defeat after defeat during our preparation. The results were splashed on the newspapers by the TTFF with accompanying remarks but no-one knew what we were doing.

Bertille had us training in the morning for a full hour and sometimes two before playing against teams also preparing for the Gold Cup. We lost to El Salvador (0-1), Guatemala (1-3) and Costa Rica (0-4) but there was a growing confidence among the team as Richard man-managed his heart out, acting as Manager, resident psychologist and educator.

Clint Marcelle and Stern John joined us as we received not a word of encouragement from TTFF or even a visit to our hotel. Gold Cup ‘98 witnessed the best football played by a T&T team at the region’s highest level tournament until now.

We beat Honduras 3-1 and left them wondering out loud at the post-game press conference if this was the T&T team they had seen two weeks prior. Mexico, who eventually beat Brazil 1-0 in the Gold Cup final, had a similar experience. Their famous coach Manuel Lapuente kicked over buckets of Gatorade on his way to the dressing rooms at half-time.

Mexico ran out 4-2 winners to eliminate us but only T&T was able to register goals against one of Mexico’s greatest ever teams. This was no second-rate team here, we knew we were onto something great.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain David Nakhid (left) tries to avoid a tackle from Mexico star Chauhtemoc Blanco during the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright CONCACAF 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain David Nakhid (left) tries to avoid a tackle from Mexico star Chauhtemoc Blanco during the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright CONCACAF 2015)

Warner, ever the self-serving pragmatist, kept Richard, Bertille and most of the team amidst protestations from some of his own TTFF officials. But I had seen enough.

After beating Jamaica 2-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 28 March1999, I announced my retirement, furious at the lack of respect shown to Richard, Bertille and the local players.

Richard constantly implored the TTFF for help in implementing a comprehensive programme to prepare for major tournaments. Jack and the TTFF would host some overseas players in separate hotels (until Richard and Bertille shut that down) and paid some of us 10 times the amount paid to local players as match fees.

Richard’s insistence was the reason that player payments became more streamlined and equitable, which eliminated the rancour and bitterness felt towards some of the overseas players.

It was Richard’s call to me with Bertille in the background that pulled me back into the national set-up for the Gold Cup 2000. The pre-tournament trip to Morocco was a sign that we had a team of genuine difference makers. Russell Latapy was his usual genial self while news that Dwight Yorke would be joining us engendered a feeling of ‘our time now.’

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago and Manchester United star Dwight Yorke (left) goes for goal against Real Madrid during his heyday.
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago and Manchester United star Dwight Yorke (left) goes for goal against Real Madrid during his heyday.

The team put together by Richard and coached by Bertille went on to create history for Trinidad and Tobago at the 2000 Gold Cup.

There was little doubt as to which team was the better when we lost to the eventual winners, Canada, in the semi-final. My penalty miss proved decisive.

What was made known to the public by Jack and his TTFF cohorts were the huge amount of salaries being paid to the players, as the team held several meetings to seek better conditions for future players and less interference from Jack and his lackeys.

We would learn later who was keeping Jack informed about details of the meetings and that both Richard and Bertille were in full support of the players. Little is known to Jack and the public until now that Enrique Sanz, who was our Gold Cup liaison and is now CONCACAF general secretary, had formed a strong bond with Richard and myself and warned us what was ahead.

After victory against Guatemala took us into the Gold Cup quarter-finals, Enrique came to Richard, Bertille and myself and related what he had just witnessed in Jack’s VIP box. Groden, Camps, Jack and some other lesser known lackeys were jumping for joy when Guatemala scored while cursing when T&T scored and eventually won.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Arnold Dwarika (top) drives home his country's opening goal in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final against Costa Rica. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Arnold Dwarika (top) drives home his country’s opening goal in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final against Costa Rica.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

The look on Richard’s and Bertille’s face, I will never forget. These two battle hardened men had virtually experienced every low possible from a TTFF bent on seeing them fail; but this was unimaginable! Their disappointment and anger was palpable.

To Richard’s immense credit, he managed to pull Bertille and himself together and, very much against their wishes, I told every single player about what was witnessed in that VIP box.

Against all expectations, we beat Costa Rica in the quarter-finals and were coming together as a team. We knew that Jack effectively played a major part in Dwight not returning (from Manchester United) to play in the quarter-final or semi-final.

(Yorke played in Trinidad and Tobago’s three group stage matches but was allowed to return to Manchester United for the knockout stage although FIFA rules priorities a Confederation’s tournaments).

The die was cast. Richard, Bertille, Nixon and myself were axed. A team that I am more than certain would have qualified for the 2002 World Cup with most players in their prime was decimated on the whim of a football illiterate and facilitator of corruption.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid celebrates after his team's quarter-final win over Costa Rica in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid celebrates after his team’s quarter-final win over Costa Rica in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Both Richard and Bertille, with their reputations and integrity intact, would make their returns and lay the foundation for T&T’s eventual successful run to Germany World Cup 2006. I knew Richard was as equally happy as he was heartbroken that we had qualified but that he could not be there as manager.

True to form and his immense character, he took it in his stride and never let on.

Bruce Aanensen, an all-round nice guy and affable enough, brought nothing special to the table as manager of the National Senior Team in comparison to Richard. But maybe I am being unfair to Bruce as Richard set the bar extremely high.

Other than the honesty and passion in carrying out his duty, I will remember our after-dinner conversations.

Bertille and I invariably were always demanding something to be better, changed, redone or brought in. Richard would look across the table and exclaim with a shake of his head and smiling from his heart: “Why de two of allyuh so damn miserable?!”

Photo: Late Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Football Team manager Richard Braithwaite (right) with former co-employee Reay Greaves at a National Energy Corporation event.
Photo: Late Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Football Team manager Richard Braithwaite (right) with former co-employee Reay Greaves at a National Energy Corporation event.

Rest in Peace, Richard. Be assured that your work done and it was done well. There are statistics for the lives transformed under your leadership.

But the ignoring of your own health issues to make sure you fulfilled the many demands placed on you and so that all conditions were in place for good performance can never be accounted.

Take comfort on your eternal journey knowing that you are loved and appreciated by those who knew and those unafraid to speak.

Your walk back into the dressing room for the last time is not alone or in vain but accompanied by those who hold dear Trinidad and Tobago football.

Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago football fan supports the national team at the Germany 2006 World Cup. Richard Braithwaite and Bertille St Clair set the platform for the country's ultimately successful World Cup qualifying campaign. (Copyright AFP 2014/Lluis Gene)
Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago football fan supports the national team at the Germany 2006 World Cup.
Former team manager Richard Braithwaite and coach Bertille St Clair set the platform for the country’s ultimately successful World Cup qualifying campaign.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Lluis Gene)

Editor’s Note: The funeral for Richard Braithwaite will be held on Thursday January 22 from 9 am at the St Patrick RC Church on Picton Street, Newtown and thence to the Crematorium at Long Circular Road, St James.

Wired868 is open to publish the views of any figures named in this column who might hold differing recollections to the author.

AboutDavid Nakhid

David Nakhid
David Nakhid is the founder and director of the David Nakhid International Football Academy in Beirut, Lebanon and was the first Trinidad and Tobago international to play professionally in Europe. The two-time Caribbean and T&T Player of the Year and cerebral midfielder once represented FC Grasshopper (Switzerland), Waregem (Belgium), POAK (Greece), New England Revolution (US), Al Emirates (UAE) and Al Ansar (Lebanon).

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29 comments

  1. The thing I remember most about that Gold Cup was how good Rahim was, like a cross between Latas and Nahkid in terms of dribbling and passing…then he just regressed.

  2. “Richard constantly implored the TTFF for help in implementing a comprehensive programme to prepare for major tournaments. Jack and the TTFF would host some overseas players in separate hotels (until Richard and Bertille shut that down) and paid some of us 10 times the amount paid to local players as match fees.”

    Clearly nothing has changed.

  3. I’m neither discrediting nor ascribing truth to Mr Nakhid’s piece. Instead I question its timing and the incredible ability of some folk, to blindly lend credence to an article, situation and allegation over which they have little insight except for the biased views of the author of the aforementioned.

    If true, then a sad predicament was encountered and continues to be. But one cannot, in fairness, just jump on this train without the benefit of proper information.

    In 1999 Jack Warner built 7 houses for the homeless in Africa out of his own funds. He also simultaneously increased the crime rate in Sri Lanka…..take my word for it….I know

  4. Hannibal Najjar

    Like a few of the contributors, I too believe that things should not be left to be said after the physical plummets. I was happy to know Richard and have shared the times he and I did – these would be exceedingly cherished. Time and schedules, being what they are, cause us to kneel at hindsight’s feet. I was happy with my time and sharing with Richard on and off the soccer field. He was as CIC as one could come. He was as Trini as one could wish to be.

    I am one who has known Richard since our school days at St. Mary’s College and may I say, the kind things that have been written about him now, after he has left us, are what he has been from those early days. A trifle older than me, he always had a precious poise and patience about him, so much so, that I saw him as much older. He was balanced, fair, and charmingly calm. He never saw anything as too big as to be out of one’s fixable reach nor did he fail to ever herald the, too small. As Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us, “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience”. Richard’s spirit-filled life and living depicted this, de Chardin, truth. I go a trifle further to share…. he was accepting of all people as only the heavenly could do. He was as tenderhearted as the best could deliver – though he held his opinion, he listened intently to all with kindness and a clear ear. Thanks for the smile and your lovable face and personality. Your friend, Hannibal.

  5. I know Bertille personally, and always quietly admired his dedication to perfection which to some may be construed as …strict, difficult to deal with, hard core and other such descriptions, but those are the qualities of a perfectionist.

  6. Wonderful tribute to a dedicated Trinbagonian !! I always felt watching Nakhid play that he was a cut above the rest in terms of football intelligence and technical range….it now reflects in his writings.
    R.I.P. Mr. Braithwaite.

  7. Excellent piece…. Not quite sure of the Enrique Sanz role or of his true observations that was made to Team…..

  8. Well played David Nakhid!! “A defence splitting pass” of an article. ……
    Gooooaaalll !!

  9. This “Euology” by Nakhid confirms what I have been saying from forever. Jack Warner has “single handedly” dismantled T&T football. Thing is I suspect he still has plenty influence in TTFF as a backseat driver. After hearing “Gally’s” comments, Nakhid comes and expands on the horror that T&T football teams face.
    ” Enrique came to Richard, Bertille and myself and related what he had just witnessed in Jack’s VIP box. Groden, Camps, Jack and some other lesser known lackeys were jumping for joy when Guatemala scored while cursing when T&T scored and eventually won.”

    Now tell me this thing!!!

  10. More than a bit I would say Anthony Sherwood… You were his number 10!

  11. Played for Bertile for a bit…he is an amazing individual.

  12. This article brought tears to my eyes took me back through alot Manage was a great person and Bertille is a amazing man.

  13. Bertille St Clair was not an easy man to work with. But then most principled people within a distinctly third-world mentality environment tend to be branded as ‘difficult.’
    Bertille St Clair is a man of principle and integrity… and then some!””

    Yup! that’s the ‘Gonian in him; but then, maybe I’m being somewhat insular. Thing is…….I don’t give ah flying rat’s bamcee; ‘Goniand different! Look wuh dem hand Jack, Jack and Kemler in 2013.

  14. We keep saying the same thing day in, day out Camille, I am now real tired….

  15. Savitri, think about it. Had Nakhid come out with this story back then…well all I can say is, yuh know Trinis

  16. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

  17. I look forward to hearing more from you then Roger. Nakhid has a knack for providing food for thought and he did not disappoint. It was very moving and real.

  18. and the saga continues Camille…why do people wait for after the event to talk out? Look what has happened since those days

  19. my goodness is all that I can muster right about now…hmmmm

  20. I have always respected David Nakhid’s forthrightness even as I admired his play…to anyone who was fortunate to watch his return to the Senior team in 2-0 defeat of Barbados at the Arima Velodrome in 1994 will know what I mean…A truly fitting eulogy from the heart for “Manage”!!!

  21. You’re always set for an intriguing read when Nakhid shares his views.

  22. Richard was a man of class. Never seeking to promote himself, but always trying to motivate and get his players to believe in themselves. He worked tirelessly without the resources needed to achieve the goals he had for the team.
    Shaka is very correct when he says that I was dealt a different hand. My approach to the management of the team was driven by very different circumstances. I remain very appreciative of the efforts of Richard and Bertille who created the opportunities on which the team who followed them could capitalize.
    My condolences go out to the family of Richard. Rest assured he is in a better place.

  23. This is an amazingly honest, well-written piece by Mr. Nakhid. Both eulogic of Braithwaite, and unflinching critique of those who would undermine the hard work of the team – of young men who gave of themselves to serve the idea of country. I am not a man who worships the idea of nation-state too much. i think nationalism is at the heart of a good 90 percent of the world’s ills. I do like the idea though, that in sport we send a group of individuals out into the arena to represent a larger group of individuals bound by a common identity. That we, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago should have a group go to represent us, and believe that they are being allowed every opportunity to flourish, and then find out that those at the helm are actively undermining the efforts of these young men, is sickening to me. Understand that first of all these are YOUNG people. We might even say children, in some cases whose spirits we’ve actively sunk. Kudos to David Nakhid for not putting water in his mouth to speak to this. I’ll have more to say at some point.

  24. Shaka Hislop

    David, thank you very much for this. I needed it.

    Since hearing of Braf’s passing I’ve been trying to come to terms with my not doing a better job of keeping in touch with a man who meant so much to me. I simply refused to believe he was going.
    Our relationship was in keeping with your painting of the man himself- understated, gracious, quietly impactful.
    I first worked with Braf during the international against Jamaica in 1999 that you mentioned. I was easily playing the best football of my career, and certainly was not lacking in self belief. But Braf’s vision for me was so much greater, his belief in me I don’t think I envisioned for myself. Yet he quietly and steadily steered my own self-opinion.
    And that is what I remember of him. What he did, how he did it, and the lasting impact it had. As good a manager as Braf was, it was his belief in me that dims all the other memories of him, it is that I will always most remember. Not that I mean to underscore his professional accomplishments, it’s just that the personal impact resonates so much.

    I want to add to your commentary only in defense of Bruce Aanensen, who I also have a very good relationship with. Bruce was different from Richard certainly, but he was dealt a different set of cards to manage with. He ultimately oversaw our qualification in 2006. I’m not going to draw comparisons, though I cannot imagine anyone having to manage with the hand that Braf was dealt with, let alone do it with such dignity and to such good effect.

    RIP Mr. Richard Braithwaite. And thank you. For everything.

    Shaka…

  25. Fantastic piece and as great as it was to be reminded of Messrs Braithwaite, St Clair, Nixon and Dwarika, it was sad to be reminded that the Football Association are forever two steps behind in class and conduct.
    That was a good team and one of the few we had that demonstrated tactical nous.